views updated Jun 08 2018


ETHNONYMS: Lamuts, Tungas


Identification. The Even, like the related Evenki, are singularly distinguishednot only among the peoples of the North and of Siberia, but also among the peoples of the worldby the fact that such a small population occupies such an enormous territory. Numbering only 17,199 persons (according to the 1989 census), they are settled over more than 3 million square kilometersroughly equal to the area of all of western Europe. In recent decades the Even population has been increasing: in 1970 it was 11,819; in 1979 it was 12,452.

In the pre-Revolutionary period there was no sharp division between the Even and the Evenki; in most of eastern Siberia both were often called "Tungus." This joint designation has a simple explanationthe two peoples were more alike than different, with similar material and spiritual cultures, economies, and social organization. Their two dialects, having one base, were also quite similar. Only in the northeast of Yakutia and on the Okhotsk shore were the Even previously called "Lamuts" (from lama, lake, sea, large reservoir), thus "littoral dwellers."

Settlement among other ethnic groups also led to a series of other names: the Yakut called them "Lamuts" and also Omuks," whereas the Yukagir used "Erpe" and the Chukchee and the Koryak called the Anadyr and Penzhinsk Even "Koraramkyn" or "Koyayakyn." Today the term "Even" is emerging as the general one for all Even groups. The Even also have many names that reflect specific occupations: "Oroch" means reindeer among the Even of Kamchatka and the north shore of the Sea of Okhotsk; other terms indicate clan affiliation, such as "Tuges" (a clan of Tyugyasiets in the north of Yakutia), "Dutki," and the like. In the eighteenth century a group of sedentary Even on the Okhotsk littoral who fished and hunted sea mammals were called "unmounted" Tungus. Among Even of the Lower Kolyma the native name of "Ilkan," that is, "Genuine Man," became widespread; it arose among this group of Even settled next to the Chukchee as an obvious counterpart to the terms with the same meaning that were used for the Chukhots.

Location. Even territory covers distinct climatic zones: mountain taiga and vast expanses of wooded and unwooded tundra. Today Even live in the northern part of the Yakut Republic in the basins of the Lena, the Yana, the Indigirka, and the Kolyma rivers, where their neighbors from among the aboriginal peoples are the Yakut and Yukagir; in the southeast there are mixtures of Even and Yakut. The Even reside in Chukotka along the middle course of the Anadyr and its tributaries together with Chukchee peoples; in the Kamchatka Peninsula Even live with Koryak and keimen neighbors. Even are also found in the Magadan region, the Khabarovsk District, and on the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk in the basins of the Gizhiga, Okhota, and Kukhtui rivers.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Even language belongs to the Tungus-Manchu Branch of the Altaic Language Family. Its wide distribution over the territory of eastern Siberia occasioned the subdivision of the language into about twenty dialects (or other distinct modes of speech) of which four are eastern (Olyutorsk, Bystrinsk, Ol'sk, and Okhotsk), five are intermediate (Allaikhorsk, Oimyakonsk, Momsk, Tomponsk, and Upper Kolyma), and four western (Sakypyrsk, Tyugesirsk, Ust-Yansk, and Bulunsk).

History and Cultural Relations

The ethnic formation of the Even is relatively recent but complex. The key event was the separation of the northern part of Old Tungus society as a result of migrations and the consequent expansion of the Tungus Language Group over the territory of northeastern Siberia. The Tungus had cultural contacts with almost all the ethnic groups of the region: Yukagir, Yakut, Koryak, Chukchee, and keimen, all of which influenced local Even cultureas has the recently arrived Russian population.

Three basic stages can be distinguished in the ethnogenesis of the Even. An early stage (roughly until the eleventh century b.c.) was characterized by the emergence of the northern branch of the Tungus community as a result of the contact and mutual cultural influences of Tungus society with the ancestors of the Yukagir. Archaeological evidence indicates the existence in Yakutia in the early Iron Age of an Old Tungusic and an Old Yukagir tradition that evolved in a parallel manner; the Even and Evenki are also closely related in terms of physical anthropology. Turkic-speaking Yakut populations penetrated into the basin of the Lena River and other regions of eastern Siberia (after the fifth century), a movement that was connected with other demographic processes in Central Asia and the expansions of the Mongol peoples. The Tungusic ancestors of the Even and the Evenki were displaced from the territory that they had occupied.

