The Khanty is the people of Western Siberia living in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomus Okrug (11.9 thousand. - 52.8 %), Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (7.2 thousand - 32.2 %) and the Tomsk Region (804 thousand - 3.6 %). (Fig. 1).
Similar to that of the Ob Ugrians, the ethnogenesis of the Khanty is far from being understood. According to one view, their formation is based on the culture of ancient indigenous Uralic tribes, which were engaged in hunting and fishery. Subsequently, they were influenced by the Andronovo livestock-raising tribes with traditions of Scythian-Sarmatian culture. In the course of the merger of these ethnic elements, by the middle of the first millennium B. C., the Ob-Ugric tribes were established. By the end of the first millennium B. C., from the east and south-east, the northwestern Siberia was invaded by Samoyedic tribes. The subsequent stage of ethnic interactions, which resulted in some of the Ob Ugrians assumed some elements of the Samoyedic culture, continued as late as the first ages of the second millennium. Another view claims that the Andronovo culture is to be related to the Iranian ethnos rather than with the Ugric ethnic element, and the Kulai culture is thought to be the most ancient. By the end of the first millennium Â. C., the Kulai distributed to the north and to the west. The first migration flow led to the establishment of the Ust-Polui culture in the Lower Cis-Ob Region, and the second gave rise to the Potchevash culture in the northern Cis-Irtysh Region. Both these cultures are thought to be proto-Khanty. On the whole, archeological evidence indicates the complexity of the proto-Khanty cultures, containing different ethnic elements. Later, during the Middle Ages, they were substantially influenced by the Turkic ethnic component. In addition, some traces of the Tungus and Ket influence are found. Subsequently some of the western Khanty moved over to the East and North. In the North, the Khanty contacted the Nenets and partly were assimilated by the latter. In the southern region some intensive processes of Turkization, and, since the 18th century, Russification were underway. By the 20th century, the Khanty were almost completely assimilated by the Siberian Tatars and Russians.
The Russian hunters and merchants were familiar with the “Yugra” as early as the 11th century. However, the annexation of this territory to the Russian state began as late as the defeat of the Siberian Khan Kuchum. In this case, some the southern (Irtysh) Khanty were eager to ensure their safety and turned to Ermak on their own to obtain the Moscow patronage. By the advent of the Russians, the Khanty had numerous tribes. Every tribe had a dialect of its own, its own center and its own chiefs. Every tribe had two exogamic phratries: mon’t’ and por. All the phratry members were considered blood relatives. Later, the phratry exogamy was replaced by the clan one. The Russian rules relied on the clan leaders (knyaztsy). Particularly great assistance was rendered to the authorities by the Kod knyaztsy Alachevs, who participated in numerous Russian campaigns. For their service, they were granted an unprecedented benefit – the right to collect yasak (tribute) from two Khanty volosts (districts) in their own favor. When the Alachevs were no longer needed, they were deprived of all the privileges. Striving to strengthen their influence on the Khanty, the government introduced Christianity. But it was exceptionally formal, and almost did not affect traditional religious beliefs. In the course of the 17th - 19th the Khanty lifestyle did not undergo any changes. For tactical reasons, the government did not strive to totally disrupt their social life. During the second half of the 19th century, the Khanty gradually obeyed the state legislation. By the year 1917, their main legal distinction from Russian peasants was exemption from conscription. In the course of the three centuries (17th-19th ) of their being part of the state, the Khanty number rose from 6.3 thousand to 16.2 thousand. The number increase continued as late as the 20th century. The Khanty is one of the few indigenous minorities of Siberia with an autonomy in the form of the autonomous okrug. This autonomy has played a considerable role in the consolidation of the ethnos (by the establishment of the Okrug, the eastern Khanty referred to their northern counterparts as “the other people” ). That process particularly intensified in the 1980s - 1990s due to the Khanty movement to protect their territory from the industrial expansion of various ministries and agencies. The autonomy also has a great role to play in the retaining of the traditional culture and language, which have been preserved in the Okrug to a much greater extent than in the Khanty of the Tomsk Region, where the traditional lifestyle has been lost.
The traditional occupations of the Khanty are fishery, taiga hunting and reindeer herding. In the southern regions and along the Ob River, the Khanty
In the majority of Khanty, the most
reliable means of subsistence was dam fishery. Over 200 techniques
of fishery, using various dams is known (Fig. 2). Other fishery techniques
were widespread. The Khanty hunted for the reindeer, moose, squirrel,
fox, sable and other furbearers, and also for ducks and geese. Active
methods were used (chasing the prey with dogs) and passive methods
(various traps, shooting sets (Fig. 3). In spring, geese and ducks
were captured with pereves, i. e., by nets stretched in a clearing
specially cut between water bodies. Flying from one water body to
another, the birds got entangled in the nets (Fig. 4).
Reindeer herding is widespread in the bulk of the Khanty territory. On the tundra and
The majority of Khanty led a semi-sedentary mode of life, migrating from constant winter settlements to seasonal, located on their hunting grounds
In the spiritual culture of the Khanty, of great importance is the bear cult and associated set of rites.
embroidery in beads, metal plaques and applique. (Fig. 11).