Problems Of Yamal Socio-Linguistic Diversity


The analysis of social trends, the emergence of modern social knowledge and a changing picture of the world reveal the new unfilled gaps. The research of the communicative space of Tyumen region has become relevant since the end of the last century. Now special attention is paid to intensive communicative contacts of Russian speakers with speakers of other languages. In this regard, the pragmatically significant problem of the world community of the twenty-first century is the problem of the effectiveness of intercultural communication, which can be regarded as an applied problem. There is a collision of different cultural and specific views on the world when communication is represented by components of different cultures. Therefore, the research of the functioning of various languages gives invaluable material for the analysis of prospects of Yamal ethnic and language development. The subject of the current research is the crossing of several urgent directions of development of sociology and sociolinguistics, studied by the example of Yamal as a multicultural, poly-ethnic and multilingual region with a complex interaction.

Keywords: Ethnic groupstraditional culturepolyethnic space


The analysis of social trends, the emergence of modern social knowledge and a changing picture of the world reveal the new unfilled gaps. The research of the communicative space of Tyumen region has become relevant since the end of the last century. Now special attention is paid to intensive communicative contacts of Russian speakers with speakers of other languages. Facts of linguistic reality are new concepts, phenomena and realities, objects of the surrounding world according to the development of science and technological progress (Hajrullina, Sagitov, 2016, p. 74). In this regard, the pragmatically significant problem of the world community of the twenty-first century is the problem of the effectiveness of intercultural communication, which can be regarded as an applied problem. There is a collision of different cultural and specific views on the world when communication is entered by components of different cultures (Isakova, 2017, p. 47). Therefore, the research of functioning of various languages gives invaluable material for the analysis of prospects of Yamal ethno-linguistic development. The subject of this research is the crossing of several urgent directions of development of sociology and sociolinguistics. Yamal is a multicultural, poly-ethnic and multilingual region with a complex interaction.

The ethno-linguistic landscape of the Yamal Peninsula is characterized by a high degree of linguistic diversity. It represents the result of the centuries-old blending of language history in general. Many language families are represented here. The relevance of this work is not limited only by the methodological component. The regional ethno-linguistic interaction is also important for conceptual solutions of many problems, such as languages’ function in poly-ethnic regions, the regional ethno-linguistic policy and strategies of the state ethno-linguistic policy in Russia in general.

There are many serious social researches of general-theoretical and methodological character of culture, language and interaction in Russia (Alatartseva, Barysheva, 2016). It is very important to research the cognitive level of this problem (Shipunova, Murejko, 2016) and different views on the cultural structure (Zaharova, 2016). The work of Tyumen sociologists is devoted to the analysis of the situation in Tyumen region at the beginning of the XXI century. The authors study socio-economic, sociopolitical and ethno-cultural problems. They supported the idea of Yamal selected territory between European and Asian regions of Russia (Silin, 2016). Nevertheless, the level of a solution of a problem of ethno-language functioning remains insufficient. In the context of ethnolinguistics and sociolinguistics, the problem of functioning is reflected in works of many modern scientists. All authors describe the most problematic aspects relying on the understanding of need to search an integrative approach, new conceptual categories.

Problem Statement

The following tasks are to be solved in the context of the current study:

  • to present socio-cultural, ethno-linguistic data of the Yamal Peninsula;

  • to reveal the specifics of the functioning of languages in a polyethnic region;

  • to determine the degree of interference at various language levels;

  • to characterize the vitality of the Yamal languages.

Research Questions

Ethno-cultural dialogue consists of several communicative large blocks in the Yamal Peninsula.

  • The intercultural relations can take various forms: cooperation, mutual enrichment, ambivalence, cultural expansionism, assimilation, acculturation, rejection, tolerance, etc.

  • The influence of globalization processes takes place in the interaction of different subcultures. Globalization processes will be perceived differently due to the heterogeneity of ethno-cultures in terms of their "traditional nature."

  • The interethnic dialogue has its own history in the region.

  • The ethno-cultural interaction is largely determined by ethnic auto- and hetero- stereotypes.

  • The teaching of the national language is one of the main tasks of Yamal government programs.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose is to develop the theoretical foundations of the functioning of languages in a polyethnic region and to test empirically the level of implementation of this functioning in the Yamal Peninsula.

Research Methods

The central methodology of the research is a synergetic approach of social systems. The subject-activity, structural-functional, ethno-linguistic, cross-cultural, sociolinguistic and socio-cultural approaches have been used.


