Russian Indians


One of the Moscow photo-centers has held an exhibition called “The Itelmens – Indians of Russia”.

Itelmens are a small ethnic group, who are original inhabitants of the Kamchatka peninsula. Their population today (speaking only of pure-blooded Itelmens) is about 1500. Their name is indeed a Russian-adapted pronunciation of the ethnically correct “itenman” which means “existing” or “living here”.


A number of anthropological studies revealed that the Itelmens’ closest genetic relatives are Indians of the Tlingit tribe resident in Alaska. And that’s not a surprise – they’ve settled here before the Bering Strait separated Asia from North America. Both of them have the common god – Kutkh raven – the creator of the Earth and every living thing on it. The other most typical god for the locals was Mitg – “master of the sea”, who was believed to gift people with the main food – fish. Fish was indeed the pivot of the Itelmens’ nutrition, they pickled, dry-salted and smoked it to provide the tribe with the supply of food.


Itelmens have also a lot of in common with the other famous Indian tribe of Navajo.
Itelmens together with Koryaks, the other indigenous people, reside in the Kamchatka Krai of Russia. Their features are more likely to the Europeans. Despite they represent the minority in population structure, Itelmens consider themselves a kind of aristocracy comparing with Koryaks. Probably, that’s because historically they were occupied with various crafts, but not hunting and gathering. Nowadays they are much more educated than the other indigenous ethnic groups of Kamchatka. But still they haven’t gone far from the primitive communal system.


The other special and rare thing is the Itelmen language. In the beginning of the 20th century it was taught in local schools with one specific – it used Roman letters. When in 1936 peoples living on all Soviet territories were forced to turn to the obligatory use of the Cyrillic alphabet. Itelmen teachers haven’t acknowledged this reform and thereby the language wasn’t taught in official schools any more. Nowadays it’s dying extremely fast – only 900 people speak Itelmen language as native.
The mentioned photo-exhibition was opened by the present Itelmen shaman and the ethnic folklore group.


21 thoughts on “Russian Indians”

  1. all indians came from siberia. there are a lot of cultural similarities between native americans and siberian tribes.

      • It always makes me laugh when a person thinks they are being politically correct when they use the term “Native American.” I mean… think about it f-tard. If the Indians were in “America” hundreds of years before it was called “America,” why would they not be called simply by their tribal name/identity? The Azteca are not “Native Mexicans,” and the Inca are not “Native Peruanos.”

  2. Funny how this one guy’s hair is dyed black… I wonder if he used a home dye kit from L’oreal or Schwarzkopf or went to the nearest hairsalon downtown. Time to touch up the roots, though.

    • the mongols have used black hair dye for many ages now..
      seeing kamchatka is just tad north, i can see them making it themselves

  3. This one guy has a mustache, i have never seen an Eskimo or a Indian native with facial hair, not saying its wrong, but its something to think about, i am curious what you think about it!

  4. Your article on native inhabitants of Kamchatka brings to mind North American Aboriginal peoples in Washington and British Columbia as well as the Choctaw Nation (originally in Mississippi) from which my mother is descended.

  5. I am part Lakota and French. I can see simliar traits between these people and mine which are on the American Plains. The guy in the first photo almost looks like my grandpa when he was younger. Fascinating.


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