(Chapter IX, section 3)


The Samoyeds25


In the eastern extension of their territory the Lapps share the Kola Peninsula with their neighbors and fellow reindeer-herders, the Samoyeds. The Lapps present, however, a much older population, for the Samoyeds have only lived there for a few centuries. There are, according to Russian authorities, only 16,500 Samoyeds in the world; of these 4000 live on the Kola Peninsula, another 5000 range between the White Sea and the mouth of the Yenisei River, and the rest hunt between the Obi and Yenisei rivers, and in the Yenisei drainage. Thus the bulk of the Samoyeds still inhabit their Siberian home. All of those mentioned speak a language which constitutes one of the two primary divisions of Uralic speech. It seems to be definitely related to Finno-Ugrian, although its supposed kinship to Tungus, Mongol, and Turkish has been questioned.

Other Samoyeds, who have been Turkicized in language, and to a large extent in manner of living, dwell in southern Siberia, in the provinces of Yeniseisk, Tomsk, and Irkutsk, and also in Mongolia. These go under the names of Soyots, Karagas, and Uriankhai; they are more numerous than the Samoyeds proper. Whatever their earlier history, the Samoyeds, without reasonable doubt, may be considered to have developed as an ethnic and linguistic group in the region north of the Altai Mountains, the general center of Altaic-speaking Mongoloids.26 Their spread northward into Siberia and thence to the Arctic rim of Europe must have been a relatively recent phenomenon.

In central Asia the Turcicized Samoyeds are definitely and fully mongoloid, and belong to the Buryat-Mongol variety, which we have encountered historically among the Avars. Those who live in Europe have brought the same physical type with them with but little modification. Cranially they resemble the Lapps in vault size and dimensions,27 but the Samoyed facial skeleton is wider and larger, with a more nearly mongoloid development of the malars.

Our material on the living is sufficient in numbers and detail to permit a confirmation of this mongoloid character.28 The stature, with a mean of 154 cm. in 1887, had risen to 156.8 cm. in 1914, providing that the same groups were represented. Like the Lapps, the Samoyeds are short, and like them relatively long bodied. They are brachycephalic, but not to the extent attained by the western Lapps in Norway; they are euryprosopic and mesorrhine.

Although the mongoloid character of the Samoyed may easily be seen in their flattish, round faces, everted lips, and up-tilted, low-bridged nose, and in their scarcity of beard, one cannot call them purely or completely mongoloid. Photographs of Samoyeds29 show a considerable number with partially European features. Sommer's data on hair and eye color, again, shows some thirty per cent with mixed or light eyes, and the same number with hair ranging from medium brown to blond. As with the Lapps, the women are notably darker in hair and eye color than the men. This pigmentation variability, in view of the sex linkage, would indicate that the Samoyeds as well as the Lapps, but in lesser degree, had been subjected to mixture with peoples of European racial character. This mixture may be explained in several ways: (a) by the retention of an early non-mongoloid condition derived from ancient Uralic-speaking ancestors; (b) by contact with central Asiatic Nordics before the departure of the Samoyeds for Europe; (c) by mixture with Ugrians, Finns, Slavs, and others in western Siberia and northern Russia.


25. Non-anthropometric data mostly from Jochelson, W., Peoples of Asiatic Russia; and from Les Voyages du Professor Pallas.

26. Professor G. J. Ramstedt of Helsingfors University has expressed the opinion that the original bearers of Samoyedic speech must at one time have moved to the Altai region from a point nearer the Finno-Ugrian homeland. - Private Communication.

27. Schreiner, K. E., Zur Osteologie der Lappen, pp. 280-281.
Sommer, S., APA, vol. 17, 1887, pp. 71-222.
Klimek, S., ibid., vol. 59, 1929, pp. 13-31.

28. Roudenko, S. I., BMSA, ser. 6, vol. 5; 1914, pp. 123-143.
Sommer, loc. cit.
Zograf, N. J., AAM, 1879, vol. 2, pp. 61-87. From resumé by Stieda, AFA, vol. 14, 1883, p. 291.

29. Peabody Museum Collection. Courtesy of the Institute of Northern Peoples, Leningrad.