Influence Of European And East Asian Civilizations On Culture Of Indigenous Peoples


Indigenous people have long lived in the Russian Far East, the Amur River Basin and Sakhalin Island. In neighboring China, in Heilongjiang Province, along the left bank of the Ussuri River, along the Amur and Sungari rivers, the culture-kinned Nanai Haejie people live. Traditionally, indigenous peoples of the Amur-Sakhalinsk region have been engaged in hunting, sea hunting, river and sea fishing, reindeer herding, gathering edible and medicinal wild herbs, and other taiga and seafood products. They lived in small ancestral settlements in places rich in commercial resources. Rivers and hiking trails along watersheds of mountain ranges were used as transport arteries. Everything necessary for life came from nature: plants for the construction of winter and flight houses, boats, skis, hunting traps and fishing nets, skins of animals and fish for the production of clothing and footwear. The spiritual core of traditional society was shamanism, and the world around it was filled with local spirits who had to be treated for luck at work and happiness in life. For many centuries these nations have been in a system of close ethnocultural contacts with representatives of neighboring East Asian and migratory European civilizations. These civilizations are agricultural, although they differ in their ethnic history, stages of ethnogenesis, many historical and ethno-cultural features, including differences in ethnic, cultural, ideological, religious, political influence on the people of Amur. It is important and relevant to conduct a comparative analysis of the impact, to highlight the main components and trends of this complex process.

Keywords: RussiaEast Asiaindigenous peoples of Amurethno-cultural contacts


Indigenous peoples of Amur: Nanai, Negidal, Nivkhi, Orochi, Udegei, Uilta, Evenki have been interacting with representatives of East Asian and European civilizations for several centuries (Starikov, 1965; Zhang, 1992, 2016; Chen, 1993; Hasanova, 2001; Hannum, 2002; Xun, 2004; Petrov, 2000; Buldakova, 2006; Stavrov, 2007; Stavrov, 2013; Xu, 2012; Larin, 2013; Gorbatskaya & Hunmei, 2013; Amantaeva, 2014; Shen & Luy, 2014; Bazhenova, 2015; Chen, 2015; Vinokurova & Yakovec, 2016; Akbash, 2017; Yshutina, 2006). The contacts of medieval cultures of the Far East with possible ancestors of the Tungus-Manchus and PaleoAsiatic peoples of Lower Amur and Sakhalin should be discussed with caution in connection with the weak development of criteria for the correlation of archaeological complexes of north-eastern China, Korea, Primorsky Krai with specific ethnic communities, because of the generalized characteristics of surrounding ethnic societies, given in the Chinese chronicles. The ethnic region of Lower Amur and Sakhalin, with its traditional mountain taiga and forest tundra landscapes, which did not have the necessary components for the emergence of a producing civilization, has always been under pressure from more industrialized, military and more aggressive neighbors (Larin, 2013). For historical reasons, the impact of the Chinese, Manchus, to a lesser extent Mongols, Koreans and Japanese, has been longer than the Slavic. However, the hypothesis that, as a result of the Mongol invasion of the seaside cities of the 13th century, they ceased to exist has not been finally proved, and their inhabitants, having changed their economic and cultural type from agricultural to hunting and fishing, scattered across the taiga. At least in mythology, language, and belief complex of the Amur indigenous peoples there are no terms and concepts related to agriculture, agrarian rituals, and fertility cult. Short-term impact of the Slavic civilization in the form of Cossack campaigns indigenous peoples of Amur experienced in the XVII century, and constant - from the middle of the XIX century.

