MANSIS or Voguls

The self-appellation is mansi, in plural mansit, and mäns. Their neighbours, the Khants and Zyryans call them Voguls, a name which through the medium of the Russian language has spread wider. The name Mansi appears in Russian sources as early as 1785 and it has been in common use in Russia since the 1920s. The Mansis are mentioned for the first time in the Russian chronicles as Voguls in 1396.


The Mansis are living dispersed on a wide area (523,000 sq. km.) in Northwest Siberia, between the Urals and the lower courses of the Ob, mainly in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District (1930-1940 Ostyak-Vogul AD, capital Khanty-Mansijsk) of the Tyumen Province of the Russian Federation, some of them also in the Yekaterinburg Province.


year population knowledge of the
native language
in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District
1897 7,600    
1905 5,304    
1926 5,700 (6,095)    
1939 6,300   5,800
1959 6,449 59.2% 5,600
1970 7,710 52.4% 6,700
1979 7,563 49.5% 6,200
1989 8,474 37.1% 6,600


In the 1930s a great number of the adult male Mansis were massacred. The number of the Mansis has constantly decreased during this century, judged from the number of persons who speak the language. Especially rapid has been the Russification of the Mansi in the southern parts of their territory.

In the post-war period there has been natural increase of the total population of the Mansis. However, the linguistic Russification is still going on, to the extent that most Mansis do not consider their native language to be their mother tongue. The reproduction of the population is seriously impaired, as many Mansi women would prefer to live outside the national territory.

Turning Points in the Mansi History

13-18th c – the Mansis fight fiercely against the attacks of the Tatars and Russians, but suffer great losses;

16th c – Mansi territories (part of the Khanate of Siberia) were included in the Russian state;

1714-1722 – the Mansis were converted to Russian Orthodoxy, Tsar Peter I directed that those who resisted be killed;

19th c – the Mansis were economically totally overpowered by the Russian merchants;

1930 – formation of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous National District;

1930s – forced collectivisation of the Mansis, the more prosperous farmers and fishermen were branded kulaks and liquidated, after that the shamans were killed;

1960s – the establishment of oil and gas extraction facilities on the Mansi settlement areas.

Danger Signs

Mansis have become an inconsiderable minority in their native territory: in 1938 they constituted 6.2% of the population, in 1989 0.6%. Less than half of the Mansis are engaged in their traditional occupations. The expansion of the mining industry means forced evacuation of the Mansis. Adjustment is difficult for the Mansis who have moved into towns and villages. There are unusually many who have become social outcasts. The average life expectancy of the Mansis is 40-45 years, the suicide rate is high.

The written Mansi language is used in very rare instances. It has never been really introduced as the language of education. As a rule, the native intellectuals are not upkeepers of their ethnic culture.

ENDANGERED URALIC PEOPLES Uralic Peoples of Siberia and Russian Northern Europe Mansi