Today Western Siberia is the main energy resource for Russian consumers and plays an important role in providing the countries of Western and Eastern Europe with energy. (Ivanov et al., 2007). The discovery of oil and gas fields on the Yamal peninsula has made Russia the world leader in the international market in volumes of hydrocarbonic raw materials. Yamal has taken priority positions in the formation of the modern fuel and energy complex of the Russian raw materials and productive potential.

It is necessary to agree with Yuriy Neyelov's opinion that "Nowadays Yamal is one of the leaders in investment attractiveness and social, economic development. This district is known not only for oil and gas, but also for its cultural traditions, production of traditional crafts …" (Neelov, 2006, p. 94). The regional policy of the Yamal region is formed taking into account the economic, energy, climatic and ethno-socio-cultural features of the territory. Yamal belongs to areas with extreme climatic conditions.

The national structure of Yamal is also known in the world. According to the National Population Census of 2010, over 120 nationalities live here. Since ancient times, this territory was inhabited by the Nenets, the Khanty, the Mansi and others. Yamal is not a Russian name. In Nenets, it means "end of the earth". Nenets are one of the relatively numerous peoples of the North (there are about 35 thousand people according to the National Population Census). So far there is no consensus about the origin of the Nenets people. The issue remains debatable. Many researchers hold the view that the basic elements of the culture of modern North Samoyed peoples were created as a result of "synthesis of Samoyed newcomers and aborigines of the Polar Regions (their existence is reflected in the Nenets folklore which is called Siirt or sihirtya)" (Zdorovets, Mukhin, 2005). Nenets call themselves Neney, Nenets (in literature - the Nenets people, the Nenets).

The Nenets language belongs to the northern branch of the Samoyed group of the Ural languages. Two dialects are allocated in the Nenets language: the Tundra Nenets and the Forest Nenets. The language of the Tundra Nenets is divided into dialects: Kaninsky, Bolshezemelsky, Malozemelsky and Kolguev. The Nenets writing was created in 1932 on the basis of Latin graphics, but it is only for the tundra dialect of the Nenets language. The forest dialect has considerable differences in phonetics. Moreover, the Tundra Nenets is a rather small group. These facts were not allowed to provide forest Nenets script and played a negative role in the development of school education, folklore collecting of the Forest Nenets and so on.

The Russian state language policy has always had a great influence on studying the Nenets language by autochthonic people. The figure 01 shows data of various years:

Figure 1: (Language policy of Nenets language)
(Language policy of Nenets language)
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The authors interviewed Nenets students who came from Yamal to study at Tyumen industrial university (see table 01 ). The total number of Nenets, for whom the Nenets language is native, is 83.4 %. There was time when children of the secondary schools were forbidden to speak in Nenets because teachers did not understand Nenets speech and tried to educate Nenets pupils according to Russian tradition.

The older generation of small Yamal ethnic groups still remember the time when it was forbidden to speak their native language not only at school, but also outside it, and it was recommended to speak only the "big" language with the kids at home (Khomich, 1994).

Today, despite all the changes taking place, it is possible to speak about a rather high extent of preservation of the native language. Many books, magazines, educational and methodical literature are published in Nenets, competitions of readers and performers of the Nenets song are held.

Nenets use the native language at home and at work especially in traditional branches of economy. This is because firstly the Nenets want to speak and speak in their native language everywhere. Besides, many terms connect the Nenets with Nenets traditional culture, and their translation into Russian is very difficult. For example, most of the vocabulary of reindeer breeding in the Nenets language has no analogues in the Russian language. Nenets terms only describe the types and details of clothing, various actions of reindeer breeding, herding, hunting, fishing and so on.

Table 1 -
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Usually firstly, the Nenets discussed the questions connected with migrations, route or other problems. And then they try to translate their ideas into Russian. Therefore, Russian and some other languages include a lot of Nenets loanwords: a malitsa – man's outerwear (from the Nenets Mal'tsev), to yamdat, kokchevat (from yamdas), pima (felt boots - shoes made of deer fur) and others.

At the same time, the Nenets perfectly understand that Russian is very important in their life as a language of communication. Besides, they are interested in the Russian language and culture.

Other aboriginals of Yamal still live near Nenets on the territory of the Yamal Nenets region. They are Khanty and Mansi. Their official names have been adopted since 1917. The word "Khanty" is formed from the self-name: the Kantei, the kanrakh, meaning a man. The territory of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is settled by northern Khanty. They live on the Lower Ob.

