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Chukotsky District

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Title: Chukotsky District  
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Chukotsky District

Chukotsky District
Чукотский район (Russian)
Чукоткакэн район (Chukchi)

Location of Chukotsky District in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

Coat of arms
Country Russia
Federal subject Chukotka Autonomous Okrug[1]
Administrative structure (as of June 2012)
Administrative center selo of Lavrentiya[1]
Inhabited localities:[2]
Rural localities 6
Municipal structure (as of November 2004)
Municipally incorporated as Chukotsky Municipal District[3]
Municipal divisions:[3]
Urban settlements 0
Rural settlements 6
Local government:
Head[4] Mikhail Zelensky[4]
Area (municipal district) 30,700 km2 (11,900 sq mi)[5]
Population (2010 Census) 4,838 inhabitants[6]
- Urban 0%
- Rural 100%
Density 0.16 /km2 (0.41 /sq mi)[7]
Time zone MAGT (UTC+12:00)[8]
Established 1927
Official website

Chukotsky District (Russian: Чуко́тский райо́н; Chukchi: Чукоткакэн район) is an administrative[1] and municipal[3] district (raion), one of the six in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia. It is the easternmost district of the autonomous okrug and the closest part of Russia to the United States. It borders with the Chukchi Sea in the north, the Bering Sea in the east, Providensky District in the south, and the Kolyuchinskaya Bay in the west. The area of the district is 30,700 square kilometers (11,900 sq mi).[5] Its administrative center is the rural locality (a selo) of Lavrentiya.[1] Population: 4,541 (2002 Census);[9] 6,878 (1989 Census).[10] The population of Lavrentiya accounts for 30.2% of the district's total population.[6]

The district is populated mainly by indigenous peoples, the majority being either Chukchi or Yupik. The sparse nature of the population means that this is the only district in the autonomous okrug without any urban localities. The selo of Uelen is located in the district, which is a focal point for indigenous artwork of the region as a whole and the birthplace of Yuri Rytkheu, the first internationally recognized Chukchi writer.


Chukotsky District covers the northern half of the Chukchi Peninsula, at the northeastern tip of Eurasia. Prior to 1957, the area known as Chukotsky District was substantially larger, as this territory covered not only present-day Chukotsky District, but also present-day Providensky District, as well as a substantial territory now included in Iultinsky District.

Uelen—the easternmost settlement on the Eurasian landmass and famous for its whale bone carving—is located on the district's territory. It also features the most easterly point on the Eurasian landmass: Cape Dezhnev, named after Russian navigator Semyon Dezhnyov. It was formerly the setting for a Dalstroy gulag site and the starting point for Clemens Forell's epic journey in the novel As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me.[11]

The district also includes Big Diomede Island, sometimes called Tomorrow Island since it is twenty-one hours ahead of its partner Little Diomede, despite being only 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) away across the sea.


For the indigenous peoples, life has been rather static for the last few millennia, judging from archaeological excavations. The region contains about eighty archaeological and historical sites, many of which are in the vicinity of present-day villages.[12]

From the view of non-indigenous people, the area now known as Chukotsky District was a formidable place and was only gradually and tentatively explored in comparison with other areas of Chukotka. Semyon Dezhnyov and his Cossacks nearly had their entire fleet destroyed as they attempted to sail around the cape that would ultimately bear his name on their way to the Anadyr River in the mid-17th century. Eighty years later, Vitus Bering sailed through the strait which now bears his name, and five years later, the first maps of the coastline were drawn by the Second Kamchatka Expedition. However, it was not for a further fifty-five years that the coast of the region was visited by James Cook, and a permanent Russian presence in the form of trading posts in any of the villages was not established until the early 1900s.[12]

Prior to the establishment of the current administrative arrangement (with Chukotsky District as it is now being founded in 1927), Chukotsky Uyezd was founded with its seat in Provideniya Bay in 1909, and in 1912, the seat was moved to Uelen with one of the first schools in the area opening there four years later.[12]

