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The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire: Anyus
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fictional Red Book entry on the Anyu, or Kolyma Ainu, people
This public article was written by protondonor, and last updated on 8 Dec 2016, 23:45.

[comments] Self-designation. The self-designation of the Kolyma Ainu is Anyu, which means person. They are frequently called Kolyma Ainu to emphasize their connection with the other Ainu groups of the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin, and Japan; however the name Ainu is not known among the Anyus.

Habitat. Before the 17th century, the Anyu inhabited a broad area across the northern shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, up to the eastern edge of Magadan Oblast. A large number of them have intermingled with the Yukaghir and Evenks. Today a small number live in the Ayano-Maysky and Okhotsky raions.

Population. According to 1970 census data, the Anyu numbered 435. As of 1979, their number increased to 500, of which approximately 40% are native language speakers.

Anthropologically the Anyu are of Sakhalin-Amur type. They are of short stature, with a broad flat face and dense beards, although not as dense as those of the Nivkhs or Sakhalin Ainu.

Language. The Kolyma Ainu language is closely related to the Ainu languages of Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. Presumably it is also related to the extinct languages of the Emishi people of northern Honshu. More distantly it can be perhaps traced to the language of the Jomon culture of ancient Japan.

In the past there may have been multiple Kolyma Ainu dialects. By the time that Kolyma Ainu was first documented, most Kolyma Ainu speakers had become assimilated into Yukaghir, Yakut, or Evenk culture. By the end of the 19th century all Kolyma Ainu people spoke Yakut fluently. With the arrival of the Soviets in the 1930s, Russification began to gather momentum. Today, Russian is preferred as the language of everyday use.

History. The first contact between the Russians and the Anyu was circa 1635. Russians came to the Kolyma river basin to collect tribute (yasak; usually this tribute would consist of furs) from the native peoples. The Kolyma Valley was first settled by Russians in the 1640s. The Russians used their towns not only as trade centers but also as detention centers, taking Yukaghirs and Anyus hostage in order to force their relatives to collect more furs. The Yukaghirs began to raid the Anyus at this time, but some Anyu tribes would participate along with the Yukaghirs in raids against Evenks, Yakuts, and Russians. Due to the use of dogsleds by Russian colonists, local fish populations were decimated, which led to frequent famines among the Anyu and other native peoples of the area. The Anyu were much less affected by these famines than the Yukaghir. A single dogsled team can eat up to 40,000 fish per year. The population declined during this time due to raids, conflict with Cossacks, hostage-taking, the taking of Anyu wives by Russian colonists, famines, and multiple smallpox epidemics. It is unclear exactly how much the population declined from precolonial times, since the exact precolonial population is not known. However, during the early 17th century, there were over 2,000 Anyus, which had fallen to below 1,000 by the end of the 17th century, and finally below 500 in the mid-19th century. During the late 19th and early 20th century, populations stabilized and even slightly increased. In the early 18th century, a church was built at Zashiver and missionaries began to convert the Anyu to Orthodox Christianity. During the Soviet period, the remaining Anyu people were collectivized. This led to the total disintegration of traditional Anyu society and economy, which caused many ailments such as alcoholism to become frequent among the Anyu. Some Anyu continue to raise reindeer, however most Anyu are currently employed as unskilled laborers or else unemployed.

Ethnic culture. The ancestors of the Anyu were hunters and fishers along the Amur river basin, much like their relatives in Sakhalin and Hokkaido. Upon migrating north, the Anyu came into contact with the Tungusic peoples, who brought their knowledge of reindeer husbandry and iron weapons. They became nomadic pastoralists, although they still fished during the summer and hunted during the winter. They used domestic reindeer to transport hunting parties and kills. They also used dogs, related to the Lamut dogs of the Evens, to aid in hunting, but they did not use dogs as draft animals. Through extensive contact with the Yukaghir, the Anyu acquired improved bow technology and hunting techniques.

Writing. The Kolyma Ainu have no native writing system. In recent years a formal Cyrillic orthography has been developed for everyday use. Many of the Kolyma Ainu historically have been proficient in the shangar shorile birchbark pictographs used throughout the Kolyma basin. This system is also present among the Yukaghirs, and is used by the Yakut traders to find Ainu hunting camps in order to sell tea, tobacco, guns, and other trade goods.

Research of the Kolyma Ainu began with the career of Bronisław Piłsudski. Although he is best known for his work among the Ainu people of Sakhalin, he also spent some time among the Ainu of the Kolyma region. In the 1920s, native Ainu intellectuals Ilya Fyodorov and Georgy Alexandrov, graduates of the Far Eastern Federal University, began to develop the Cyrillic writing system which is now in common use among those Ainu that retain their native language. They became victims of the Stalinist purges.
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