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From Olonkho to Kinotavr

The secret of the amazing originality and charm of Yakutia is in the bizarre interweaving of different cultures, in the combination of ancient traditions with modern trends.

The largest region of Russia has a unique ethnic and cultural composition. Over the long centuries of coexistence on this harsh and beautiful land, different peoples have learned to negotiate with each other and treat with respect the customs and rituals of their neighbors. The interpenetration of cultures has formed a special world, a bizarre mix of Western and Eastern, Tengrianism and Orthodoxy, classical theatrical, musical, artistic traditions and unique cultural phenomena that could only appear here.

From Olonkho to Kinotavr
Special project Yakutsk Initiative


In Yakutia, there are two state languages ​​- Russian and Yakut, and five official: Even, Evenk, Yukagir, Chukchi and Dolgan. Great attention is paid to the preservation of all cultures and traditions in the republic; they are engaged in the development of both the Yakut language and the languages ​​of other peoples, including the indigenous peoples of the North. The main goal of this work was formulated by the Head of Yakutia Aisen Nikolaev at a meeting of the Republican Council for the Development of Languages.

"To keep the languages ​​of peoples alive in literature, culture, art, media and cyberspace, to increase the demand for state official languages, to ensure the realization of the right of children to be taught in their native language, high quality of Russian language, as common to all Yakutians - these are the main directions of our activity" ...

Books, mass media, textbooks in national languages, the Fairy Tales at Home project, where bloggers and public activists record fairy tales of the peoples of Yakutia and post videos on social networks, a summer camp with the study of the culture, traditions and language of the Yukaghirs, as one of the rarest, digitalization of the linguistic and cultural heritage of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North are all examples of concrete actions to preserve the cultural diversity of the region.

Although there are certainly more projects. One of the largest is the digitization of the Big Explanatory Dictionary of the Yakut language into 80 thousand words. Its presentation took place in 2019. In general, people in the republic are very fond of reading, it is not for nothing that the region entered the top three most reading subjects of the country at the end of 2019. This happened thanks to the libraries of Yakutia, which, being the most visited cultural institutions, successfully implement modern projects, and in the far northern regions are generally centers of cultural life. For example, in the Arctic village of Tiksi at the end of October, the main event was the opening of a modernized library within the framework of the national project "Culture".

During the pandemic, a language lecture hall was resumed at the National Library of Yakutia. Classes are held online on the Zoom platform. Chukchi, Even, Yukaghir languages ​​and Even culture are taught. The lecturers are native speakers, some of whom live in the northern regions of the republic.

But I have already learned the Yakut language ... Yandex. And just thanks to the National Library of the Republic, more precisely, one of its employees.

The preservation of the languages ​​of the indigenous peoples of Russia is possible with the help of digitalization, says Alexey Ivanov, a researcher at the National Library of Yakutia. He initiated a project to support the Yakut language and languages ​​of the indigenous peoples of the North in machine translators. Thanks to an enthusiast from Yakutia and the Yandex working group, this spring the Yandex.Translate service was launched in the Yakut language.

“Now we can observe the activity of the Yakut segment of this service, where the number of translations from the Yakut language or vice versa is estimated at hundreds of thousands per day. This is a very good indicator, ”notes Aleksey Ivanov.

For about ten years, work on the integration of the languages ​​and cultures of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North into the world information space has been carried out at the North-Eastern Federal University together with leading scientists of the Institute for Humanitarian Research and Indigenous Minorities of the Yakut Scientific Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and with the participation of colleagues from countries belonging to Arctic Council. Researchers organize expeditions, during which they make digital recordings of native speakers and cultures, study and organize materials. In June of this year, the project was presented at a meeting of the working group on sustainable development of the Arctic Council and received almost unanimous support.

Yakut theaters also play a special role in supporting the language and culture of the indigenous peoples of the North. So, in the region there is a Theater of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, the lion's share of the repertoire of which is based on the epic of the northern peoples, there is a Dance Theater, which tells the viewer about the culture of the north through national, often ritual dances. And even the Opera and Ballet Theater does not stand aside, having released last season the first ever Yukaghir opera "Yuko and Aneke" by the Yakut composer Nikolai Mikheev to a libretto by Artem Zolotarev.