Historical sites in Chukotsky District

There were once many indigenous Yupik settlements throughout Chukotsky District; however, at the end of the 1950s, the Soviet government began a substantial program of relocation, closing a large number of indigenous settlements and relocating their inhabitants to a small number of villages.[13] These settlements were destined to become local hubs and model Soviet villages[14] Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, local indigenous people rely more heavily on their traditional hunting skills and are considering the resettling a number of these villages due to the lack of centralized.[15]


Also known as Akani, Y'kynyn, and Yakkani (lit. seven yurts in Yupik).[15] In 1927, it had a population of eighty-four.[17] This had grown to 165 by 1943 and shrunk to 153 by 1950.[17] In the 1960s, it was abolished and its population moved to Lorino.[15][18]


Also known as Kytrytkyn[15] and Kytryn.[17] It was extremely close to Lorino and has been absorbed into it.


Another village in the Mechigmen Bay area[17] Like Mechigmen, it was established in order to hunt Gray whales.[15]


Kukun is a village analogous to Ilyan.[15]


A small locality on the north shore of the Mechigmen Bay.[15] In 1927, it had a population of twenty-seven,[17] though it is not certain whether this count is of the population of Mechgmen proper or of Raupelian[15] (also known as Rawpialaane and Ravpelian[15]) a village on the northern spit of the Mechigmen Bay, across the water from the village of Masik in Providensky District. By 1950, it was under the jurisdiction of Lorinsky Selsoviet.[15]


Also known as Nuuken,[15] this village was a cultural center of the Yupik and developed its own branch of the language (Naukan Yupik).[19] Naukan, situated on the easternmost point of the Chukotsky Peninusla, was a key trading post linking those Chukchi who engaged in reindeer herding in the tundra and American sea hunters.[20] The Chukchi herders provided meat and skins, while their Alaskan partners provided blubber and American goods.[20]


Also known as Nunama and Nun'emun,[15] this locality was populated solely by Chukchi until 1958,[17] having been previously a Yupik village in the 18th century as evidenced by old ruins and archeological finds.[18] In 1958, following the closure of Naukan, the village became a mixed Chukchi/Yupik settlement until 1970,[15] when the population were moved to Lorino, Lavrentiya, and Uelen.[17]


Also known as Piightuq and Puuten.[17] This is a site of two villages (Pouten North and Pouten South) and was occasionally used as a border guard station.[18] In pre-Soviet times, American geologists extracted graphite from shaft mines in the surrounding mountains and the pigments extracted were used by the indigenous population for decoration and ritual activity[21] The site is still used by local people as a stopping point and a shelter on fishing trips.[21] The southern village's population was moved to Lorino, while the northern village's population was moved to Uelen. People from these settlements still use the site as a temporary camp.[15]


Also known as Yandagay, Yanranay[17] (not to be confused with Yanranay in Chaunsky District), and Yanranak.[15] This was a locality on the southwest entrance to Saint Lawrence Bay between Akkani and Kotrytkino.[18] In 1927, it had a population of 169, falling to 117 in 1950.[15] In the 1950s, it was abolished and its population moved to Lorino.[15]


Chukotsky District has the highest percentage of indigenous peoples in the whole of Chukotka, with 85% of people being of native origin.[12] The native peoples are primarily Chukchi,[22] but there are also small populations of Evens, Koryaks, and Yupik.[12]

The remaining 15% of the population is of non-indigenous origin,[23] mainly Russian. These people either migrated to the Far East or are the descendants of those who did, enticed by the higher pay, large pensions, and more generous allowances permitted to those prepared to endure the cold and the isolation, as well as those who were exiled here as a result of the Stalin's purges or after having been released from the gulag.


Unlike with most other districts of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Chukotsky District's economy is much more focused on traditional marine hunting and reindeer herding. This is in part because, at around 85%, Chukotsky District has the highest percentage of indigenous peoples in the autonomous okrug. There is next to no industrial activity in this district, with the population mainly involved in reindeer herding, fishing, and seal hunting, with an administrative program in place to ensure that local indigenous peoples receive material incentives to continue with their traditional way of life.