Northern Khanty begin the history from the arrival of their ancestors, the ancient Ugric peoples of the forest-steppe and steppe zones in the taiga zone of Western Siberia. As for linguistic and ethnographic characteristics, some part of northern Khanty is allocated into obdorsko-kunovat; berezovsko-kazymsk and atlymsko-sherkal groups.

In the scientific literature of the early period in the documents of the tsarist administration, the Khanty are called Ostyaks, the Mansi - Voguls, and one more term – Ob Ugra - was as a unit approved (from the place of residence and from the word "Yugra"). The Khanty and Mansi language is a branch of the Finno-Ugric group. According to the genealogical classification of languages, the Khanty and Mansi are called Ugric (Ugric), the Hungarian language also belongs to this group. The Ugric languages belong to the Finno-Ugric group of the Uralic language family (it also includes languages of the Samoyed Nenets, the Selkup, and the Nganasan Enets).

At the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples in parallel with the Russia-EU summit, the prime minister of Russia, D. Medvedev, said that the Finno-Ugric peoples have always been an integral part of Russia's ethnic and cultural mosaic. Together with other people, they have actively participated in strengthening of the state, mastered its huge natural resources, and created industrial power of the country (Belikov, 2006).

Writing and literary language has begun to be created for the Khanty and Mansi since the 1930s. The unified literary Khanty language does not exist because there are many differences between the dialects in it. The Mansi literary language is focused on the northern dialect.

The number of the Khanty and Mansi, who know their native language, is decreasing every year: in 1959 – 77%, in 1989 – 60.5%, in 2010 – 30.5%, etc. (see figure 02 )

Figure 2: (language policy of Khanty and Mansi language)
(language policy of Khanty and Mansi language)
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The share of the Khanty and Mansi who speak Russian as their first language and speak the native language poorly grows continuously. This is due to the many mixed marriages and processes of globalization. Russian, being a language of international communication, forces out the language of the Khanty and Mansi. It is connected with numerous international marriages

The smallest autochthonic people of Yamal are the Selkups; ethnographers usually allocate the northern and southern Selkups (territorially). The Northern Tazovsko-Turukhansk Selkups call themselves shOlkup, which means "forest man". According to the anthropological type, the Selkups belong to the Ural transition race (with the participation of Caucasoid admixture).

The Selkup language is ranked as the Samoyed group of the Ural language family. There is no consensus on the number of the Selkup language dialects among linguists and ethnographers.

Scientists allocate the northern dialect — tazovsko-baishensk and narymsk, narymsko-Ket language dialect; the central dialect — the narymsk language and the southern dialect — the Ket language. The main indicator of the language safety is a natural transfer it in the people but according to Selkup questioning native language only 17% speak the native language well, at best time others understand everyday speech, in the worst time they know a small amount of Selkup words. Parents try to talk to children in Russian using the Selkup words or phrases. The school children knowing the ethnic language speak only Russian among themselves. Unfortunately, we can say that the Selkup language is on the verge of extinction. So it is necessary to make a number of significant measures for its revival and preservation.

The task of the government, mass media, scientists and educators is to keep the national: language, traditions and cultures of indigenous ethnic groups of the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic territory.

The special place among the people of Yamal is taken by Tatars. The Siberian Tatars have the self-name sibirtatarlar (tat. Ceber tatarlary; sebertatarlan). They did not come to Yamal but perhaps they are indigenous people of the Yamal Peninsula. During many centuries they have lived in Siberia and regions of the Far North. Despite the large territorial, linguistic, cultural remoteness, Siberian Tatars interact with the Kazan Tatars living in the republic of Tatarstan.

The Tatar language belongs to the Turkic group of languages. For several centuries, the language of the Siberian Tatars is considered a literary dialect of the Tatar language and has no independent status. This language is used only as the household. However now, there is a process of revival and strengthening of language of the Siberian Tatars, which becomes a national symbol and means the expression of national culture.

Nowadays the Siberian Tatars use the Russian and Tatar languages as the literary languages. As showed materials of field researches, the knowledge of the Russian language takes the second place after the Tatar language, especially for the Siberian Tatars, i.e. there is a further expansion of bilingualism to the second Russian (see figure 03 ). There is also a trend toward monolingualism. About 23% of the Tatar population said that their native language is Russian.

