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Shows on the web  |  October  2013

The Nanai people of the lower Amur river

Nanai settlements are spread widely along the shores of the lower Amur river (Khabarovski district) and on the rightbank tributaries of the Ussuri river (Primorski district) in the Russian Far East. More than 12,000 Nanai live in Russia, while a separate population of nearly 5,000 resides in China. Nanai belongs to the Manchu-Tungus languages, which is a branch of the Altai language family. Their livelihood is based primarily on fishing. Shamanism has long been a prominent feature of Nanai life, which has been carefully studied and thoroughly discussed by Tatiana Bulgakova in her recent book  » more

During Soviet times, the Nanai worldview underwent substantial changes, and many traditions were lost. After perestroika, and with the modernization of Nanai society, there were attempts to revitalize certain Nanai spiritual traditions. However, the Nanai language is scarcely spoken today among the younger people and its continued existence is severely threatened. A text collection for local school use, both in the Nanai and Russian languages, edited by Tatiana Bulgakova and Raisa Bel’dy, will contribute to the preservation of Nanai oral traditions. These are a valuable part of the overall Nanai cultural heritage. » more
This project has been supported by the Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Sprachen (GBS) » more
The volume also contains children’s drawings that young Nanai artists have contributed to the book. (see below)

Another outcome of this project was in 2016 the publication of Nanai shamanic healing texts in the Nanai and Russian languages. » more

Nanai craftsmen and -women are renowned for their distinctive skills and knowledge in using fish skin to make their clothing. The Nanai artist Anatoli Donkan, who now lives in Germany, is preserving and further elaborating this ancient tradition in his artwork. Here he gives an example of his carving skills, in which he expresses motifs of the traditional Nanai worldview.  (see below)


Images of Nanai shamans

Photos by Tatiana Bulgakova
from her book:
"Nanai Shamanic Culture in Indigenous Discourse", 2013, S. 240–244.

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Children's drawings

From the book:
"Нанайские сказки [Erzählungen der Nanai]", 2012
List of illustrations  
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Anatoli Donkan
Viechtach (2008)
from the DVD "Shamanic worldviews in indigenous and western art"" (2011)



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