Under pressure from the Turks, the Tungusic-speaking groups migrated to the west, north, and, in particular, the northeast. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries they emerged on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk. The advance of the ancestors of the Even to the northeast affected the Yukagir and the Koryaks and led to the loss of a large part of their ethnic territory. The extremely low population density notwithstanding, this movement of population was accompanied by numerous interethnic conflicts. Particularly sustained and stubborn was the struggle for the Okhotsk littoral between the Even, who were seeking new hunting grounds for themselves and pastures for their reindeer, and the sedentary Koryaks, who already occupied the area. In many legends there are references to tense relations along the seacoast at that time. The Koryaks would attack the migrating Even at one of their camp siteseither when the men were out hunting and only women, old people, and children were left, or at night by creeping up to the tents unnoticed. The Even undertook retaliatory campaigns. Both sides used bows and arrows and spears. In addition, the Even used in hand-to-hand combat the palma, a broad, heavy knife attached to a long wooden handle.

The third stage in the ethnic formation of the Even and the final consolidation of Even territory began with the arrival of the Russians in eastern Siberia during the first half of the seventeenth century. The Russian government, in no small degree, facilitated the advance of the Even onto the lands of the Koryaks and the Chukchee, using Even hunters and herders to impose a system of tribute on the indigenous peoples of eastern Siberia. In the third stage, as in the earlier ones, the processes of mutual cultural influence between the Even and the Yukagir and between the Even and the Koryaks continued, but, unlike what occurred in the second stage, it was peaceful, particulary during the second half of the eighteenth century. This stage ended in the first half of the nineteenth century with the advance of the Even to the northeast as far as the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The existence of the Even as a distinct ethnic group is attested to by the fact that the Russians, as early as the seventeenth century, distinguished the Even from other Tungus-speaking groups on the bases of both their language and the features of their culture. Ultimately, Even culture became syncretic, with a general Tungusic base and cultural elements borrowed from other indigenous peoples of the North. For example, after contacts with other cultures the Even adopted the Koryak-Chukhotsk manner of herding reindeer in large herds and borrowed several modes of transportation (Koryak sleighs) and a particular kind of conical cylindrical dwellinga combination of the Tungus tipi (chum ) and the Koryak and Chukchee yaranga used by the majority of the Even groups.

After establishing its power in the North in the early 1920s, the Soviet government, together with local councils (soviets), instituted programs among the Even and other indigenes to encourage cultural and economic development. These included abolishing taxes and fulfillment of certain obligations; defining various privileges; and carrying out a long-term program for converting reindeer herding from a migratory to a sedentary formmainly through weakening native ideas about the necessity of preserving the traditional complex economy (reindeer herding, hunting, and fishing), which was more rational and applicable to the northern conditions. An important and significant condition for the transition to a sedentary style was the construction of centers for the dissemination of contemporary culturethe northern settlements (posëlki ).


The hunting/reindeer-herding segment of the Even previously used a large tent (chum); a light, transportable framehouse sort of dwelling that was either conical or conical-cylindrical was called dya. On this frame of slender poles they threw covers of reindeer skins. The hearth was in the center. Such a dwelling, adapted to the conditions of nomadic life, was convenient, simple in construction and could be set up and taken down quicklyin not more than 10 or 15 minutes. The pedestrian Tungus, on the other hand, lived at a depth of about 1 meter below the earth's surface in semisubterranean, permanent, warm dwellings covered with turf.

