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The Khanty (Khanty: ханти, hanti), also known in older literature as Ostyaks (Russian: остяки) are a Ugric indigenous people, living in Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug, a region historically known as "Yugra" in Russia, together with the Mansi. In the autonomous okrug, the Khanty and Mansi languages are given co-official status with Russian. In the 2010 Census,[4] 30,943 persons identified themselves as Khanty. Of those, 26,694 were resident in Tyumen Oblast, of whom 17,128 were living in Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug and 8,760—in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. 873 were residents of neighbouring Tomsk Oblast, and 88 lived in the Komi Republic.

Ostjaken vom Ob Ende 19tes Jhdt.jpg
Khanty from the Ob river
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (Russia)
 Russia31,467 (2020)[2]
 Ukraine100 (2001)[3]
Khanty, Russian
Russian Orthodoxy, Shamanism
Related ethnic groups
Khanty man in Tomsk, 2006.
Khanty family standing in front of a chum, their traditional tent
Most Khanty people live in the Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug in western Siberia


Since the Khanty language has about 10 dialects which can be united in 3 main branches, there are several slightly different words used by these people to describe themselves:

  • Khanti, Khante (in North)
  • Khande (in South)
  • Kantek, Kantakh (in East)

All these words mean Human. They also call themselves As Khoyat which means Obian People or People from Ob.


In the second millennium BC, the territories between the Kama and the Irtysh Rivers were the home of a Proto-Uralic-speaking population that had contacts with Proto-Indo-European speakers from the south.[5] The woodland population is the ancestor of the modern Ugrian inhabitants of Trans-Uralia.[5] Other researchers say that the Khanty people originated in the south Ural steppe and moved northwards into their current location about 500 AD.[6]

Khanty probably appear in Russian records under the name Yugra (ca. 11th century), when they had contact with Novgorodian hunters and merchants.[7][8] The name comes from Komi-Zyrian language jögra ('Khanty'). The older Russian name Ostyak is from Khanty as-kho 'person from the Ob (as) River,' with -yak after other ethnic terms like Permyak.[7]

Some Khanty princedoms were partially included in the Siberia Khanate from the 1440s–1570s.

In the 11th century, Yugra was actually a term for numerous tribes, each having its own centre and its own chief. Every tribe had two exogamic phratries, termed mon't' and por, and all members were considered to be blood relatives. This structure was later replaced with clans, where each clan leader (knyazets) negotiated with the Russian realm. They also participated in Russian campaigns, and received the right to collect yasaq (tribute) from two Khanty volosts (districts) respectively. When this structure was no longer needed, Russia deprived them of their privileges.

After the Russian conquest of Siberia, Russians attempted to Christianize the Khanty. Russian missionaries and officials instructed that idols be destroyed, mass baptisms be performed, and harsh punishment for those that disobeyed the church. Russian officials also took Khanty children as hostages and converted them to Christianity.[8] Conversions were generally superficial in nature and motivated by economic incentives. As a consequence, the Khanty continued to incorporate native practices and beliefs into their spirituality.[8]

During the Soviet period the Khanty were one of the few indigenous minorities of Siberia to be granted an autonomy in the form of an okrug (autonomous district). The establishment of autonomy has played a considerable role in consolidation of the ethnos (the Western Khants called their eastern neighbours Kantõk [the Other People]). However, in the 1930s concerted efforts were made by the Soviet state to collectivise them.[8] The initial stages of this meant the execution of tribal chiefs, who were labelled "kulaks", followed by the execution of shamans. The abduction by the state of the children who were sent to Russian-speaking boarding schools provoked a national revolt in 1933 called the Kazym rebellion.

After the end of the Stalin period this process was relaxed and efforts were intensified in the 1980s and 1990s to protect their common territory from industrial expansion of various ministries and agencies. The autonomy has also played a major role in preserving the traditional culture and language.


The Khanty are one of the indigenous minorities in Siberia with an autonomy in the form of an okrug (autonomous area).


Economy and livelihoodEdit

The Khantys' traditional occupations were fishery, taiga hunting and reindeer herding. They lived as trappers, thus gathering was of major importance.[9]

During the winter, the Khanty lived in stationary huts made out of earth and branches at permanent villages. During the spring, the Khanty moved towards hunting and fishing grounds, where they constructed temporary rectangular-shaped shelters out of birch-bark and poles.[9]

Weapons utilized by the Khanty were advanced for the period and included longbows, arrows, spears, and the use of iron helmets and chain mail.[9]


Most Khanty are today Orthodox Christians, mixed with traditional beliefs (shamans, reincarnation). Their historical shaman wore no special clothes except a cap. Traditional Khanty cults are closely related to nature. The Crow spring celebration is being celebrated in April, nowadays it is April 7, the same day as the Annunciation day. The Bear Celebration is being celebrated occasionally after a successful hunting of a bear. The Bear Celebration continues 5 or 6 days (the duration depends on the sex of the animal). Over 300 songs and performances occur during a Bear Celebration. The most important parts of the celebration are:

  • Nukh Kiltatty Ar (The Awakening Song)
  • Ily Vukhalty Ar (The Coming Down From The Sky Song) - The story about the son of Torum (the sky god). The son was sent by Torum to rule the Earth. He has forgotten father's advice, lost his immortality, turned into a beast and has been killed by the hunters.
  • Il Veltatty Ar (The Lullaby)


The Khanty language is part of the Ugric branch of the Uralic languages, and thus most closely related to Mansi and Hungarian.

Notable KhantyEdit

  • Ambal (fl. 16th and 17th c.), Khanty and Tatar prince


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Итоги Всероссийской переписи населения 2020 года. Таблица 1. Национальный состав населения" [Results of the All-Russian population census 2020. Table 1. National composition of the population.]. Retrieved 2023-01-03.
  2. ^ "Росстат — Всероссийская перепись населения 2020". Retrieved 2023-01-03.
  3. ^ "National composition of population". Census (in Ukrainian). UA: State statistics committee of Ukraine. 2001.
  4. ^ "Впн-2010".
  5. ^ a b Wiget, Andrew; Balalaeva, Olga (2011). Khanty, People of the Taiga: Surviving the 20th Century. University of Alaska Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-16022-3125-2.
  6. ^ "Britannica".
  7. ^ a b M. Vasmer, Etimologicheskii slovar russkogo yazyka, Vol. III (Moscow, 1971), p. 167.
  8. ^ a b c d Balzer, Marjorie Mandelstam (1983). "Ethnicity Without Power: The Siberian Khanty in Soviet Society". Slavic Review. 42 (4): 633–648. doi:10.2307/2497372. ISSN 0037-6779. JSTOR 2497372. S2CID 155219886.
  9. ^ a b c Forsyth, James (1994). A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia's North Asian Colony 1581-1990. Cambridge University Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-521-47771-0.

External linksEdit