The Samoyed Language Branch

Concentration: Western Siberia

Religion: During the 18th century many were converted to Christianity, but shamanism and animism has survived until the present day. In recent years many have become atheists.

The Samoyeds are divided into two groups, the Northern and Southern Samoyeds. With the Nenets, Enets and Nganasan making up the Northern Samoyeds. The Southern group is made up of the Selkup and Sayan Samoyeds. The Sayan Samoyeds became extinct in 1989, they were once an entire sub-branch of languages, sometimes considered separate of the Southern Samoyeds.    

After the Ancient Samoyeds separated from the Uralic peoples, they settled in western Siberia. In this region they were practically isolated from the rest of the world. There first known contact was with the Turkic people a couple of centuries before Christ. There contacts were probably mainly buisness.They traded goods with each other and possibly mixed as well. There has been intermarriage since the distant past with other Samoyedic peoples, Dolgans, Evenks and other Turkic peoples. During Russian rule which started in the 16th century the Samoyeds were heavily taxed until they revolted, they did not last long against the Russian armies. When the Soviet Union took over, there economy was slightly enhanced, due to collective farming and reindeer keeping, and Illiteracy rates dropped although many of there Reindeer rights were taken away, which ruined there culture. Many children were sent to boarding schools and forced to learn Russian. Today the Samoyeds have high alcholism rates, many are unemployed or working in low wage jobs. They are also racially discriminated against.

There are many loan words in the Samoyed languages borrowed from the Altaic language family especially from Turkic. The Samoyed languages have also been influenced by Russian, Paleosiberian and other Siberian languages.

The first written record of the Samoyeds was made by Monk Nestor. In his chronicle A Tale of the Times Past they are refereed to as as Samoyad.


The Northern Samoyeds

The Nenets (Nenets and Hasawa meaning man)

Population: Approx. 35,000

Language: Nenets

Ethnic inheritance: Dominate Mongoloid and Arctic features with minor European influence. They have no facial hair.

The Nenets traveled to the borders of Europe and Siberia. There language became the literary standard of the Samoyed languages. Books and newspapers have been published in Nenets. Today there are schools that teach in there native language. There are two main dialect groups, Forest Nenets and the Tundra Nenets they differ slightly in language and in cultural traditions.

The Enets (Enetj)

Population: Approx: 200

Language: Enets

Ethnic inheritance: Dominate Mongoloid and Arctic features with minor European influence. They have no facial hair.

The Enets were a nomadic people, who roamed the right bank of the river Yenisey. They hunted and fished, domesticated reindeer and used them as draught animals.


The Nganasans (Nanasan)

Population: Approx: 1,300

Language: Nganasan

Ethnic inheritance: Dominate Mongoloid and Arctic features with minor European influence. They have no facial hair.

The Nganasan live the farthest north out of all the Eurasian people. Over 90 % of the Nganasan still speak Nganasan as there first language. There population has risen in recent years. Although there has been a slight decline in native speakers.


The Southern Samoyeds

The Selkups (Shöl-qup meaning earth man)

Population: Approx. 3,600

Language: Selkup

Ethnic inheritance: Strong Mongoloid and Arctic features with minor European influence. Generally fairer skin than Northern Samoyeds. They are unique among the Samoyeds as they have facial hair.

During the 13th century the Selkups were under Turkic-Tatar rule, and were heavily taxed. In the 16th century the Russians took control of there region. Many Selkups are bilingual in Russian and Selkup. At present times only half of the Selkup population uses there language.