Itelmen - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Lacking autonomy, the Itelmen are in the Russian administrative system and occupy the lowest level in this complex hierarchy.

Political Organization. Itelmen are too few to have developed their own political structures. Moreover, until recent times there has been no opportunity for political activity of any kind in the USSR. Itelmen were not, however, excluded from the Communist party, and there were a number of members among them. Rather often Itelmen have held leading positions at the level of their region and district. The party and soviet bodies of the Koryak Autonomous District have often been headed by Itelmen and not Koryaks. Althought these Itelmen spoke their own language poorly, they spoke Koryak fluently. The Itelmen have privileges that are established for the native population of the North.

Conflict. There is no word for "war" in the modern Itelmen language, but there is the word "enemy" ( xagelan ) . No traces of intertribal conflicts and unavoidable encounters with the Koryaks (and apparently with the Ainu) remain in the folklore. Legends about wars with the Koryaks were written down in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (in Russian retellings), but by the twentieth century no one remembered these legends. The absorption of Kamchatka by Russia did not occur without disturbances and revolts, but they have not remained in the people's memory, perhaps because those who remembered died during the epidemics. Subsequent cohabitation of Russians and Itelmen (who were turned into Russian-speaking Kamchadals in the south and east) was peaceful. In the nineteenth century life in the Itelmen-Koryak contact zone on the west coast was also peaceful. After the Revolution the Itelmen unreservedly took the side of Soviet authorities.

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