With the transition to a sedentary way of life, the overwhelming majority of the Even received wooden-log or plank houses from the state-farm or collective-farm authorities. These dwellings are occupied by herdsmen when they are not pasturing the herds. For nomadism, however, the Even still use the light, transportable dwellings together with factory-made tents, but with tarpaulin covers instead of reindeer hides.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The basis of the traditional economy was hunting and reindeer herding. The Even hunted for arctic deer, elks, bears, rabbits, foxes, mountain goats, musk deer, and other animals (for both meat and fur). In northern Yakutia a specially trained decoy reindeer was used. A noose-shaped lasso was attached by a special technique to a domestic reindeer; then the owner, hiding behind some bushes or the deer itself, would lead him up to the herd of foraging wild deer. The leader of the herd usually stepped forth to do battle with the stranger deer in order to drive him away. Becoming entangled in the noose of the lasso, this deer became the hunter's prey. In winter the Even hunted for bears in pairs and triads because it was necessary to lift a bear out of its lair. Before firearms came into use, they also hunted bears alone, with a palma spear and a knife, which demanded skill and courage. As the bear advanced, the hunter would throw a cap or rag or some other object into the air to cause the bear to rise up onto its rear feet and bare a vulnerable part of its body such as the throat or breast. The hunter would be on one knee holding the palma propped against the ground with its point upward, on which the bear, descending with all its weight, would pierce itself and sustain a mortal wound. The bear was finished off with a blow of the knife to the neck. A solitary hunter usually took a dog along that, in case of mishap, drew the bear away from the fallen man. The Even generally hunted mountain goats from ambush, hiding on the leeward side of the animal's path and awaiting its appearance. To hunt otters, rabbits, and foxes in the taiga the Even used a bow-and-arrow device that discharged when triggered. Powerful bows were used for elks.

Even hunters were distinguished by exceptional endurance. If a deer or other animal were wounded and ran off from the hunter, the hunter would begin a pursuit that might last several days, until the complete exhaustion of the animal.

With the coming of the Russians to Siberia and the subjugation of the aborigines to the czar, the native population was saddled with the payment of tribute, a special tax that had to be paid with the skins of forbearing animals: sables, squirrels, marten, and so forth. In this way the fur industry acquired primary significance among the Tungus.

In the forested regions of Yakutia and in districts on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, the Even had small herds of reindeer. Reindeer were used primarily as beasts of burdeneither for riding or transporting household property in large bags (Russian: tyuk ); consequently, the nomadic hunting population was very mobile. There are indications that individual families of Even had at their disposal thousands of head of reindeer. Among these groups of Even, hunting for meat was of secondary importance, as the reindeer supplied all one needed: skins for clothing, coverings for dwellings, meat for food, and a means of transportation.

The hunting and reindeer-herding Even were sharply distinguished from the sedentary Even on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, particularly by their economy. Their basic subsistence was through fishing in the rivers and the hunting and trapping of sea mammals, mainly seal, particulary the nerpa (a variety of freshwater seal). They exchanged the products of their hunting and trapping for the meat and skins of domestic and wild animals provided by the hunting and reindeer-herding Even.

At the present time the basic economic activity of the overwhelming majority of Even is the husbandry of reindeer in large herds, which is more profitable in the North. One herd contains between 1,500 and 2,000 reindeer. The herd is cared for by a group of four to eight reindeer herdsmen and their wives. During the summer the number of people in the group increases as students visit their parents in the tundra during their vacation. Despite innovations and the introduction into the area of technical devices and veterinarians, contemporary reindeer herding is characterized by the presence of many traditional practices. The migration of the reindeer herds, as in earlier times, is cyclical and the routes of travel in most cases correspond to the ethnic territories of local groups of Even.

Hunting for meat, now of lesser importanceas is fishingnonetheless continues to figure in the contemporary economy. The Even hunt for deer, elks, mountain goats, etc. The methods include pursuing wounded animals on skis in the winter and hunting by ambush or by silent approach. It remains part of the traditional way of life, as do weapons like the palma spear.

The Even fish during the period of brief summer stopovers with the goal of diversifying their diet, using a very ancient fishing device, the elge, a pole with a detachable metal hook on the end, connected to the wooden part of the weapon by a line or a strap. Nets are square in form (adal ) or conic (mirosa ). The Even block off sections of rivers and channels with locks and dams during the major spawning migrations of salmon.