This is approximately how the name of the legendary Yakut epic is translated - Olonkho. This is a true jewel of traditional Yakut culture and a characteristic cultural phenomenon of the Yakuts. Long poetic narratives can have tens of thousands of rhymed lines. They say that in the old days the most detailed legends were read for seven days and nights.

For centuries, the epic has been passed from mouth to mouth - from recognized master performers (olonkhosuts) to new generations of creators, and each brings additional touches and colors to the history of the creation and structure of the world, the interaction of gods and man, the animal kingdom and the abode of spirits. Each olonkhosut is a real actor, in the old days he, as a rule, was a wanderer, who was everywhere waiting for a warm welcome, a table and a shelter, and his only task was to preserve ancient legends - the foundations of the Yakut culture.

Olonkho continues to live and develop today. The singing of olonkhosuts, who once performed in a small "home" circle, has turned into art, already addressed to the mass audience. In Yakutia, the legends of olonkhosuts are even included in the school curriculum.

In 2005, the Yakut epos was included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. And in the republic, Olonkho Day is annually celebrated - November 25. Two years later, a unique theatrical phenomenon was born in the republic - the Olonkho Theater, founded by the People's Artist of Russia Andrei Borisov. The theater is young, it is only 13 years old, for comparison, the Russian Drama Theater of Yakutsk is 130, and this is the oldest theater in the Far East.

Olonkho Theater is Europe and Asia in one bottle, a synthesis of the traditional Japanese kabuki theater and the classic Russian drama theater. Artists play performances based on olonkho, performing toyuk - an improvisational song, a complex and unique type of singing. The theater was applauded in Paris, Greece, Japan, China. Now the head of Yakutia, Aisen Nikolayev, has decided to build the largest theatrical and musical facility in the Far East - the Arctic Center of Epic and Arts. It will have three huge halls, including 350 seats for the Olonkho Theater.


In the vicinity of Olonkho Day in the calendar of Yakut holidays - Khomus Day. It is celebrated on November 30th. It was on this day in 1990 that the Museum and Center of the Khomus of the Nations of the World was opened in the capital of the republic - the only one in the world and possessing a unique collection of this musical instrument of 55 peoples of the planet.

Khomus (jew's harp) is an ancient and most popular national musical instrument in Yakutia, which is more than five thousand years old. A distinctive feature of the Yakut khomus is a large tongue, which allows you to achieve a low, long and loud sound, which is different from the sound of jew's harps of other nations. It was believed that the vibrations of the tongue of the khomus pave the way for the player to the world of spirits, therefore the khomus, with its characteristic "cosmic" sound, was an instrument of the Yakut shamans.

For the inhabitants of Yakutia, the khomus is more than just an ancient musical instrument. He is a real symbol of Yakut culture, which has stood the test of time. There are many khomusists in the republic, both among adults and children. They are proud of the manufacturers of khomus - bearers of ancient traditions, and, of course, of their virtuosos, whose names are known far beyond the borders of the republic and even beyond the borders of Russia. The performances of modern ethnic music stars are mesmerizing thanks to spectacular arrangements, a combination of witchcraft sound with a rhythmic basis and onomatopoeia: the performers masterfully convey the whinnying of a horse, howling of wolves, the cries of birds or the whistle of a sharp north wind.

Without a doubt, Yakutia today occupies a special place on the "jew's harp" map of the world, and this status has been officially confirmed. In 2011, the participants of the International Festival "Khomus in the Cultural Space" in Yakutsk set a Guinness record by simultaneously playing 1 instruments.


The most significant and beloved holiday in Yakutia and one of the main symbols of the region is Ysyakh, which is traditionally celebrated on June 21, the summer solstice. It symbolizes the onset of summer after a long and harsh winter, the unity of man with the sun, the circle of life itself. Abundant treats and kumis, dances, folk games, horse races, competitions of strong and dexterous guys - all these are the essential attributes of the holiday.

The climax is the Yakut osuokhai - an ancient ritual dance. This is a symbolic unity of all people in one big round dance, simultaneously prayer and meditation. Making measured movements, people move in the direction of the sun.

Osuokhai has its roots in ancient times. In the old days, it lasted for days, the participants replaced each other, but the magic circle did not interrupt. In 2012, the official representative of the Guinness Book of Records, Jack Brockbank, recorded a quantitative record: 15 thousand people were simultaneously participants in a magic dance, danced in 36 circles, the diameter of the largest of them was 97 meters.

