Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
According to the 2010 national census, there are 30,943 Khants and 12,269 Mansi in the Russian Federation. Khants are culturally and linguistically close to the Mansi. Khants and Mansi together make up the Ob-Ugrian branch of the Ugrian division of the Uralo-Altaic language family. They are mainly shamanist-animists. Khants and Mansi live mainly in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (AOk)-Yurga in Tyumen Oblast.
The Khants and Mansi came under Russian influence from the sixteenth century. Their traditional economy was based on reindeer herding, hunting, fishing and trapping. The literary language of Khants was established in 1930 and that of Mansi in 1932. Both converted to a Cyrillic script in 1939-40.
The Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug was established in December 1930. In March 1993 the okrug authorities decided to press for the status of a separate republic. Similar demands were also made in Yamalo-Nenets, but neither territory succeeded in acquiring the status of republic, a reflection of weak political nationalism.
The Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug is Russia’s main oil-producing region. Oil development in the region has endangered the ecology supporting the Khanty-Mansi, encouraging the formation of civic associations to defend land rights of the region’s indigenous peoples and mobilize for ecologically sustainable development. Industrial development has progressively severed ties with traditional ways of life, and according to reports less than half of Khants and Mansi are involved in traditional activities today.
In April 2014, a conflict erupted between Khants in Nizhnevartovsk region and an oil company planning to build a road to one of its oil reserves over Khants customary lands without their consent. Khants activists successfully blocked the road construction. A similar situation was faced by the Aipin family, who had traditionally been involved in deer husbandry, and eventually managed to regain their pastures and to prevent the Lukoil oil company from building oil-wells on their land.
Updated December 2020
Minorities and indigenous peoples in
- Kabards and Balkars
- Karachay and Cherkess
- Khants and Mansi
- Meskhetians or Meskhetian Turks
- Russian or Volga Germans
- Ukrainians, Belarusians and Kazakhs