Problem Statement

In the Amur basin, there has always been a complex interaction of Confucian, Japanese, Western European and Slavic civilizations with the indigenous culture of hunters and fishermen (Keskitalo, 2007; Sasaki, 2008; Argudyaeva, 2009). In Russia, Korea, China, and Japan, ideologies, political regimes, and ethno-cultural situation changed. But the impact of these countries, which tend to expand their borders and include as many ethnicities as possible on indigenous peoples' material and spiritual cultures, remains inevitable. From the very beginning of its existence, Chinese civilization was ethnocentric: the Chinese considered only themselves and other barbarians to be civilized. European resettlers settled in river valleys and at first practically did not mix with aboriginal camps. It is important to identify historical, ethno-cultural peculiarities of the process of impact of powerful civilizations on the traditional society of indigenous peoples of Amur and Sakhalin. To solve the problem of which of the civilizations has had a stronger transformational or assimilating effect on the indigenous peoples of Amur, Sakhalin, Sungari, it is possible to take advantage of the theoretical developments of well-known domestic ethnographers: Haruzin and Drozdov (1894), Miklukho-Maclay and Drozdov (1993). Haruzin considered the process of spreading the Russians to the north-east, in which part of the Slavic settlers took elements of northern culture. On this basis, Haruzin concluded that the Russian ethnos has no assimilation capacity (Haruzin & Drozdov, 1894). Miklukho-Maclay wrote that Europeans have very strong competitors in the Pacific Basin in the face of the Chinese, who are more patient colonizers (Miklukho-Maclay & Drozdov, 1993). Over the centuries, it is important to see how the concepts of these famous scientists have been justified.

Research Questions

The process of civilization influence of European and East Asian ethnic groups on the society of indigenous peoples of the Amur-Sakhalin region.

Purpose of the Study

Based on the analysis of field materials, published sources, documents, and works of Russian and foreign researchers, trace and identify historical and ethno-cultural differences in the civilization impact of Europeans, Slavs, Russians, Chinese, and Japanese on the culture of indigenous peoples of Lower Amur and Sakhalin.

Research Methods

To solve this problem, practical methods of field ethnography were used: observation, interviewing informants, recording of collected materials on paper and electronic media, analysis of various sources (Bereznitsky, 2013). A cross-cultural method of studying ethnic history was used as a theoretical one; a historical-typological method, which allowed to study the stadial phenomena and type of culture, the totality of norms, rules and models of people's behavior within the framework of relatively closed regions, in particular, the Amur-Sakhalin historical-ethnographic region; historical-diffusion method, with the help of which the problems of cultural influence of the European and East Asian civilizations on the peoples of the Amur-Sakhalin region were solved, the degree of influence of the Chinese, Manchurian, Slavic cultures on the system of life activity of the natives; historical and genetic method to address the transmission of ethnocultural values in the course of the ethnic history of indigenous peoples and the transformation of this mechanism as a result of the influence of foreign ethnic cultures; historical and anthropological method to identify the deep layers of spiritual culture, the peculiarities of changing and preserving the worldview and religious mentality.