On a holiday, residents of the republic dress in traditional Yakut costumes. Women wear fancy haladaai dresses with a traditional vest, horsehair hats or a shawl with a fringe of fine silk. Men dress up in camisoles with a belt decorated with metal or silver plates, on the belts - Yakut knives in a sheath.

By the way, the Yakut knife itself is also an integral part of the culture of the Sakha people. Its distinctive feature is the asymmetric sharpening of the blade: on one side the blade is flat, the other side is curved. Knives are made in numerous forges and workshops throughout Yakutia, carefully preserving the traditions of their manufacture.

The unique and ancient jewelry art is also carefully preserved and developed in the republic. Skillful jewelers, Yakut masters create amazing in their originality women's jewelry from silver, they work with gold, precious stones, and mammoth bone. The festival of bone carvers is an annual tradition of the region, which attracts dozens of unique authors from all over the country. Silver is a favorite material of Yakut jewelers; traditional jewelry of a Yakut woman is always made of this material. Elongated large earrings with pendants, wide plate bracelets, massive chest jewelry - the complete set included eight items. In the old days, jewelry served as amulets, and each of the ornaments has a symbolic meaning. Today, the world famous brand is Yakut diamonds, and diamond items created by local jewelers are often genuine works of art.


For several years now, cinema has been the same brand of the region as diamonds. Since the 2000s, they started talking about Yakut cinema: first, art experts, then the festival audience. Gradually it became clear that the original Yakut cinema has turned into a real cultural phenomenon. The jokers began to joke: they say, in America - Hollywood, in India - Bollywood, and in Yakutia - Sakhawood. But kidding aside: today Yakutia ranks third in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg in terms of the number of films shot, and first in terms of cinema hall occupancy, twice the national average - 33% versus 15%.

“The phenomenon of our cinema is that there is an interested spectator who watches it. All our films are released in the Yakut language, and this is important for our cinema audience. The films are released with subtitles. Yakut cinema meets the demand of modernity, tells the Yakut audience about ourselves, and about our ancestors, heroes, "said Minister of Culture and Spiritual Development of the Republic Yuri Kupriyanov.

About a dozen feature films shot in the republic are released every year. Since 2010, 95 full-length feature films have been shot. And often it is “home” tapes that collect more in the republican box office than foreign blockbusters. In 2019, Agent Mambo, a crime comedy about a modest policeman who must infiltrate a criminal gang, became the highest-grossing film, collecting 15,7 million rubles ($ 2014 million). In 10,8, an action movie about the Yakut singer “Aiyy Uola. Messenger of Heaven "with a budget of three million rubles raised 2017 million, and the love drama" Kerel. Invisible Beauty "10,5 with the same budget - XNUMX million.

“Yakut cinema is a distinctive visual art, not like Asian or Scandinavian cinema. They are all different. Authenticity in films is achieved through the Yakut language. Language is a code that sets the tone for paintings, and a way to preserve culture ... It has already proven its relevance and professionalism, and should be adequately funded, "says Yekaterina Romanova, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Chief Researcher at the Institute for Humanitarian Research, the problem of small peoples of the North.

In this direction, work in the region is going on, Yakutia has allocated money for the development of cinema. At the same time, according to the Minister of Culture and Spiritual Development of the Republic, Yuri Kupriyanov, the emphasis, according to the decree of the head of the republic, is made on pictures based on the Yakut classics, on children's cinema, animation. State support for private studios is increasing, and funds will be allocated annually for pitching in the film industry. The republic is ready to allocate at least 80 million rubles from the budget to support film production annually. Cinema is also supported by the Sinet Sakhawood, a private fund for the development of cinema and animation.

Yakutia hosts its own international film festival, the emblem and the main prize of which are snow goggles made of silver interspersed with zirconia in the shape of the constellation Ursa Major and a diamond symbolizing the Polar Star. In the old days, such glasses, which protected from snow blindness, were used by the inhabitants of the Far North. They were plates of tree bark and other natural materials with narrow slits for the eyes cut into them. Today it is a symbol of a new outlook on the world and a reward for those who are able to discern and tell stories that are important to all of us.

