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Blue Box
Afghan Youth Sports
Sport and Human
No. 48
September 2006
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Techniques and Methods of Children’s, Teenagers’ and Youths’ Adapting to Low Temperatures: Traditional Physical Training of Siberian Indigenous Population (Khanty)

Valeriy Krasilnikov(RUSSIA)

Hunters Stick and Hoop figures

During recent times, the indigenous population of Siberia have been trying to revive old traditions of physical training, including original techniques and methods of adapting to low temperatures, national games, competitions, and original methods and techniques of physical preparation for trade activity (i.e. fishing, reindeer breeding, hunting and collecting). Various techniques and methods of children adapting to low temperatures have a special place in the educational experience of these peoples, in particular the Khanty.

Khanty, as well as other peoples of Siberia, have created an original and specific "school" of adaptation for the younger generation, which allowed them not only to survive, but also to develop successful physical form in the inhospitable northern climate and to keep a fine physical form in advanced age.
We can say that acclimatization of Siberian children actually starts in embryonic, pre-natal and natal periods. The tradition of bearing a child in a separate hut, despite the icy cold of winter, was customary for Khanty women. (Abramov, 1857; Elniski, 1895; Popov, 1926; Startsev, 1928; Turovsky, 1898; Hondajevskiy, 1879; Schavrov V, 1871). Sometimes, there were cases when the mother and/or newborn died. But those children who survived (Finsh O. and Brem A., 1882) were “marked” to possess good health and lived to an extreme old age. Often there were even more severe conditions for child bearing, because of the nomadic way of life. According to some authors, Khanty women sometimes gave birth in the winter as they were roaming from place to place, in spite of the hard frost. (Novizki, 1884; Plotnikov, 1901; Schavrov V. 1871).

The child, after birth, was rubbed down with snow and sometimes even laid on the snow. (Kondratovicsh, 1897; Novizki, 1884) But, probably, it is probable that this was not a standard custom as, for example, obdorsky Khanty did not wash newborns with snow or water at all. (Belyavsky, 1833).

After such tests, the child was placed in berestyanaya zibka (birch cradle) where they would lay on wood sawdust or birch shavings and were shrouded with hare skins and surrounded with special things.

While roaming from place to place those babies being nursed had to test cold, jolting and other inconveniences. A cradle with the child was usually placed in a bag made from deer skins and put on a sledge. The child’s face was left exposed and was frequently warmed by the mothers’ breath. (Belyavsky, 1833). Mothers nursed children in the same conditions in the frosty air.

From our data, we have learned that Khanty, living in the settlement of Kishik, even swaddled their infants in frost while roaming from place to place and weren’t afraid to let them catch a cold. (Krasilnikov, 2002).

Mothers transferred their children to day time cradles fixed by belts (in which children were in a semi sitting position) on their back during transitions and working in the woods (e.g. gathering berries, mushrooms, grasses, bark birch, etc.). Children, at this time, felt a number of inconveniences (pushing, rain, bright sun shine, etc.) that, undoubtedly, promoted both their physical and mental abilities of adapating to low temperatures Krasilnikov V, 2002).

The process of adapting to low temperatures continued in other forms during children’s growth and development. For those who started to travel by foot, parents sewed fur coats (maliza) from thin hare skins to put on the child’s naked body. Doctor Bartenev (1886) considers that these clothes were very convenient for Khanty children, because they did not constrain their movements during games and at the same time represented an impenetrable cover for wind and cold (Bartenev, 1886). However, there are a number of facts, which speak that the parents of Khanty children dressed them in bad clothes so they would adapt to low temperatures. So, for example, it was possible to frequently see Khanty children and teenagers playing and even sitting on snow with naked knees, in light weight clothes and, despite of it, not getting frost-bitten (Nosilov, 1931; Finsh, Brem, 1882; Hondajevskiy, 1879).

During wintertime, children up to five years' age frequently played nude in yurts and plagues. In summertime, the same situation was observed in the street (Krasilnikov, 2002).

