NGANASANS or Tavgi Samoyeds

They call themselves nganasa(n), frequently ngano nganasan, but this appellation is not general. The Avam group prefer to call themselves nya and the Vadeyev group use the name aa. The Nganasans have not developed their identity as one nation. Their earlier and more commonly known name Tavgi Samoyed or Tavgi, by now out-dated, came into use through the Russian language.


The Nganasans live on the Taimyr Peninsula at the coast of the Arctic Ocean and belong administratively in the Taimyr Autonomous District of the Krasnoyarsk region.




Knowledge of the native language

















In 1989 approximately 55,000 people lived on the Taimyr Peninsula (862,100 sq. km.), mainly in towns and villages. For each Nganasan who speaks his native language (1,063) there are at least 50 foreigners who would require the most essential explanation of who are the Nganasans, what are their life-style, world outlook and aspirations.

Turning Points in Their History

17th c – the government agents and merchants of Tsar Mikhail arrive on the Peninsula of Taimyr. To facilitate the easy collection of the tribute, each Nganasan is supplied with 15 pails of liquor a year, the exploitation of their labour and natural resources begins;

1930s – the traditional Nganasan life-style is restructured according to the Russian example;

1960s – the previously nomadic Nganasans have become resident and are living by the common standards of the Soviet Union, their ethnic identity and traditions are disappearing.

Danger Signs

The adaptation to their new life-style has brought great problems to the Nganasans. Many of them have been forced to take menial jobs, many others are unemployed. Alcoholism is widespread. Due to their poor heath or lack of education, few Nganasans are enlisted into the army. The Russian language and community are held in high esteem by the Nganasans, yet this is the community that repulses the Nganasans. Even the Russians who associate with the Nganasans are boycotted. The Nganasans have no right to voice their opinion regarding the administration of their economic and cultural affairs. There could be some hope for them to survive as a nation if an autonomous territory would be formed of the Avam and Khatanga regions.

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