Communal sacrifice in the ritual space of the Eastern Khanty 

Rud’ A.A.




              page 157166




The communal sacrifice myr (‘all people’, ‘people gathering’) of the Eastern Khanty living in the basins of the Bolshoy Yugan, Agan, Trom’egan, Pim, Lyamin, and Demyanka Rivers (the territory of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and the north of Tyumen Oblast) is studied. The work is based on the field materials of the author collected in 2002–2017, as well as on other investigations and previously published sources. The aim of the paper is the study of the role of the communal sacrifice in the worldview and ritual space of the Eastern Khanty. The methodological basis of the research stems from the theoretical developments of ritual by V. Turner (1983) and gift-exchange by M. Mauss (2011). The concept of “principal ritual” by A.K. Baiburin (1993) has been used in this work. The communal sacrifice myr is the most attended by the number of participants and longest by time ritual of the Eastern Khanty. Within the myr, the most extensive interaction between the world of humans and the world of deities of the Eastern Khanty happens. The structure of the myr includes sacrificial rituals devoted to the deities of the whole pantheon of the Easten Khanty, as well as shamanistic rituals and traditional fortunetelling. During the myr, decisions are taken with regard to the most important problems of the community life, whose implementation requires not only human effort but also ‘divine support’. In this paper, the modern boundaries and frequency of conducting the communal sacrifice among the Eastern Khanty are identified. The social and sex-age composition of the participants in the ritual are characterized. The origins and reasons of the ritual performance are considered. In its symbolic aspect, the myr performs the functions of reloading the interrelations between the world of humans and the world of deities in the time of a crisis. Such reloading, alongside sacrifices and gifts to the gods, includes invoking the theme of the primordial genesis of the Khanty’s cosmos — a traditional ceremony of setting fire to the ritual pyre by rubbing. In the course of the research, it has been found that the communal sacrifice corresponds with the concept of gift-exchange of M. Mauss, contains the features of reciprocation, and plays the role of a principal ritual of the Eastern Khanty culture.

Keywords: Surgut Ob region, Eastern Khanty, traditional rituals, gift exchange, reciprocity.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 29.09.2021

Article is published: 15.12.2022


Rud’ A.A., Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Chervishevskiy trakt, 13, Tyumen, 625008, Russian Federation, E-mail:,