Formation of the Tungus tribes is connected with the territory around the Baikal – a group of them settled there and others moved farther, to the north and the north-west. “The Tungus ethnos was beginning to form amongst Neolithic hunters of the Baikal culture which corresponded to the Altai language community. In the middle of the Neolithic age the hunters started to separate themselves in the mountainous parts of the southern Pribaikalye, and in the south of that territory the ancestors of the Mongolians and Turks settled who were starting to domesticate small cattle at that time. Their common “Altai” layer is preserved in the languages, ethnonymy and folklore of the Tungus-Manchurian, Mongolian and Turkic people, and can be considered an imprint of that ethnic environment the northern part of which has developed into the Tungus language epic […] Taking into consideration the archeological data and such term as Lamu (Baikal), that period has evidently to be dated back to the Serov Neolithic period (after Okladnikov) in the mountainous zone adjacent to Lake Baikal in the south. At the end of that period settling of the pra-Tunguses began. The first groups which left the Baikal for the east… were developing in the basins of the Amur right tributaries, the Sungari and the Ussuri, in cooperation with the local population. They became the nucleus of the formation of the Churchens, the ancestors of the Manchurians.
The next layer, the Tungus one, was formed in the second period of the pro-Tungus ethnogenesis. At that time the pre-Tungus people that had stayed, explored the mountain taiga adjacent to lake Baikal […]. The next, third period, can be referred to the ethnogenesis of the Tungus people (the ancestors of the Evens and the Evenks) and is characterized with their migration to the west and east of the Baikal. It was evidently caused by the Turkic population coming to Lake Baikal[…] (G.M. Vasilevich. The Evenks. – Leningrad, 1969. – pp. 39-40).
“In G.M. Vasilevich’s opinion, the original homeland of the Evenks was in the taiga adjacent to Lake Baikal in the south. It was from there that the ancestors of the Evenks came to the Amur in the early centuries AD and the Manchurians formed in the process of their interrelations with the autochthons. I.I. Mainov thought that the starting point of the Tunguses’ migration towards the Vilyui and the Yenisei was the western Transbaikal land, and in M.G. Levin’s opinion the area of the Tungus languages and, therefore, the Tungus ethnos formation was eastwards of the Baikal, in immediate proximity to the area of the Turkic-Mongolian peoples” (Dugarov D.S. The Historic Roots of the White Shamanism on the Material of the Buryat Ceremonial Folklore. – Moscow, 1991. – pp. 110-111).
“There is a legend that the Evenk tribe of the Moyoghirs had been settling all over the northern part of the present-day Buryatia from the Baikal to the Vitim river long before coming of the Evenks inhabiting the area now. By that time other clan groups of the Tungus tribes had been settled northwards, along the Lena river, and north-westwards […].The first comers, the Evenks of the Kindighir clan were opposed by the Moyoghirs. Setting off for the Amur banks and having found out the way to Lake Baikal beforehand, the Kindighirs decided to divide themselves into separate groups and take different routes. But the only thing in common was the last stage way, up the Vitim river as far as the mouth of the Muya river, and then along it to the Kotera, the Upper Angara and the Baikal.
The Kindighirs did not go farther, they were fascinated by the beauty of the Baikal and the taiga riches. The legend says: the Kindighirs were surprised at the riches of that sea which was so full of living beings that “the waves threw out the fish that could be collected by hands”. The Kindighirs are said to be a well-armed warlike tribe, they had arrows with metal heads and battle armour. That’s why they advanced on the land of the Moyoghirs without much trouble and occupied it after that” (Belikov V.V. The Evenks of Buryatia: the History and the Present. – Ulan Ude, 1994. – p. 7-8).
By the time the Russian Cossacks came to the Baikal the Tunguses had not been a united nationality yet. They were numerous tribes living compactly over the Baikal. The tribe of the Barguzin Evenks was divided into the clans of Limaghirs, Balikaghirs, Chilchaghirs, Nyakughirs and others. The Nyakughirs lived on the cape of Svyatoi Nos, near the Chivyrkui gulf and northwards along the coast of the Baikal. The Balikaghirs explored a part of the Baikal coast near Lake Kotokel and along the rivers of Kika, Sukhaya, Itantsa, Selenga and others.
The tribe of the Upper Angara Evenks (the North Baikal, or Lamu ones, of the word Lamu, lake, that was the Evenk name for the Baikal) consisted of the Kindighir and the Chilchaghir clans and occupied a considerable territory including the present-day Severobaikalsk and Baunt districts.
The main economic activities of the Evenks in the 17th century were hunting and reindeer-breeding. The Barguzin and Severobaikalsk Evenks as well as the Podlemorye Evenks, the Shemaghirs, were also engaged in fishing.
