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Extraordinary Journey – Yakut People







Yakut people are native population in the eastern Siberian region who mainly live in Sakha/ Yakutia Autonomous Republic.

It is believed that Yakuts originated from Turkic people from south Siberia 800-1000 years ago.  In the past, due to the threat of their enemies they fled from Central Asia to the north.

Their first settlement was at Lena River, close to the area of Yakutsk, the capital of Sakha Republic. Russians made first contact with Yakut people only in 17th century (Yakutsk fort was founded in 1632 by Russian Cossacks), but Russian settlers didn’t move to the area of Sakha/ Yakutia Republic until late 18th century.

Yakuts, who are living in Siberian region have to survive extremely cold winters, where the temperature might drop down to -60°C (-76.0°F). Despite the temperature people still have to go to work and children are still supposed to attend the school. They might only have an additional “vacation” from school if the cold drops below -50°C. However, in the summertime temperature varies from 20-40°C.


There are around 400,000 Yakut people. Vast majority resides in Sakha Republic, but there is significant population in the United States and Canada. Birth rates show that in the near future Yakut people might outnumber Russians in Sakha/ Yakutia Republic.


Traditionally Yakuts were cattle- and horse-breeders. In the past, they had to live in different places to let their livestock survive. They had to move twice a year: end of May – summer season, and October – winter time.

During wintertime Yakut people lived in houses called balagan, which was made of mud, dung and birch logs. It had a chimney in the center of the building. These houses were built with sloping walls to isolate living spaces from cold and because of the permafrost, houses were built on wooden deck. Building traditional housing has drastically decreased since 1991, when Soviet collective farming was disbanded. However, farming families and fishermen still own them and use them.

Traditionally Yakuts were cattle- and horse-breeders. In the past, they had to live in different places to let their livestock survive. They had to move twice a year: end of May – summer season, and October – winter time.


Original religious beliefs were animalism and Shamanism; latter one is now recognized as an official religion of Sakha Republic. It is a mixture of Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic beliefs in supernatural. According to it spirits live in houses, mountains, trees and forests. Also, in the water and animals. The strongest spirit lives in bears, owls and ravens. In old times bear feet were placed outside the bed of the little children for protection. In the old days both male and female could be a shaman, but women were considered to be more powerful.

Because of historical factors and its influence from Russian diaspora, most Yakuts have lost their beliefs in Shamanism or have converted to Russian Orthodox religion. However, Shamanism has not totally vanished. People still believe that shamans have some supernatural powers. They are respected and protected by people and local authorities.

Yakut people today are also reviving their knowledge about traditional naturopathy (alternative medicine) to find cures for all kind of sickness.


In old days main material to make clothing was animal hides and furs. Most common hides were from reindeer and horse. They were used for clothing and footwear. The hides were sewed with dried intestine threads or yarn made of horse hides.

During the winter time clothing had to be and still is very thick and warm. Nowadays, younger generations have shifted from traditional Yakut warm jackets, but reindeer fur boots are still widely used. To make one pair of boots, hides of cow and eight reindeer feet are used.

Rabbit fur is also very useful. Each inch of the fur is used to make valuable items such as socks, gloves, coats and blankets.

There is also the national dress that is worn during celebrations and weddings, but is rarely seen on a daily basis.

Also, it is worth mentioning that women love their Yakut ornamented adornments, which are usually made of silver or gold.



It is summer solstice celebration that is held on June 21th-22th. It is related to the sun deity that Yakut people believe in. According to some ancestral calendar, New Year started in June – when everything becomes alive again. During the festival, people dress in their national dresses and eat traditional food. Celebration includes ceremonies, mantras, game contests and races. Horse racing is considered to be most important game of the festival.

Yhyakh is important festival for the entire nation. People from small villages and isolated areas prepare traditional dishes and sew light costumes for the celebration that they all attend.

The festival usually starts with an ancient ritual and algys (prayer) made by shaman; the prayer is for a well being of the people at the festival. Sprinkling kumys to the fire, sacrificing horsehair and pancakes is a part of the ritual. When the ritual is done people drink kumys from a special sacred vessel choron.

Source: Youtube, M.Borgarbúi via:

Photographs: Pinterest,,




One thought on “Extraordinary Journey – Yakut People

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