Khanty used different natural factors and techniques for acclimatising to low temperatures. Sokolov remarks, that Khanty also closely cropped the hair of their children. He wrote: “As such, children's heads are exposed in summer to the sun’s rays and in winter to cold, in spring and in autumn they are exposed to rain and snow” (Sokolov, 1867).

Some researchers note that children, almost at any time of year, go barefoot and even in the strongest frost, run along the street completely naked (Elniski, 1895; Nosilov, 1931). Lukina N. confirms that children of Khanty living in Surgut territory frequently continued to go barefoot even after the first snow had fallen (Lukina, 1985).

In addition to these facts, it is possible to see this occurring during field ethno pedagogical research. For example, Khanty children were seen roving in an area of the river Trom-Agan, even during winter time, leaving barefoot from a dwelling to take products by sledge (narty) (?rasilnikov, 2002).

The acclimatisation to low temperatures of children and adults was also encouraged by the circumstances in which Khanty lived. A majority of dwellings (yurts, plagues) didn’t protect from cold weather. It habituated the body to low temperatures. According to some authors, the temperature in plagues and yurts frequently did not exceed the temperature outdoors. Khanty from the Surgut region frequently left naked children on small skins with iced handles and legs in these low temperature conditions. (Gubarev K., 1863; ?bertaller, 1935; Popov, 1926; Skalosubov, 1940; Turovsky, 1898).

The acclimatisation to low temperatures of the Khanty continued throughout life. Some researchers have remarked, that adult Khanty do not even carry in the inclement weather (Zuev, 1947; ?rasilnikov, 2002; Hondajevskiy, 1879).

Ides I. and Brand A. who traveled across Siberia during the 17th century described an unusual ability of Khanty. They wrote: “Sometimes it happens so, that when they (Khanty) are sleeping naked around the fire and outside the snow-storm is starting, those who are not turned to the fire become covered by a layer of a snow in two fingers wide” (Ides, Brand, 1967).

Some researchers of the North note that they have frequently seen Khanty men and women going barefoot, even into late autumn, when the rivers were frozen (Elniski, 1895; Lukina, 1985).

Similar facts relating to acclimatisation to low temperatures of Khanty have been written down by Berezovsky's informants and those who live in Surgut areas. For example, Khanty, wandering in the Trom-Agan river area, go into a plague without footwear, in spite of a cold floor. Berezovsks’ Khanty transported a boat barefooted though water, on twine, in the river that already had frozen at the edges (Krasilnikov, 1897).

A high degree of training was required from Khanty during the conduct of trade. Hunters in uninhabited places made shelters from a snow, which had been raked up in a heap. Inside a heap, they dug out a burrow, melted the walls with the help of a small fire and then allowed it to freeze slightly. Khanty could spend a night even on snow or a spreading of coniferous branches, or on the ground between logs left to burn all night long. In case of bad weather, Khanty could spend several days buried in snow until the expected improvement of the weather. According to Professor Jakoby A.I., Khanty, who live through the river Vakh region, could also spend nights in a wood, buried in snow, after hunting for squirrel (Yakoby, 1854).

All these numerous facts confirm our assumption of the existence of a special tradition or ‘school’ to acclimatising to low temperatures. There are a number of purposes for this. First of all, it is preparation for the younger generation to extreme climatic conditions and household difficulties in taiga and forest-tundra. Secondly (on the basis of the first), it was realized that further physical training of the younger generation was aimed at forming a body with mental steadiness for cold weather.

The phenomenon of early physical and intellectual development of northern peoples’ children is the special interest for our research. The data of many scientists confirms this idea (Beketov, 1957; Arkin, 1935). For example, Hoffmann E. familiar with Nentzy (Northern peoples) observed the following: children who were not able to speak and go yet, independently crept up to plates with water and ladled it out. Such early children’s development is explained by a severe way of life and the process of acclimatizing to low temperatures, which starts right after a birth.