The documentary sources on the Evenks history appeared only in the 17th century; studying the earlier period the scholars are guided only by ethnographic and folklore materials. The first samples of the Evenk folklore were recorded in 17th-18th centuries by R. Maak, I.G. Georgi, V. Vasiliev, G. Gut and K.M. Rychkov. In the 20th century a great contribution into studying the history and folklore of the Evenks was made by G.M. Vasilevich, B.E. Petri, P.P. Malykh, E.I. Titov, M.G. Voskoboinikov, L.E. Eliasov and V.N. Uvachan. Several recordings of the Baunt and Severobaikalsk Evenks folklore were made in Russian in pre-Revolutionary and Soviet time by the ethnographers P. Malykh, V. Neupokoyev and K. Dobromyslov. A number of recordings of the Evenks who were students at Leningrad oriental institute, later Northern people’s institute, in the mid-20ies and 30ies, were made by the Tungus researchers G. Vasilevich and V. Tsintsius. The Evenk G. Nerguneyev also used to record the fairy-tales. As for scientific or research articles on the folklore, there were practically no ones of such kind until M.G. Voskoboinikov. M.G. Voskoboinikov collected the materials on the folklore, language and ethnography working in the Evenk nomadic schools in the Baunt district (1930-1935) and during a special expedition (October 1946-February 1947). In the 30ies the Evenk fairy-tales were translated in England, Bulgaria, Germany and China.
The folklore genres:
1. The tale – nimngakha (nimngakhavun, nimngakhachivun). The tale is the most ancient type of the folklore repertory. The varieties:
- animal tales. They praise honesty, bravery, courage or quick wit and expose blabbery, conceit, boastfulness and lie. The people’s qualities are often imparted to animals and the tale is like the fable then.
- fairy-tales. Many of them have much in common with the Mongolian and the Buryat motifs, particularly, the tales about Kuladai-Mergen and Khani-Khubun (Geser)-Bogdo.
- tales of everyday life are subdivided into 2 sub-varieties: a) the tale similar to the Russian tale of the short-story character but with maximum presence of the Evenk historic and everyday features; b) the tale about ancient historic heroes, without mentioning the proper names, the place names are absent, too. The subjects about two brothers, the clever and the silly ones, are especially widespread (Ivul and Choro, Ivul and Dempe, Ivul and Kodon).
There are also ethnological stories, mainly about the natural phenomena, and the epic-heroic tales.
- tales for children. The tales for children are divided into three groups: about everyday life, about animals and fairy-tales.
- the Evenks’ new time tales are similar to Russian ones, but there are few of them. There are tales about bitter life in the past, about Lenin who is compared to the sun in the taiga. These tales reflect a certain ideology of the folklore bearers.
2. The heroic epic, ulgher (uligher) reflects the inter-clan and tribal conflicts of the Evenks in the ancient times. The ulghers’ composition is based on the encounters and combats of bukhukekur-national heroes.
3. Traditional legends often tell about the origin of a clan (Kindyghir, Galdighir). They are subdivided into the ones about everyday life (they reflect the social phenomena or the social structure), toponymic ones (an original interpretation of the geographic names), legends about cultural and historic landmarks (the heroic ones or connected with the epic), about the outstanding Evenks, particular settlements, clans, historical legends (about the Decembrist Küchelbecker, about wars, about Yermak and others).
4. Songs. The songs are subdivided into: davlavun, the songs with the fixed text, improvised songs; egevun, different refrains in the ulgur, nimngakan and improvisations; ikevun, song and dance. There were also ceremonial songs, lullabies, wedding songs, orphan songs, spring songs or hunting songs.
5. The ikevun, or the round dance. The ikevun was performed after successful hunting, on the day of a young man’s initiation into an independent man, on a child’s birthday or on the day of migrating to a new site. The Ikevun was performed slowly accompanied with mournful wailing songs on the occasion of somebody’s death, a hunting accident, wolves’ attack and stealing the reindeer, the reindeer epidemic or unlucky hunting fur or hoofed animals.
6. Riddles and counting rhymes. The riddle, nekevkhe, and the counting rhyme, tanghivka, had some magic functions with the Evenks. Now they are of mostly entertaining character and popular primarily with children. The proverbs and sayings (gumnak, guvnuvke) and shaman songs (saman nimnganin) are also interesting. Charms and spells are with them, too.
In the past every type of folklore was to be performed only under certain conditions. Famous narrators started performing heroic epic songs only at nightfall. Every clan had its own famous story-tellers. They were greatly respected and specially honoured. Sometimes the singers and narrators were sent for by other clans. The narrators of Baunt and Severobaikalsk were closely connected. Very often the Baunt and Severobaikalsk people settled on the same site or visited each other. They also borrowed the folklore of the Kalar Evenks and the Yakuts. The Baunt narrators and singers are N.T. Zaguneyeva-Lorgoktoyeva, P.I. Naikanchin, E.G. Torgonov and Yu.S. Semirikonova.