The study of the material and spiritual culture of the Tofalars: history, modernity, prospects

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2019, Vol. 5. №1

The study of the material and spiritual culture of the Tofalars: history, modernity, prospects

For citation: Rassadin I. V., Mitkinov M. K. 2019. “The study of the material and spiritual culture of the Tofalars: history, modernity, prospects”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 5, no 1, pp. 203-217. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2019-5-1-203-217

About the authors:

Igor V. Rassadin, Cand. Sci. (Hist.), Researcher, Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Ulan-Ude);

Munko K. Mitkinov, Research Assistant, Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Ulan-Ude);


This article is devoted to the consideration of the important question of the modern state of the Tofalars and their prospects on maintenance of their national self identity as well as their economic way of life. An attempt is made to consider the features of traditional material culture of the Tofalars. The questions of modern ecology, of both nature and human mutual relations, have been raised many times in many works. Predatory, consumer attitude toward natural resources worries not only thinkers but every person who is aware of the responsibility to the future generation. The term “deep ecology” was introduced by А. Naess in the article “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecological Movements”, which was published in 1973, for the first time the author presented a deeper, more spiritual attitude to the Nature. In the book “The Limits to Growth” a bleak picture of the future of humanity is already given. Therefore, the appeal to the small nations’ experience of coexistence with the surrounding nature is extremely important. Of particular interest is their experience of interaction with the surrounding nature, harsh climate, which did not give hope for survival. It was necessary to merge with nature, to create “comfortable” conditions, allowing to adapt to the harsh, taiga nomadic life. One of the most promising forms of economic activity was hunting and reindeer herding. The authors, in order to emphasize the uniqueness of the ethnos under the study, address such an important problem as the Tofalars’ ethnogenesis. According to the authors, in dealing with this issue we need to rely on rich experience of the allied sciences, using the methods of research of history, ethnography, anthropology, language and folklore. This is the only way to find the sources of the Tofalars’ ethnogenesis. The ethnos developed as a result of the difficult symbiosis of different patronymic groups over a long historical time, but until now the question of when and how, with the help of what historical destinies the Tofalars have formed a single monolithic ethnos, which is now known as Tofa, has remained unsolved. The consideration of the contribution of pre-revolutionary and modern researchers to the study of the history, culture, and language of the Tofalars occupies an important place in the work. It is important that the article shows: the works written by pre-revolution scientists have not lost their relevance and remain an important source in the study of the material and spiritual culture of the Tofalars. When studying the economic way of life, the authors pay special attention to such important and urgent problems as the preservation of reindeer herding and traditional methods of hunting. The article emphasizes the uniqueness of the Sayan type of reindeer herding, unlike other types of reindeer herding. The authors, based on the linguistic and folklore data, convincingly prove that horse breeding was original for the Tofalars. The article ends with a review of holidays in order to preserve the folk knowledge.


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