The first to enter into active contacts with the indigenous peoples of Amur were the Chinese and Manchus. The famous Thyr stele, which stood at the temple Buddhist complex of the Minsk dynasty of China (1368-1644) at the camp of Nivkhs, Tungus and other indigenous peoples at the confluence of the Amguni River in the Amur River (Artemyev & Rusinov, 2005), is evidence of this. Traditionally, Amur and Sakhalin natives have traded with Chinese, Manchurian and Japanese merchants for textiles, ceramic and metal dishes, firearms and ammunition, tobacco, grains and other necessities of life. Chinese silk products with floral and cloudy ornaments, and especially dragon images, were in great demand among the indigenous peoples of Amur and Sakhalin. Ethnocultural contacts of indigenous Amur ethnic groups with Chinese and Manchus were carried out in the system of administrative management of the Qin dynasty (1616-1912) from the end of the XVII century to the middle of the XIX century (Sasaki, 2008). The Manchus divided the indigenous population into several classes according to the tribal and territorial principle, according to the number of payers of the tribute, appointed tribal and village elders. Tribute was collected not only from the indigenous population of Amur, but also from the Ainu people of Sakhalin. To strengthen their status, petty officers received special badges of distinction, silk robes with gold embroidered dragons, headdresses with peacock feathers and coloured balls on the top. The system of collection of tribute was connected with the complex of family and marriage relations of Amur ethnic groups with Manchus and Chinese. Amur grooms sailed by boat to Sansin and Beijing, where they bought their brides; Chinese and Manchurian merchants took Amur girls as their wives. Currently, the indigenous peoples of Amur are proud if their families have data on previous marriages with Chinese and Manchus. One can note the influence of Buddhism on the complex of traditional beliefs and rituals of the Amur indigenous peoples, which was manifested in the veneration of the spirit - the giver of hunting good luck to Laobatou in the form of anthropomorphic creature with a Manchurian braid on the back of the head, in the cult of rag icons with inscriptions in the Chinese language, in the celebration of the New Year according to the Chinese model at the end of winter. The Chinese and the Manchus could not teach the Amur natives to cultivate on a large scale. Only on Ussuri and in some settlements of the middle Amur did the Nanai, Udegeis, and Ulchis engage in horticulture. Much more powerful was the cultural influence of the Chinese and Manchus on the indigenous peoples living on the left bank of the Ussuri River in China and in the Sungari Basin. Specific observations were conducted in 2012 in the areas inhabited by Chinese Hezhe Nanai on the Amur, Sungari and Ussuri rivers. As a result, it was found out that since the middle of the XX century Hezhe had been deprived of the possibility to engage in hunting due to the peculiarities of the Han Chinese agricultural culture, which leads to deforestation and development of land for arable land. The red salmon fishes are fished on large iron boats with motors by means of factory fishing nets in Amur and Ussuri. They still treat the gods of the earth, the sky, wood, water and fire before fishing today. Old people celebrate New Year's Eve according to the lunar calendar, worship the images of the gods and treat them with vodka. In the first quarter of the 21st century, the Chinese authorities are taking care of Haejie and constantly improving their lives: they are building free cottages for each individual family, allotting land for farming, and allowing students to study Chinese at school and universities free of charge because young people don't know and don't want to learn the language. Only a few elderly people have knowledge of a few terms of the native, unwritten language. The cottage of 60 square meters consists of four rooms, equipped with autonomous steam heating, centralized water supply and sewerage, television and Internet. Every family has a small vegetable garden. Almost all the Hezheje villages have ethnographic museums, which, with the help of recently produced exhibits, illustrate their traditional and modern material and spiritual culture, the economy, samples of clothing made of fish skin, fur and cloth, models of vehicles, tools and crafts, cult sculpture associated with respect for the owners of the area and with shamanism. The tourism sector is very well developed. For example, in the suburbs of Jiamusi in 2008, the village of Aochi was built, with Haeje cottages, an ethnic park and a museum of Nanai culture. In 2011, 103 Haeje families moved here to serve tourists and work in the park. The state is building kindergartens, primary schools, stadiums and sports grounds. Haeje children can enroll in secondary school, but they must pass a Chinese language test. Today's Heilongjiang Province's modern hezhe does not use traditional clothes and does not have the opportunity to eat according to the traditional food model, nor do they have traditional means of transport in their households. From the first third of the XVII century Russian pioneers had some cultural influence on the Amur natives only until the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689. In accordance with this treaty, the Russians had to leave the Amur, where they returned finally only in the middle of the XIX century. by the results of the Treaty of Aigun in 1858. This influence was manifested in the sphere of Christianization, the introduction of a system of village elders who oversee the economic and spiritual life of natives, school education, the introduction of national laws, a complex of holidays, settlements and housing of the Russian type. However, ignorance of the Aboriginal language, a small number of missionaries in such a vast area, with no infrastructure, made the results of baptism insignificant. In Soviet times, the Amur natives also honored their spirits and asked them for help in various difficult situations. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the destruction of the official ideology began, and the indigenous peoples of Amur began to voluntarily turn to the Christian God as a result of psychological failure, unsolvable everyday and family problems. The Russian settlers were representatives of agricultural crops and were interested in places suitable for growing bread and vegetables, so many indigenous settlements are still in their former place. Some of them were later destroyed as a result of the cooperation and collectivization of the economy in the 1920s and 30s, the enlargement of settlements in the 1960s, and the devastation of the 1990s. For all the peoples of Amur, the Russian authorities created a writing system, first on the basis of the Latin alphabet, then on the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet. Currently, the native language is taught in practically all preschool institutions and schools in Lower Amur and Sakhalin; newspapers, dictionaries, books, textbooks, alphabets, radio and television programmes are published; and websites are available in Nanai, Ulch, Nivkh and other languages. Almost every district of Khabarovsk Krai and Sakhalin Oblast has dance groups where the tradition of native musical and choreographic culture is preserved and artists perform in their ethnic costumes. Many schools, settlements and all cities where indigenous peoples of Amur live have local history and ethnographic museums where unique objects of their traditional culture are kept. Specialists in various areas of ethnic culture are trained in a number of regional and central higher education institutions. Since 1990, a system of Associations of Indigenous Peoples of the North has been created, which solves numerous problems of modern life, issues of employment, territories of traditional use of natural resources, organization of clan communities engaged in traditional crafts: fishing, hunting, sea hunting, gathering of wild herds, environmental issues, ethnic tourism, etc.