Clothing. The main item of clothing for men and women was the open kaftan decorated with beads and appliqué of leather and fur, an apron covering the chest, leggings for the lower leg (Russian: nogovitsa ), and footwear with shoelaces made from the legs of reindeer. At the present time the traditional fur clothing and footwear are worn only in the winter. In summer Even wear European-style, store-bought clothing, the occasional exception being footwear. Skins for clothing are to this day processed using archaic methods; the Even of Kamchatka, for example, use stone scrapers.

Food. Sedentary Even groups traditionally ate salmonite fish and the meat and fat of sea mammals. Moreover, every part of the reindeer was consumed, including brains and marrow, tendons and gristle, hooves and horns (the soft parts of the latter were roasted on a fire and considered a delicacy). Much of the carcass was eaten raw since this was considered healthy; this was particularly true of the kidneys, liver, and lungs, which the Even ate slightly chopped. Reindeer eyes were eaten totally raw, and Even drank the warm blood. Today the basic food of migratory Even continues to be the meat of domestic reindeer; otherwise game, fish, and several kinds of plants, locusts, berries, and nuts are consumed. Also commonly used are imported foods such as various meat and fish preserves, vegetables, fruits, and baked goods.

Division of Labor. Hunting, reindeer husbandry, and the making of various tools and weapons were traditionally men's work; as a rule, only older men slaughter domestic reindeer. Gathering, preparation of food, curing of hides, sewing of shoes and clothing, and caring for children were women's work. In addition, it was the woman's job to set up the house tent and to harness the pack reindeer during migrations and direct them on the way. This division of labor guides the education of the younger generation. As part of play, for example, boys learn the techniques of hunting and how to use a lasso, ax, and knife; girls learn to sew, to manufacture stone implements for cleaning hides, and to make ornaments. The transition to adult status usually takes place at about the age of 14 or 15 for both boys and girls.

Kinship and Sociopolitical Organization

The traditional social organization of the Even was almost totally destroyed by socioeconomic changes dating to czarist times. The czarist administration introduced among the Even and other native populations the so-called administrative clans, to which were attached definite territories of convenience to the government for the gathering of tribute (Russian: iasak ). An elder from among the Evena protégé of the local bureaucratic official responsible for collecting iasak and fulfilling legal and other functions assigned to him in this rolewas placed at the head of each such clan. In traditional Even society the decisions of the court were based on the opinions of the majority of the members of the clan, with elected individuals acting as accusers and as judges. Formerly, the most serious crimes were considered to be breaches of exogamy and of nimat the customary reciprocal aid, repeated violation of which could be punished by death. Despite the breakup of the traditional social organization of the Even, some patterns continue to be preserved locally to this day, above all the rather strict observance of exogamy. According to the data of the Bystrinsk village council of Kamchatka, in the 1960s exogamy was observed in fifty-five of seventy Even families. Earlier the clan name was the basic symbol of clan membership, and although Even remain conscious of their ties to their traditional clans, family names are more important today. Even relatives are called noge, whereas outsiders are kharak.

Another equally important social institution was the collective use by clan members of the yield of the hunt and of fishing and obligatory mutual aid between clan members. Many Even observe the nimat to this day. Hunters and reindeer herdsmen, for example, divide up the catch with their relatives not only at temporary nomadic camps but also in the settlements.

Inheritance. Traditionally there were two basic kinds of property: collective or family property and personal property. The former consisted of the clan fire (the fire of the family hearth), the sheds for products, and the reindeer. Personal property consisted of weapons, hunting and fishing equipment, implements for working hides, and reindeer used as mounts. Inheritance is usually through the male line; the family reindeer herd, after the death of the head of the family, is divided equally between the grown sons. If a widow cannot maintain her family, then the relatives of the deceased husband may take over the guardianship of the children and part of the property, but the property is not divided up if the widow is capable of acting as family head.

Kinship Terminology. One of the determinants of social relations in the past was the system of kinship terms of consanguinity and affinity, which is still used by the older and middle generations, and not uncommonly, by the younger as well. The system of consanguinity of the Even is one of the typical variants of the classificatory systems. One term, aka, for example, denotes the father, the brother (older or younger) of either parent, the older son of the brother of either parent, and so forth. The clearest idea of how kinship terms represent familial and marriage relations can be obtained from the term inema, formed from the general Tungus root in, which denotes a person from another clanmore specifically, an affine (spouse's sibling) who has been brought into the house together with the husband (or wife).

