The ethnos of Kets in colonial and post-colonial discourse in Russian literature of the 18th – early 20th centuries


The article explores the ethnic image of one of the Eastern Siberia minorities – the Kets – created in travelogues, ethnographic descriptions and realistic prose of Russian literature from the early 18th to the early 20th centuries. During that period of time they were called “the Yenisei Ostyaks”. Among the indigenous peoples of Eastern Siberia, the travelers and ethnographers of the 18th – 19th centuries favored the Tungus (Evenki) as the most numerous and noble ethnicity. The Kets were regarded as a very poor, unsympathetic and marginalized ethnic group. This attitude of ethnographers can be called a perfect colonial one. However, some travelers, especially linguist M. Kastren, highly appreciated their peculiar “innocence” and naivety, trying to find European anthropological features in these people. V. Peredolskiy, a Russian ethnographer of the late 19th – early 20th centuries, became the first true defender of the Kets. He created a dramatic series of fictionalized sketches about their bleak fate. The Kets were portrayed as victims of inhuman Russian traders and priests. Their poverty, hunger and alcohol addiction were attributed entirely to the negative impact of the Russians, who acquired infernal features in Peredolskiy’s description.

Key words: 

Russian literature, ethnicity, indigenous peoples, Ket ethnicity, colonial, postcolonial.

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