The impact of Chinese and Manchurian culture on the traditional society of the Amur indigenous peoples was revealed in the analysis of shamanic, commercial and wedding rituals. The impact of Japanese culture was most evident in the culture of the indigenous peoples of southern Sakhalin, in trade and exchange operations. The Sungarian Nanai have been influenced by Manchus and the Chinese to a much greater extent than their relatives in the Amur region of Russia. The assimilationist policy towards Chinese Hezhe has been tougher, resulting in the almost total oblivion of the mother tongue and endoethnonyms and a significant transformation of ethnic identity. Thus, the words of Miklukho-Maclay (Miklukho-Maclay & Drozdov, 1993). prove to be fair in many respects. The impact of Slavic ethnic groups on the indigenous peoples of the Amur River has led to a worldwide impact of culture in the form of Christian canons. The influence of the Soviet culture is revealed on the basis of the analysis of the system of revolutionary and public holidays, home rituals, life cycle rituals. Many aboriginal, Tunguso-Manchurian and other geographical names were renamed to Slavic after the armed incident with China on Damansky Island in March 1969. However, Russian indigenous peoples of Amur and Sakhalin have their native language preserved, there is a real opportunity to engage in hunting, build traditional means of transport, send traditional cults. It is also related to a vast territory free of industrial and other objects. Comparative analysis shows that Russian culture has had less of a transformational impact on the culture of the indigenous peoples of Amur and Sakhalin than Chinese culture. Probably, this factor is connected with the abovementioned opinion of Haruzin (Haruzin & Drozdov, 1894) about the low level of assimilation abilities of the Russian ethnos. Although he has the right to exist and another point of view related to the more patient nature of the Russian settlers, who have experienced the centuries-old influence of the Christian worldview. There are also some similar aspects of the results of the Slavic and Chinese influence, for example, the complete destruction of unique layers of culture associated with the cult of twins, a bear's holiday, shamanism. In general, it should be noted that the indigenous peoples of Amur and Sungari, being for a long time under the influence of powerful civilizations, managed not only to survive, but also to partially preserve their ancient unique culture. This is evidenced by the methods of trade, the medicinal endemic wild herbs, ethnic cuisine, elements of ornamentation and folklore, forms of ancient beliefs and rituals, which are observed only in this region of the world.


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Bereznitsky*, S., Primak, P., & Titova, E. (2020). Influence Of European And East Asian Civilizations On Culture Of Indigenous Peoples. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 379-385). Future Academy.