Marriage. The traditional forms of marriage were the exchange of young women between two families or the acquisition of the wife for a bride-price (kalym ) with reciprocation by the wife's family of gifts equal in value to the husband's or a dowry.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Religious ideas and beliefs occupied a central place in the traditional culture and influenced every sphere of existence of each individual and of the community as a whole.

The traditional religion was animisticthe recognition of a soul in every living organism or natural object. The Even peopled the world with a great number of good and evil spirits, "guardians" of given places on which depended the welfare of the families of hunters and reindeer herdsmen.

On the basis of animistic beliefs and ideas there arose among the Even a system of diverse cults: of the guardian spirits of naturethe taiga, mountains, water, animals, fire, and so forth; of the hearth fire-helper of humans, giver of warmth and food and personified as an old man; and, above all, of the bear, one of the most powerful representatives of the animal kingdom in the North.

A logical continuation or extension of these cults was the many simple and complex rituals (domestic-familial, hunting, and so forth), the goal of which was to propitiate the spirits and make them well-disposed toward humans. The rituals were accompanied by incantations, prayers, and sacrifices.

Orthodox Christianity began to spread among the Even after the arrival of the Russians, some groups relating to it formally, whereas for othersfor example, those of today's Magadan regionit became more developed and played a primary role together with shamanism. Ultimately, the propagation of Christianity by Russian missionaries led to a peculiar syncretism of ancient religious beliefs and Christian dogma.

The traditional religious views, however, remained vital and continue to exist in varying degrees among the Even to this day, among people of all ages. They turn to fire for any reasonasking the spirit of fire for success in hunting, for happiness and prosperity for the family, and for defense against evil spirits. On obtaining food they customarily "feed" the fire with meat or other products and "water" it with vodka. A respectful relation is also observed with the guardian spirits of places, to whom Even bring food or "give" small objects as sacrifices during every migration. The bear continues to enjoy special respect and the hunt for it is accompanied by many rituals. The meat of the slain animal is eaten ceremonially during a festival that is specially arranged for this purpose, called the urkachak. The skull and bones of the bear are placed on special scaffolds called qulik so that the bear will not take offense at people and will be reborn anew after a specific time.

Religious Practitioners. Every territorial subdivision traditionally had a shaman, whose basic role was to mediate between the world of humans and that of the spirits, to cure humans and animals, to defend against evil spirits, to predict and divine, and to "conduct" the dead to the world of the dead. The shamans communed with spirits during special séances. An indispensable attribute of the Even shaman was a costume with metal pendants, a cap with reindeer antlers made of iron, a wooden tambourine with hide stretched over it, and a rattle. The pantheon of shamanic spirit helpers included spirits in the form of people, animals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

Very few shamans remain as a result of the long-term antireligious propaganda and socioeconomic changes in Soviet society. The role of the shaman has now diminished to one of divination and interpretation of unusual or natural phenomena, dreams, and signs. Curing of animals or humans is rare and, when it happens, is carried out by shamans of a higher category, who to this day use tambourines and other shamanic paraphernalia.

Arts. The wealth of Even spiritual culture was clearly manifested in graphic arts, music, and dance. Powers of observation and a developed sense of color were reflected in sewing furs, decorating with beads, carving in bone and wood, stamping or printing on birch bark, and woodworking.

Medicine. Even knowledge of natural medicine was acquired through great persistence. By traditional means, with bear's bile or gall (Russian: zholch' ) and raw reindeer kidney, the Even cure ailments of the stomach and liver. Burns are treated with reindeer blood or bear fat; in case of frostbite they wrap the patient in the hide of a freshly killed reindeer. Often, and for diverse illnesses, the Even use medicinal herbs and infusions from the bark of trees, which not infrequently are more effective than the preparations of the pharmaceutical industry.

Death and Afterlife. To this day the Even believe in an afterlife in a higher world to which a mortal's soul goes. A person should be provided for in that world with all the necessities, and toward that end the deceased person's relatives set up the three basic poles of the chum on the grave and leave the appurtenances of a bed, dishes, and the personal effects of the deceased. All these objects have to be broken or torn up so that from them, as from a human body, the soul can go forth. Only under these circumstances can they serve the deceased.