Our research has shown peculiarities and even some aspects of systematic techniques and methods of acclimatising to low temperatures in the Khanty training process:

  • The cold environment (special plague, dwelling or construction) for a child in pre-natal period.
  • The absence of clothes on a child in cold plagues or yurts, for some time.
  • The absence of caps and footwear on children leading up to late autumn and even in the winter.
  • The location under snow with a view of expected for good weather (about several days).

The ability to not getting frost-bitten, even in the strongest frosts (correctly putting on clothes and footwear and so forth).

Use of progressive experience of acclimatisation to low temperatures of children, teenagers and youth of indigenous population of Siberia will allow us to considerably enrich the theory and practice of contemporary physical training.


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2. Arkin E. (1935). The child and his toys in conditions of primitive culture. Moscow: Edition GZNII of Health protection of children and teenagers. P. 95
3. Bartenev V. (1886). In extreme Northwest of Siberia. Saint- Petersburg. P. 18
4. Beketov A. (1957). Some more of notes about inorodtsy (foreigners) in Berezovsky area. Tobolskie Gubernskie Vedomosti. 13. Pp. 203 - 204.
5. Belyavsky F. (1833) Trip to an Arctic sea. Moscow. Pp. 73-122
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7. Gubarev K. (1863). From Tobolsk up to Berezovo // Sovremennik. Book 94, P. 214.
8. Elniski K. (1895). Inorodtsy (foreigners) of Siberia and the Central Asian Russian territories (an ethnographic sketch). Saint- Petersburg.
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10. Ides I., Brand A. (1967). Sketches about Russian embassy in China (1692 – 1695). Moscow: The Science.
11. Krasilnikov V. (2002). Games and competitions in traditional physical training of Khanty. Ekaterinburg: Publishing house RGPPU. P. 115
12. Kondratovicsh O. (1897). To ethnography of ostjaki (Berezovsky district) // Works of an anthropological society at Imperial army and medical college. Saint- Petersburg. Book 2.
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29. Schatilov M. (1931).Vakhovskie ostjaki. Tomsk.
30. Schvezov S. (1889). Essays of the Surgut district. The Notes of the Western - Siberian department of the Imperial geographical society. P. 41.
31. Yakoby A. (1854). Country of the river of Vakh // Tobolsk Gubernski Vedomosti. # 54. P. 913


Krasilnikov Valery Pavlovich
Russia, 623704. Berezovsky, Sverdlovsk region.
Tolbukhin Street, 2, sq. 3.
620051. Ekaterinburg, Letter box 308.
Ph ++7(343) 3348212
Fax ++7(343)3350832

Games and competitions in traditional physical upbringing of Khanty Ethno-pedagogical bases of the traditional physical upbringing of indigenous population of Siberia Games and competitions in instructional process of finno-ugorski and samodiski nations

I am currently the Dean of the Faculty of Physical Training at the Russian State Vocational Pedagogical University (Ekaterinburg, Russia). I have a senior lecturer's degree and want to gain support for 2 monographs and a training aid that I have written on the culture of the indigenous population of Siberia.

The materials are:

" Games and competitions in traditional physical upbringing of Khanty" 115 pages;
" Games and competitions in instructional process of finno-ugorski and samodiski nations" 86 pages;
" Ethno-pedagogical bases of the traditional physical upbringing of indigenous population of Siberia" 165 pages.

As a result of work carried out between 1990 and 2005, I have described more than 200 traditional games and competitions of indigenous population of Siberia. The indigenous population of Siberia suffers calamity in connection to the powerful invasion ethnos, petroleum production and forests felling. They lose places of traditional trade and unique culture. Traditional games and competitions of Siberia have been the main facility of upbringing of young generations, of their all-round development, of career education and the opportunity to survive in the extreme climatic conditions of Siberia. The publishing of my abstract will help to show peculiarities of indigenous population of Siberia. All my works, mentioned above are deigned by Medal of Yanusha Korchaka and Diploma of 1st Degree by Competition Commission "Pedagogical Innovations'-2005" in Moscow.


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Last modified October 17, 2006