Films of Yakut directors successfully participate in Russian and international shows. This year the Yakut mystical drama "Scarecrow" was recognized as the best film at the Kinotavr festival held in Sochi. For the best female role, the actress Valentina Romanova-Chyskyyrai was awarded, who made her film debut with this work. "Scarecrow" also received the Audience Award at the international film festival of the Asia-Pacific countries "Pacific Meridians" in Vladivostok.

Dmitry Davydov's film tells about a village holy fool who heals people at the cost of her vital energy. The villagers avoid the healers, but at night they come to her with requests to help get rid of diseases. The woman knows that the gift of healing will one day destroy her, but she continues to do what is her calling.

"The film is a miracle, the film is a white crow" - this is how the famous Russian film critic Anton Dolin described his impressions of the tape.

“The Scarecrow is absolutely original in its film language - austere, stingy, tending to monochrome, but extremely far from the unnatural admiration for ugliness and poverty, into which Russian festival cinema often falls. The world of "Scarecrow" is undoubtedly beautiful with a frightening, primitive beauty, and this applies equally to nature (the element of the film is snow), interiors and amazing faces of actors, among whom, as always, Davydov, there are also non-professionals ", - wrote the critic in your review.

The film's director, 37-year-old Dmitry Davydov, is a rural primary school teacher from a small village in the Amginsky region of Yakutia. For him, this is the third picture after the films "Fire in the Wind" and "There is no God but me." He shot his first film with borrowed funds, inviting fellow villagers to become actors. Two of his new projects, Flycatcher and Chicken Nest, received venture funding from Sinet Sakhawood. At a meeting with the head of Yakutia Aisen Nikolayev, director Dmitry Davydov was awarded the honorary title "Honored Artist of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)" for his special services in the development of cinematographic art and a grant of three million rubles for new projects.

“For 31 years of the existence of the Kinotavr film festival, the Yakut film has not received such high recognition. I am delighted with your work! I perfectly understand that such unanimity of the festival jury and critics is worth a lot. Most often, their opinions are divided. This suggests that the film "Scarecrow" is flawless, ”said Aisen Nikolaev.

The success of "The Scarecrow", as well as of other works by Davydov ("Fire in the Wind" was among the 33 best films of 2017 according to the Russian edition of Esquire magazine, and "There is no God but me" became a laureate of the Vyborg Film Festival "Window to Europe") - not the only achievement of the Yakut cinema. In 2018, Eduard Novikov's brilliant work "Tsar Bird" made a splash at the Moscow International Film Festival and won the Grand Prix. A year later, the film “The Sun Does Not Set Above Me” by Lyubov Borisova took the prize “Key to the Hearts of Viewers” ​​of the 41st Moscow Film Festival, a prize from the NETRAS Asian Association of Film Critics. Both films were shot by Sakhafilm. “Yakutsk Kinoboom”, “Yakutsk Kinochudo” - critics don’t skimp on epithets, and for each picture there is one thing - systemic support of the industry.

The largest film in the history of Yakut cinema "Tygyn Darkhan" is scheduled to be released in November. According to rough estimates, ten thousand Yakutians took part in the filming. The region provided the budget - more than 200 million rubles. This is the largest historical film about the life of the Sakha people in the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries and the reign of the legendary Yakut warrior Tygyn Darkhan.

People in Yakutia love cinema, the most popular question during the pandemic in social networks was: "When will cinemas and theaters open?" Within the framework of the national project "Culture" and the program of the "Cinema Fund", the republic every year wins a competition to open cinemas in the districts. Now there are 40 cinemas and 50 cinemas there. Employees of the Yakutsk Cinema Network travel to the regions, even to the Arctic, equipping cinemas at the recreation center and clubs. 23 cinemas have been opened in the republic, including 16 under the program of the "Cinema Fund". This year the 17th will open in Lensk. In total, there are 36 districts in Yakutia, 27 of them have been filmed. In the nine remaining, this will happen soon.

As they joke in Yakutia, the passion for creating stories, the desire to create and share the results with others is in the blood of the inhabitants. In a republic where everyone has a little olonkhosut at heart, the desire to create their own worlds, to compose and tell long stories is part of the national character, and rich traditions are the basis for the development of cultural phenomena in the present and in the future.

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