See also Evenki


Levin, M. G., and B. A. Vasilyev (1964). "The Evens." In The Peoples of Siberia, edited by M. G. Levin and L. P. Potapov, 670-684. Translated by Stephen P. Dunn and Ethel Dunn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Originally published in Russian in 1956.

A. B. SPEVAKOVSKY (Translated by Paul Friedrich)


views updated May 17 2018

e·ven / ˈēvən/ • adj. (e·ven·er, e·ven·est) 1. flat and smooth: prepare the site, then lay an even bed of mortar. ∎  in the same plane or line; level: run a file along the saw to make all of the teeth even with each other. ∎  having little variation in quality; regular: they traveled at an even and leisurely pace. ∎  equal in number, amount, or value: an even gender balance among staff and students. ∎  equally balanced: it's not an even fight. ∎  exactly equal to a round number; not having any fractions: the Dow Jones ended at an even 10,000. ∎  (of a person's temper or disposition) equable; calm: a man of good humor and even temper. 2. (of a number, such as 2, 6, or 108) divisible by two without a remainder. ∎  bearing such a number: headers can be placed on odd or even pages or both.• v. make or become even: [tr.] she cut the hair again to even up the ends. • adv. used to emphasize something surprising or extreme: they have never even heard of the U.S. ∎  used in comparisons for emphasis: he knows even less about it than I do.PHRASES: even as at the very same time as: even as he spoke, their baggage was being unloaded.even if despite the possibility that; no matter whether: always try everything even if it turns out to be a dud. ∎  despite the fact that: he is a great President, even if he has many enemies.even now (or then) 1. now (or then) as well as before: even now, after all these years, it upsets me. 2. in spite of what has (or had) happened: even then he never raised his voice to me. 3. at this (or that) very moment: very likely you are even now picking up the telephone to call.even so in spite of that; nevertheless: not the most exciting of places, but even so I was having a good time.even though despite the fact that: even though he was bigger, he never looked down on me.get (or be) even inf. inflict trouble or harm on someone similar to that which they have inflicted on oneself: I'll get even with you for this.on an even keel (of a ship or aircraft) having the same draft forward and aft. ∎ fig. (of a person or situation) functioning normally after a period of difficulty: difficult to get her life back on to an even keel after their breakup.DERIVATIVES: e·ven·ly adv.e·ven·ness n.e·ven2 • n. archaic or poetic/lit. the end of the day; evening: bring it to my house this even.


views updated Jun 08 2018

even1 (poet., dial.) close of the day OE.; eve of a holy day XIV. OE. ǣfen, rel. to synon. OS. āband,MLG., MDu. āvont (Du. avond), OHG. āband (G. abend), perh. rel. to Gr. epí (see EPI-). Synon. ON. aptann may be another formation on the same base, or (more prob.) a deriv. of the base of AFTER. In contr. form e'en arch. and dial. Cf. EVE, EVENING.
Hence evensong, eventide, OE. ǣfensang, -tĩd.


views updated May 18 2018

even2 flat, level (obs. in gen. use; naut. in an even keel); uniform, equal, equally balanced OE.; exactly adjusted, precise XIII; of number, opp. to odd XIV. OE. efen = OS. eban (Du. even, effen), OHG. eban (G. eben), ON. jafn, Goth. ibns :- Gmc. *ebnaz, of unkn. orig.
So even adv. (poet. e'en) †evenly, equally; (arch.) exactly, fully OE.; in the extreme case XVI. OE. efne = OS. efno (Du. even), OHG. ebano (G. eben) :- WGmc. *ebnō. even vb. OE. efnan and (ġe)efnian.


views updated Jun 11 2018

even even money (in betting) odds offering an equal chance of winning or losing, with the amount won being the same as the stake.
even-steven used informally in reference to fair and equal competition or distribution of resources; recorded from the mid 19th century, a rhyming phrase, used as an intensive.

See also honours are even, don't get mad, get even.