August 8, 2022

Nivkh (нивхи), plural in Russian Nivkhi (нивхи), is an ethnic minority living mainly in Russia. Most of them live in Karafuto (Sakhalin) and the lower reaches of the Amur River (Heilongjiang). In 1979, the population was about 4,400. It used to be called Gilyak, plural Gilyaki. The Ainu, Tungus, Manchus, and Mongolians are a different ethnic group, and they speak their own language, the Nivkh language, which is one of the Old Siberian languages ​​(old Asian languages). Historically, it has a close relationship with the Ainu, Tungus, and Manchu ethnic groups, and common cultural elements are recognized.


The Nivkh are a minority ethnic group distributed near the mouth of the Amur River and Karafuto (Sakhalin). The ethnic name 'Nivkh' is derived from the word meaning 'people' in the lower Amur River region of the continent, and is called 'Nigvyng' on the east coast of Karafuto. Both are self-proclaimed. In Russia, after the establishment of the Soviet Union, as a general rule, the people's self-proclaimed names have been adopted as ethnic names. Prior to the Russian Revolution (1917), this ethnic group was known as Gilyak (гиляк). Gilyak's name is a pseudonym given to him by the Russians, and before that he was called 'Girimi'. The etymology of ``Giriyak'' is said to be derived from gilyami (гилями), which means ``to row'', and it is also said that gilami (гилами) in Uriti means ``people who ride a big boat''. There is also an opinion that it comes from the fact that the Chinese called the tribes around the mouth of the Amur River "Kili Kil". The Ainu called this tribe on the eastern coast of northern Karafuto 'Nikubun', and the people living on the western coast of northern Karafuto and the mainland 'Smerenkuru'. Juzo Kondo, who explored the Soya region, describes this ethnic group as 'Shimerei' or 'Smeren' in 1804. Rinzo Mamiya, who actually explored Karafuto, wrote ``Smerenkurui'', which is a combination of the Karafuto Ainu word ``sumari (fox)'' and the Ainu word ``kuru'' for people. There is a theory that it means "fox people". Takeshiro Matsuura, who traveled to Karafuto in 1856, describes this race as 'Nikubun' and 'Nikuhun' in his book "Northern Ezo Yoshi". As will be described later, the Nivkh people used fish skins to make not only clothes but also simple tents, so in China, the Nivkhs were once called 'Yuppeters'. did. "韃子" is an abbreviation of "tartar people" and means "indigenous people" who are neither Russian nor Chinese.

Population Trends

Below are the population trends in Russia (Soviet Union). In 1928, the population of Nivkh ("Nikubun") in northern Karafuto (Sakhalin) was 1,700, and Nivkh on the continental side was 2,376, according to the government of the Soviet Union. The Nivkh population is relatively stable, but the proportion of native speakers is declining. From 1905 to 1945, Karafuto south of 50 degrees north latitude was under Japanese rule, but the Nivkh population in Southern Karafuto was around 100. The population trends in the former Japanese territory are as follows.


According to ethnologist Takaaki Sasaki, the original place of residence of the Nivkhs was Karafuto, and some of them later migrated to the continent after being oppressed by the Ainu who were driven north by the Wajin. On the other hand, the historian Tomio Hora