Figure 3: (language policy of Tatar language)
(language policy of Tatar language)
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Mass media (magazines, newspapers, creative associations and Internet resources) have special influence on the development of languages and cultures of the Yamal indigenous people. It is published both in Russian and in the native languages of the Yamal indigenous people. The school plays a huge role; it is the environment of preservation and development of language and cultural diversity, of studying the native languages and cultures. As a result of the public opinion monitoring on the issue of preservation and development of these languages, the Yamal leaders have developed a complex of the actions directed to the solution of problems of national and language policy according to implementation of the international standards to protect them. In this regard, the teacher’s training for places of traditional residence and indigenous ethnic groups is created. Moreover, in these days there are some competitions, conferences, exhibitions, festivals and competitions on ethnic sports in Yamal. All educational institutions try to make the fertile environment of preservation and development of language and cultural diversity, so studying the native languages and cultures is included in the main general education program of school and preschool education, being the main mission of the Yamal government and all Russia.

Along with indigenous people, the disperse people live in the Yamal North – the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Belarusians, etc. they have no territorial and limited areas of ​​residence, their existence is closely connected with the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the Yamal Peninsula and the development of fuel and energy infrastructure in the region.

Since the beginning of the 17th century, Russian dialects appeared on the Yamal Peninsula "having inherited a number of specific features of the metropolis" (the European part of Russia) (Jamal, 2004). They have undergone separate transformations due to interlingual and intra dialect processes. The dialect word meanings are close literary, differing only in semantic shades and the functional use. Then the Russian language was influenced by other languages, including Ukrainian.

According to the Russian national census of 2010, the Ukrainians are the third largest nation (after the Russians and the Tatars), inhabiting the territory of the Yamal region. The Ukrainian component makes a certain flavor in the cultural space of Yamal (Isakova, 2016, p. 40). Preservation and development of the Ukrainian language and national traditions, customs, ceremonies need to be considered as a factor of political stability of the multinational region.

Migration of the Ukrainians on the territory of Tyumen region and on the Yamal peninsula has its own history. The first immigrants settled here during Yermak's campaign, and today they completely assimilated among Russians having practically lost language and cultural ethnic values. Great scientific interest is represented by the last wave of the Ukrainian migrants of the end of the XX – beginning of the XXI centuries, which is connected with discovery of oil and gas fields and the creation of the industrial complex. Among the Yamal nationalities, the Ukrainian nationality is large enough. Sometimes the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is jokingly called Yamalo-Donetsk. According to the mental consciousness of the Russians and the Ukrainians, all people who have Ukrainian names and surnames are the Ukrainians, most of them speak and understand Ukrainian. That is why, a process of spontaneous, unregulated inflow of the Ukrainian words to the Russian language is very intensive. It is connected with the intensification of business, scientific, trade and cultural relations between the peoples.

The research materials said that the Ukrainian people are characterized by peaceful, co-existence and interaction. At the same time, they have a high degree of conservation features of material and spiritual culture. The Ukrainian Diaspora plays an important role in the life of the Ukrainian ethnocommunity of Tyumen region, and many Ukrainians have been receiving a social and public institutalization for centuries since the beginning of the 90s of the last century.

The Ukrainian dispersion holds a number of activities for the Ukrainian rapprochement with other Yamal nations; assimilation of Ukrainian migrants is reflected in Ukrainian festivals, conferences etc.

The authors consider it necessary to designate other directions of language development of modern residents of Yamal. It is the Cossack movement. Many families of Cossacks live in Yamal. Moreover, the Cossack movement supports state policy in the region. The originality of the culture and the language of Yamal Cossacks assumes detailed studying of this polyethnic and uniform phenomenon. Many scientists disagree with existence of the Cossack language but the Cossacks consider that the Cossack Language exists! In fact, the entire Cossacks history was not so favorable and their dialect could not become the conventional national and state language. Now it is possible to define the language of Cossacks as something average between the Ukrainian, Russian and many original Cossack words.

The Cossack language accommodates all changes associated with the Cossack history of the Middle Ages. In particular, during many years, there was some interaction among different nationalities in the Cossack army. All people strenuously borrowed cultural skills, lines of life, religious views from each other, created a complex of that special steppe culture which is manifested in all the archaeological monuments (Stepanchenko, 2009).

