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Ethnogenesis of the Kamchadals


An ethnonym kamchadalsaccording to the first written sources describing the indigenous population of Kamchatka (S.P. Krasheninnikov, G.V. Steller), refers to the Itelmens and is attributed to the Koryak konchala. Kamchadals were called “sitting foreigners” of two villages north of Tigil and 3 north of Uka. After 1800 this name was transferred to the inhabitants of the last two Kuril villages. Until the end of the 19th century in official population records, the descendants of settled aborigines are called Kamchadals, and the descendants of Russian old-timers - Russians. Researchers of the late 19th century (V.G. Bogoraz, V.N. Tyushov, N.V. Slyunin) noted that settled Koryaks called themselves Kamchadals, explaining it by the fact that this was the name given to them by their “superiors”. From the beginning of the 19th century, the ethnonym Kamchadals also spread to the Russian population of Kamchatka, which showed similarity in appearance, lifestyle and language with the aboriginal population. By 1920 Kamchadals were the name of the settled aboriginal population and the descendants of Russian old-timers who mixed with them. According to the All-Soviet Union census of 1926,there were 3704 Kamchadals in the Kamchatka district. They also included a group of Itelmen, later singled out.

In 1932, the area of Kamchadals was divided by the administrative border between the Kamchatka Oblast and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug. A part of the Tigil Kamchadals under the name of Itelmen received the official status of “indigenous people”, while the other part, which was outside the national entity, soon lost its self-name and the status of a special ethnic group. In the materials of the census of 1939 the ethnonym Kamchadals disappeared from the official list. In the region there was also a group of Penzhinskiye Russians, or penzhins (210 people in 1897). They were Russian-Koryak mestizos who adopted the lifestyle of the Penzhin settled Koryaks. In the 1926 census they were recorded as Russians, but since the 1950s they began to call themselves Kamchadals to emphasize their difference from the Russians of the newest migration wave. Most of them live in the villages of Manily and Kamenskoye.

A Kamchadal in a winter dress. Kamchadal woman in a simple dress.

At present, the descendants of Kamchadals associated with traditional economy live in Sobolevsky, Bolsheretsky, Milkovsky, Kliuchevsky and Ust-Kamchatsky districts of Kamchatka Oblast and Tigilsky and Penzhinsky districts of Koryak Autonomous Okrug. Their number is tentatively 8-10 thousand people. Besides, in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky city and Yelizovsky district several thousand more people, mostly descendants of the last two Russian pre-revolutionary waves of resettlement - 1850 and 1912-1914 - consider themselves Kamchadals. They are also predominantly engaged in fishing. Establishing the genealogical affiliation of the modern Kamchadal to the indigenous and old-established population of Kamchatka needs to be researched. Since 1989 the descendants of Kamchadals have been appealing to the legislative authorities with a demand to return the status of Kamchadals as an ethnic group of the indigenous population of Kamchatka.

The group of mestizo population of Kamchatka began to form in the middle of the 18th century and grew as the Russian population of the peninsula increased. By the beginning of the 19th century there were 5 Russian ostrogs (stockaded town) and 2 peasant villages in Kamchatka, and the number of Russians amounted to more than 1.5 thousand people. Women, as a rule, were of aboriginal and mestizo origin.

The Russian population settled unevenly on the peninsula. In the 1740s it was concentrated mainly on the western coast, in Bolsheretsk ostrog. At the beginning of the 19th century, 185 and 69 Russians lived in two Russian settlements Tigil and Bolsheretsk, respectively, on the western coast, while the aboriginal population amounted to about 1200 people. In the Kamchatka river valley in 4 Russian settlements there were 660 Russians and 612 aborigines. On the eastern coast and around Petropavlovsk there were no aboriginal settlements left. In Petropavlovsk and surrounding ostrogi lived 537 Russians. The different ratio of immigrant and aboriginal population in separate areas influenced assimilation and mestizational processes. The Russian colonists of Kamchatka, first Cossacks, then peasants brought to the peninsula to develop farming, industrial people engaged in fur trade, merchants and clergy found themselves in relative isolation from the rest of the Russian world. Russians married Itelmen women, and their children were considered to be of the yasak (taxed) class.

Russian settlers adopted the aboriginal farming system and way of life. Despite the fact that since the 1740s batches of Siberian peasants from Lena and Ilim, who had already adapted the culture of farming to the harsh Siberian conditions (the colonial administration hoped to provide Kamchatka with its own bread), were sent to Kamchatka, the newly arrived peasants soon abandoned farming and turned to fishing and hunting. Fishing was followed in importance by gathering and horticulture. In summer time the population was in the fishing grounds and the vegetable gardens were not watered, so the yields were not high. In the 18th - 1st third of the 20th century Yakut breeds of cows and horses, well adapted to frost and poor winter diet, spread in Kamchatka. For cows a small amount of hay was stocked for winter, horses foraged themselves in winter by grazing in the forests. A shed was built to keep cows, and snow drifts served as walls in winter. Horses were tethered in summer. Both aborigines and Russian colonists practiced autumn hunting of wild deer and mountain sheep with the use of riding horses. Fur hunting and sea beast hunting were of an auxiliary nature. Dog sledges served as the main mode of land transportation. At the end of the 19th century each Kamchadal household had on average 13-15 dogs, 1 horse and 2 cows.

The cultural and historical unity of the mestizo population of Kamchatka was expressed in mutual bilingualism: both Russians and aborigines spoke Kamchadal (Itelmen) and Russian. It was formed on the peninsula in the 2nd half of the 18th centurydue to the emergence of a network of parochial schools and joint education of aboriginal and Russian children. In 1749 there were 10 schools with more than 200 children. The first teachers were graduates of the Moscow Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy. The era of education in Kamchatka ended with the beginning of epidemics and hunger strikes (1769).). In 1783 there were no schools left in Kamchatka, by 1834 there was 1 spiritual school with 13 pupils and craft school with 8 pupils. During this period “Kamchatka dialect” of Russian language appeared. It, as well as bilateral bilingualism, was preserved among the older generation of Kamchatians until recently.

Sourceː Nordic Encyclopedia. - M.:European editions, 2004. Compiler: E.R. Akbalyan

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