Yakut - Sociopolitical Organization

Social and Political Organization. Kinship and politics were mixed in the hierarchical council system that guided aqa-usa, aimak, and dzhon. Yakut explanations of dzhon in the nineteenth century included concepts like "people," "community," or "tribe," territorially defined. Councils were composed of ranked circles of elders, usually men, whose leaders, tayons, were called nobles by Russians. A lineage head was bis-usa-toyon; respected warriors and hunters were batyr. Lineage councils decided major economic issues, interfamily disputes, and questions of blood revenge for violence committed against the group. Aimak and dzhon councils were infrequent, dealing with issues of security, revenge, alliance, and, before Russian control, war. Through war, slaves were captured for service in the wealthiest toyon households. Kin-based councils were rare by the nineteenth century and had little influence on twentieth-century politics. Yet in the Soviet period Yakut remained aware of regional and kin ties and helped kin obtain jobs and political positions. In this period the Yakut elite, some of whom were Communist party members, revived certain traditions, participating in wedding ceremonies and annual festivals once associated with council meetings. To avoid doing so would have been impolitic. Yakut have demanded greater economic and political autonomy from Moscow, and some Yakut politicians, including the elected president, are reformers implementing the new republic constitution. A major ecological movement and democratically elected councils are trying to redress local grievances.

Social Conflict and Control. In the Soviet period the Communist party controlled the courts and congresses of the Yakut, most of whom felt removed from policy making until the Gorbachev period. Demonstrations erupted on Yakutsk streets several times in the 1980s, mostly by young Yakut protesting police inaction over violent incidents involving Russians and Yakut. Tensions exist between newcomers and natives, developers and ecological activists, and "internationalists" and "nationalists." In addition, minorities, such as the Evenk, Even, and Yukagir, have demanded greater cultural and political rights. In response, a precedent-setting national district within Yakutia, the Even-Bytantaisk Raion, was established in 1989.

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