The descendants of the Urals and the Zaporozhye Cossacks mostly live in the territory of Yamal region. Both groups are very proud of their Cossack origin. All of them have moved out of this or that village to the north of Tyumen as a result of labor migration in the eighties of the last century."The Cossack language" is constantly evolving. Thus, the lexicon is replenished, the special place is taken also by words borrowed from the Turkish, Ukrainian, Polish languages, etc.; it happens due to interaction of Cossacks with ethnic groups.

The ethnic component of the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district is really very various, and this territory is chosen as a "pilot" platform of reception of compatriots by Russia. There are many Russian-foreign companies in the Tyumen North. Frequently it is possible to meet the foreign citizens who arrived for work or on a business trip. All this situation generates intensity of communicative contacts of the Russian and other languages, which is an important condition not only for direct loan of lexicon, but also for familiarizing with the international vocabulary, more often created based on the German (as a result of modern globalization processes) and Turkic languages (as a result of close contacts with local population).

Besides, there is the expansion of these languages into the most diverse spheres of a language ranging from everyday communication to the advertising space in the region. The innovations caused by process of language borrowings of the onomastic units assume a considerable scale. There is an acute question of word adapting to the accepted language system. Actual tendencies of modern development and functioning of the literary languages find the reflection in the selection and development of foreign-language lexical material.

"The solution of the speech activity nature of a speaker is concealed. In this regard, the concept of the language personality is put in the forefront". Today according to the modern linguistic science, the focus of research is linguistic identity. It implies that a man is subjected to direct influence of a language and other non-linguistic factors in his ability to perform speech acts. The "communication" component implies the system of social and psychological interaction of subjects. Its content is the exchange of results of mental activity - thoughts, judgments, assessments, attitudes, and the organization of their relationships in terms of implementing various motives and attitudes of material and spiritual activities of communicants (see table 02 ).

Table 2 -
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It is no secret that, first of all, Yamal is associated with gas and "big money" in ordinary consciousness of the Russians and many migrants, having came there. Many different people (belonging to the near and far abroad) of various social groups and nationalities are presented on the Yamal peninsula (Simonov, Zhanuzakova, 2017, p. 23). The population of the region is grouped by the interests into the following categories:

  • Small peoples of the North, who linked their fate to the traditional economy, preservation of the environment.

  • Alien old residents, linking their fate with the district.

  • Alien population, linking their fate with the development of the oil and gas complex.

  • Alien population, linking their fate with their historical motherland Russia and the CIS countries.

  • Population, working in shifts from Russia, the CIS and foreign countries.

All these groups of the population are not the same in terms of the device of their life and social aspirations. Each of these groups has a hierarchy of human values. Besides, each of these groups is far inhomogeneous not only in the language differences among the groups, but also in their traditions. The Russian language of the Yamal gas workers is rather original, it comprises the traces of English, German, Ukrainian and Turkish languages.


The communicative space of Yamal is connected with many historical factors, such as the conquest of the North, the discovery and development of oil and gas fields, the creation of a powerful energy complex of Russia, labor migration resources of various ethnic groups, etc. Polyethnicity of Yamal region suggests a complete effective international policy, which is impossible without knowledge of the life of many indigenous and immigrant peoples of Yamal. This is reflected in various publications on the national and international subject, conferences and seminars, in establishment of programs and projects of cultural revival of the national traditions and language.

The following scientific results were obtained on the basis of the authors’ approach:

  • The basis of observations proves that the vector of problems of the functioning of languages shifts from the deficiency space of external resources to the formation of the awareness importance of personal and professional development resources in the ethno-cultural field of the region. The extralinguistic and intralinguistic factors of the vitality of languages in the poly-ethnic region are determined, and the specifics of the functioning of the Yamal languages is revealed.

  • The national local color is formed depending on the people contacts. It is expressed in the condition of material and spiritual culture and language. The poly-ethnicity of Yamal imposes an imprint not only on the formation of a specific anthropological type of population, but also affects the specific functioning of languages.

The relevance of research of the various ethnic and regional languages and cultures is indisputable. More and more people interact with each other and simultaneously preserve the originality and a cultural sovereignty. It can be explained with a reaction to new tendencies of scientific and technical progress and globalization of contemporary culture.


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19 February 2018

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Isako, A., & Isakova, A. (2018). Problems Of Yamal Socio-Linguistic Diversity. In I. B. Ardashkin, N. V. Martyushev, S. V. Klyagin, E. V. Barkova, A. R. Massalimova, & V. N. Syrov (Eds.), Research Paradigms Transformation in Social Sciences, vol 35. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 492-501). Future Academy.