Although many native rural localities in the autonomous okrug have historical museums documenting the culture of the indigenous peoples, Chukotsky District has a particularly strong cultural tradition, with Uelen being a notable hub, particularly for whale bone carving. Famous for its walrus ivory carvings, Uelen has long been a major artistic center in the region, with several of the leading exponents of the craft, such as Vukvutagin, Vukvol, Tukkay, and Khukhutan, working out of Uelen. It is also home to an indigenous choir which has a history of cultural collaboration with their Inuit cousins across the Bering Strait in Alaska.

The village also serves as the base for archaeological expeditions to the area, which have uncovered a burial ground containing over three hundred burials of early Whale Hunter cultures, covering a time span from 500 BCE to 1000 CE. These excavations have shown that Uelen was a major settlement in the first centuries CE. In addition to revealing the existence of a culture dependent on whale and walrus hunting, archeologists also unearthed early examples of the indigenous peoples ivory carvings, a number of which are now held at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg.[12]

The writer Yuri Rytkheu was born in Uelen in 1930 to a family of trappers and hunters and was the first Chukchi author to achieve national prominence. His book A Dream in Polar Fog deals with the Chukchi people's efforts to adapt when a foreigner is shipwrecked on their shores.[24]

The district hosts the dog sled race "Hope" and the sea hunters' "Beringiya" festival.

Administrative and municipal status

Within the framework of administrative divisions, Chukotsky District is one of the six in the autonomous okrug.[1] The selo of Lavrentiya serves as its administrative center.[1] The district does not have any lower-level administrative divisions and has administrative jurisdiction over six rural localities.

As a municipal division, the district is incorporated as Chukotsky Municipal District and is divided into six rural settlements.[3]

Inhabited localities

Municipal composition
Rural settlements Population Male Female Rural localities in jurisdiction*
301 139 (46.2%) 162 (53.8%)
387 185 (47.8%) 202 (52.2%)
1459 703 (48.2%) 756 (51.8%)
  • selo of Lavrentiya (administrative center of the district)
1267 628 (49.6%) 639 (50.4%)
704 352 (50.0%) 352 (50.0%)
720 368 (51.1%) 352 (48.9%)

Divisional source:[3]
Population source:[6]
*Administrative centers are shown in bold





  • Дума Чукотского автономного округа. Закон №33-ОЗ от 30 июня 1998 г. «Об административно-территориальном устройстве Чукотского автономного округа», в ред. Закона №55-ОЗ от 9 июня 2012 г. «О внесении изменений в Закон Чукотского автономного округа "Об административно-территориальном устройстве Чукотского автономного округа"». Вступил в силу по истечении десяти дней со дня его официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Ведомости", №7 (28), 14 мая 1999 г. (Duma of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Law #33-OZ of June 30, 1998 On the Administrative-Territorial Structure of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, as amended by the Law #55-OZ of June 9, 2012 On Amending the Law of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug "On the Administrative-Territorial Structure of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug". Effective as of after ten days from the day of the official publication.).
  • Правительство Чукотского автономного округа. Распоряжение №517-рп от 30 декабря 2008 г. «Об утверждении реестра административно-территориальных и территориальных образований Чукотского автономного округа», в ред. Распоряжения №323-рп от 27 июня 2011 г. «О внесении изменений в Распоряжение Правительства Чукотского автономного округа от 30 декабря 2008 года №517-рп». Опубликован: База данных "Консультант-плюс". (Government of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Directive #517-rp of December 30, 2008 On the Adoption of the Registry of the Administrative-Territorial and Territorial Formations of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, as amended by the Directive #323-rp of June 27, 2011 On Amending the Government of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Directive No. 517-rp of December 30, 2008. ).
  • Дума Чукотского автономного округа. Закон №47-ОЗ от 29 ноября 2004 г. «On the Status, Borders, and Administrative Centers of the Municipal Formations on the Territory of Chukotsky District of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Effective as of the day which is ten days after the official publication date.).
  • , Strogoff, M, Brochet, P-C and Auzias, D. "Avant-Garde" Publishing House, 2006.
  • Provideniya Museum Catalogue, various authors, translated by Bland, R.L., Shared Beringia Heritage Program, National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. April 2002.
  • Igor Krupnik and Mikhail Chlenov (2007). The end of “Eskimo land”: Yupik relocation in Chukotka, 1958-1959 Études/Inuit/Studies 31 (1-2)

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