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Countries & Cultures
Ethnic Groups and Indigenous People in Russia
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The people of the Russian Far East are a mix of nationalities, the majority being Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians. Indigenous peoples make up 1.85 percent of the population and nearly a third live in cities. The remainder of indigenous ethnic groups live in communities along the middle and upper reaches of the Bikin River , in the Samarga Valley (Primorsky Province), in the Khor (Chord) River basin (Khabarovsky Province), and in the northern mountain boreal areas of Khabarovsky and Amurskaya Provinces . They belong to Owenk (Evenke), Olunchun (Orochon), Hezhe (Nanai), Udege (Gol'd), Ulchi, Nivkhi, Tazy, etc., altogether about 25 ethnic groups. Some ethnic groups have been granted a sort of cultural autonomy over certain administrative units, typically district (county, rayon) or village. A new class of protected areas – Territories of Traditional Nature Use (TTP) was legislatively created, but on the ground implementation has stalled although in Khabarovsky Province a number of large areas have been gazetted.

Despite occasional efforts of federal and regional governments to provide assistance to indigenous ethnic minorities, their standards of living remain lower than those of most other ethnic groups that arrived over the last three centuries. This is in part attributable to the deterioration of environmental and natural resources on which the indigenous minorities depend. Crisis is evident along lower reaches of the Amur-Heilong River where the depletion of fish stocks and an increases in water pollution have severely affected the Nanai ethnic minority (called Hezhe in Chinese) and other aboriginal peoples.

The Evreiskaya Autonomous Province (Jewish Autonomy) presents a peculiar case of a largely unsuccessful attempt by Soviet Union to create safe haven on the banks of Middle Amur for a persecuted Jewish minority, a place where there was no Jewish presence before this endeavor began. This region never gained a substantial Jewish population, especially when compared with larger Russian cities or with Pale Settlements to which Jews where restricted during the Tsarist rule. Official language is Yiddish, but few people remember and use it. Nevertheless, the region creates a certain cultural diversity link with Israel and Jewish diasporas. The city of Harbin , which has a rich Jewish history but no resident Jews, has recently pursued a policy of renovating synagogues, holding history congresses and strengthening ties with world Jewry.

The situation is quite different in Chita Province and in Aginsky-Buryatsky Autonomous Region (ABAR) where the Buriat ethnic group makes up a much larger portion of the population and their living standards, at least in ABAR, are among the highest rural living standards in the Asian part of Russia . However, in 2007 a decision was made at the national level to abolish some small national autonomies, including ABAR, and by 2008 it will be merged with Chita Province to form new Zabaikalsky Province . This may decrease the ability of local administrations to continue to successfully develop local Buriat communities.

The old Russian settlers, who came in 17th-18th centuries and who call themselves Cossacks, also have clear signs of ethnic identity and often are viewed as a group distinctively different from the majority of Russians that migrated to the region later.


Map collection: Countries & cultures



Amur on the globe

Political map of Amur Heilong River basin

Population of AHRB in 1990s


Photo: Countries & cultures





GIS: Population and administrative division


Nanai( Hezhe) man (Photo by G.Shalikov)

Also look:

Countries and provinces


Population density and demographic trends

Mongolia Population

China Population

Russia Population


Cultures and languages

Ethnic groups in Mongolia

Ethnic groups in China

Migration processes in Amur-Heilong


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