Chukchi People - Relations With Russians

Relations With Russians

Russians first began contacting the Chukchis when they reached the Kolyma river (1643) and the Anadyr River (1649). The route from Nizhnekolymsk to the fort at Anadyrsk along the southwest of the main Chukchi area became a major trade route. The overland journey from Yakutsk to Anadyrsk took about six months.

The Chukchis were generally ignored for the next 50 years because they were warlike and had few furs. Fighting flared up around 1700 when the Russians began operating in the Kamchatka Peninsula and needed to protect their communications from the Chukchis and Koryaks. The first attempt to conquer them was made in 1701. Other expeditions were sent out in 1708, 1709 and 1711 with considerable bloodshed but little success. War was renewed in 1729, when the Chukchis defeated an expedition from Okhotsk and its commander was killed. Command passed to Major Dmitry Pavlutsky who adopted very destructive tactics, burning, killing, driving off reindeer and capturing women and children. In 1742, Saint Petersburg ordered another war in which the Chukchis and Koryaks were to be "totally extirpated". The war (1744–7) was conducted with similar brutality and ended when Pavlutsky was killed in March 1747. It is said that the Chukchis kept his head as a trophy for a number of years. There was more war in the 1750s.

In 1762, Saint Petersburg adopted a different policy. Maintaining the fort at Anadyrsk had cost some 1,380,000 rubles, but the area had returned only 29,150 rubles in taxes. Anadyrsk was abandoned in 1764. The Chukchis, no longer provoked, began to trade peacefully with the Russians. From 1788, there was an annual trade fair on the lower Kolyma. Another was established on the Angarka, a tributary of the Bolshoy Anyuy River in 1775. This trade declined in the late 19th century when American whalers and others began landing goods on the coast. The first Orthodox missionaries entered Chukchi territory some time after 1815.

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