Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
Anna Sirina


The Evenks. Surrounding society and the main economic activity of the region of residence

Evenks are minorities in all areas of their primary settlement. The share of rural Evenks varies from 0.3% in the Amur region to 21.5% in the Evenk municipal district (former autonomous area) in the Krasnoyarsk territory. They account for no more than 2.3% of the population in the rest of the Krasnoyarsk territory, 2.2% in Buryatia, 2.2 % in the Trans-Baikal territory, and 0.5% in the Irkutsk region. Today, the taiga is main area of the Evenk population settlement. They live next to Russians and other peoples of Russia. Evenks live in ten regions of the Russian Federation: in the Siberian and Far Eastern Federal Areas, each having its economic specifics. However, one thing they have in common is the resource-oriented economy. Virtually all regions of Evenk settlement are engaged in logging, and the interests of the indigenous population frequently come in conflict with those of the industrialists. The Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline and the Power of Siberia gas pipeline run through Evenk-settled territories. Extensive industrial exploration entails many problems for the environment and the local population. Yakutia subjects industrial projects to particularly exacting expert assessments.

Both the indigenous and local populations of the Evenk municipal district of the Krasnoyarsk territory engage in hunting reindeer breeding, and vegetable gardening in southern areas. The Evenk municipal district has recently discovered Yurubchen-Tokhom, Kuyumba, Sobinskoe, Omorinskoe, and Paiginskoe oil and gas deposits. Exploration of the Yurubchen-Tokhom deposit started in 2009. In 2013-2017, construction was underway on the Kuyumba-Taishet main pipeline. There are projects for building an Evenk (Turukhansk) HPP that would flood over both Evenk taiga and nine settlements along the Nizhnyaya Tunguska River. Undeveloped transportation infrastructure stands in the way of the Evenk municipal district’s rapid industrial development.

The Irkutsk region. 2022 will see the launch of gas exports from the Kovykta gas condensate deposit at the border of Kazachinskoye-Lena and Zhigalovo districts. The Katanga district is developing the Verkhnyaya Chona oil and gas condensate deposit and the Dulisma deposit at the border of the Kirensk and Katanga districts, and the Yarakta deposit at the border of Ust-Kut and Katanga districts. Gold is mined in the Bodaibo district. The Kachug district is developing commercial ecotourism in the Baikal-Lena Nature Reserve.

Traditional areas of Evenks’ economic activities in the Republic of Buryatia have the Kholodninskoye pyrite and polymetallic ores deposit (North Baikal district). In 2006, the Government of the Russian Federation issued an order approving the boundaries of the Central Environmental Zone (CEZ) of Lake Baikal that also spans the Kholodninskoye deposit. The CEZ regime prohibits any economic activity. Residents of the Bauntovsky Evenk district (nine settlements) engage in hunting, reindeer herding, animal husbandry, and mining gold, jade, and uranium (the Khiagda uranium deposit).

The Trans-Baikal territory. Its population hunts and taiga reindeer herding also survive on a small scale. The Tungokochen district mines gold and uranium.

The Amur region. The region’s economy has agriculture and forestry, mining, power generation and distribution, etc. The Selemdzha district mines gold and coal and produces timber. The Bureya District is the largest hydropower generation center; it has Zeya and Bureya HPPs.

The economy of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) is also resource-based. Western Yakutia traditionally mines diamonds and is launching exploration of oil and gas deposits. Several HPPs have been built. The Republic has large deposits of tins, wolfram, mercury, polymetallic and ferrous ores, stone and brown coals, natural gas, and oil.

In the first stage of geological explorations, Evenks acted as geologists’ kayurs (sled drivers) and guides. They were celebrated in a monument to Evenk kayurs and guides erected in 2020 in Neryungri. Industrial workers are mostly out-of-region arrivals of different ethnic backgrounds.


At the unveiling of a monument to Evenkami kayurs in the town of Neryungri. Photo from the Internet
Monument to Evenki kayurs. Neryungri. Photo from the Internet