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Yupik in Sibiria


The Yupiget of Siberia are linguistically closely related to the Yupik population of Saint Lawrence Island in the Bering Strait and in the southern parts of Alaska. Before the cultural interference from Russia in the 1920ies, four different language groups were described in Russian literature as 'Eskimo': Imaklik, Naukanski, Chaplinski and Sirenikski. Today only two of these language groups, Chaplinski and Naukanski, are in use but the Naukanski speaking group are living dispersed in different places. Only adult and elderly people speak the language since Russian has become the mother tongue for far most people. Chaplinski speaking people are primarily concentrated in the two villages of Novoe Chaplino and Sireniki where about half of the population are Yupiget. Only a very small number of the children speak the Eskimo language.


Most of the Yupiget in Siberia live on the coastlines of the Chukotka Peninsula where hunting and fishing are the only possible ways to sustain life. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union the economic safety net disappeared and the on-coming supplies from the European parts of Russia ended. The effect on the Yupiget in Chukotka was that they now had to provide for themselves by turning to the resources that the surrounding nature would offer. During the entire Soviet era hunting was the main occupation in the Yupik villages. The situation is now so, that hunting and fishing is the only way possible to survive in these areas. The hunters often work together in groups of four to six men in each boat and they go - depending on the time of year - hunting for Grey Whale, Bowhead Whale, Beluga Whale, Walrus and different species of seals. Catching Bowhead Whale is of great cultural value and a part of the traditional heritage. Still, it is the catching of Walrus that keeps the biggest amounts of food coming to the tables. Different species of fish can be caught during the year. On land are different kinds of animals, i.e. reindeer, bears and mountain sheep and many different species of birds. The women have again begun to gather mushrooms and vegetables on the tundra.


A number of grass-root movements grew out after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But in the mid-1990ies a tightening of the democratic freedom began as Governor Aleksandr V. Nazarov put a limit on all political activity and thereby also on the contacts that had been established with the Yupik populations of Alaska. Russia was going through a time of economic fall-off that left almost no resources for any political work and one of the only grass-root movements in Chukotka that exists today is the organisation "Yupik". Lyudmila I. Ainana is head of board and she underlines the importance of working together with different political organisations in Alaska, for instance Department of Wild Life Management, North Slope Borough. The Yupik population in Chukotka is represented in the ICC (Inuit Circumpolar Conference), an organisation that has helped to re-establish contact - and to unite - the Yupik and Inuit of the different nations in the arctic areas. Both Canada and Greenland have made humanitarian aid programmes to help the worst poverty in Chukotka and there are some of examples on cultural exchange between the Yupiget of Alaska and Chukotka. The Yupiget on Saint Lawrence Island play an important role in these matters because they speak the same language as the Chaplinski speaking population of Chukotka.

Yupik and Inuit of four different nationatilities

Inuit and Yupik live in the nation-states of Denmark, Canada, USA and Russia - and only a very small part of these - approximately 1600 - live on the Chukotka peninsula. Inuit is plural of Inuk which means 'man'. In northern Alaska it is called Inupiaq (singular) and Inupiat (plural). Among the Eskimos of southern Alaska and in Chukotka Yupik means 'man' (singular) and Yupiget (variatons: Yuit/Yupiit) is the word in plural. A number of Eskimos live outside the traditional areas, for example in larger towns and cities of Alaska, Canada and a few thousands in Denmark. These areas are not marked on the map.