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Sources of the researched topic could be divided

into two main groups: material and written.

First group involve few archaeological data, rare artifacts in world

museum collections and some iconographic materials. Another group

refer to oral folk records (the largest body of data), official documents

and notes of travelers, among whom we could mark out Dr.

K. Merk's and his description of Chukchi.

Chronological frames of this research could be determined by

the second half of the 17th century with the appearance of first

authentic written evidences, which were mainly Cossack reports. On

the other hand must be mentioned ethnographical and oral folklore

materials related to events of the 18th century. Although armed

conflicts between Chukchi and their neighbours, mostly Russians and

Koiyaks, stopped in the end of the 18th century, Chukchi raid Alaska

Eskimos up to 40's of the 19th century and from time to time

struggled with each other in individual collisions or family encounters

during first quarter of the 20th century. Most part of evidence about

Chukchi belongs to the 19th—0th centuries.

As long as the Coastal Chukchi and Asiatic Eskimos resemble

both in material culture and warfare, information about them should

be considered together. The majority of Chukchi were nomads and

reindeer-breeders and most part of materials concerns them.

Military organisation. In case of any menace all adult men

were warriors. Council, where rich herd-owners and patriarchs played

a leading role, decided major political matters within kin group. In

intertribal contacts elders made decisive final opinion and their

representatives were able to make peace on behalf of the group. At the

same time existed council of several «friendly» kin groups, which

functioned from time to time as required. Council of patriarchs that

also played important part in everyday life was in charge of preparing

warfare plans.

For the military campaign Chukchi were choosing the war

leader whose position usually coincide with status of the family

master. In the 18th century large coalitions consist of separate tribal

groups, headed by toions (chiefs) who were in charge both in war and

politics, begin to form. Besides, this position could be hereditary.

However because of armistice this position disappeared from majority

of Chukchi groups. According to Chukchi traditions relatives owe to

help each other in all matters, that is a typical psychology of kindred

group, fighting for its survival. Genetic relatives formed a main body

of the military force. Although women by tradition accompanied men

in campaigns, usually they were not participating in military

operations. During campaign women fulfill their ordinary domestic

duties, while the Eskimo women were rowing baydars as needed.

However if enemy unexpectedly attacked kin group, women could

defend and even participated in single combats. From dozen to

hundreds men took part in ordinary raids; while in conflicts with

Russians, who encroach upon freedom and even upon existence of

Chukchi, the latter were able to gather an army up to two or three

thousand people.

In course of permanent wars in the 18th century social

structure of Chukchi society began to change. Chiefdom structure,

which started to turn out, did not get any subsequent development

because of cessation of large military activity in the end of the

century. Due to permanent external menace of war Chukchi might

insensibly form tribal alliance and there were already some territorial

unions, headed by toions, but because of the war absence they did not

unite into tribes. As far as plundering raids to the neighbouring nomad

Koryaks continued, an economic inequalities among Chukchi

developed and caused appearance of rich nomads who possessed vast

reindeer herds. On the other hand that fact entailed search of new

pastures and scattering of the Chukchi population. In the same time

an excess of reindeers allowed to trade with the neighbours but not

necessarily to loot them.

Training. Chukchi as well as other «primitive» societies esteem

cult of force. The strongest one was most respected. Small boy was

trained to endure starvation, have less sleep and to develop his

muscular system. Boy starting from the age of 5— years was forced

to train: to get up early, to run in snow-shoes weighted with stones

and sometime with spear. Then becoming youth to run alongside the

prancing reindeer team and to jumping. Besides this nomads were

taught to throw a lasso, and the Maritime Chukchi trained to sling

stones. Among military training were a spear fencing, archery and

wearing armour. As far as training of children was carried out

personally each boy become superior warrior-individual, as a group

warriors were fighting less successfully as they were not trained in that

tactics. In compliance with the individual characteristics and training

warriors were able have specialization in a battle. Wrestlers were

fighting enemy hand-to-hand, runners were pursuing recessives.

Armament. Chukchi were using two types of armour: hide

laminar armour and lamellar made of ivory, bone, and baleen and

afterwards produces from iron. Hide and iron armours defended

warrior from head to his knees or to midst of shin. Ivory or bone

lamellar armours were either breast-plate or cuirass, protecting

warrior's body, sometimes in combination with wings. Hunters on

large sea animals invented body armour made of walrus' tusks, i. e. by

the Eskimos or their ancestors. It represented a lamellar cuirass with

one wing or sometimes with two. On the Bering Strait islands Eskimos

had behind their body armour stand-up collar, which was not used on

Alaska, it was introduced by Asiatic neighbours. Producing

technologies of the body armour from ivory, bone or horn was used in

production of the iron lamellar armour. This conclusion also could be

made from the same fastener system of the armour plates by use

similar perforations. Design of the iron body armour was obviously

identical to the laminar one made of hide. Metal body armour was

widely used in the second half of the 17th—8th century when

Russians invade into the region and exert influence on population

introduced iron. Laminar armour made of hide, protecting body to

the midst of knees and having the two wings was typical for Asiatic

Eskimos. This armour gave an opportunity to shoot both in left or

right stance, as it was required. Above all the armour was intended for

missile weapons and as a protection from arrows but not meant for

the hand-to-hand fight. Together with the armour one could have

couple of laminar shin guards. As wings protected back of the head

and face when they were lifted up, helmet was not necessary.

Common type of helmet was lamellar helmet convergent to the top.

As a helmet liner was used topless cup. An arm-guard was used along

with full body armour to provide maximum protection to unprotected

hands. A shield was not in use.

Main Chukchi weapon was a spear, while the Eskimos had

instead bow and arrows. No doubt that Chukchi also used bow and

arrows though they were not so skilled in shooting. Therefore, while

distant fight was preferable to Eskimos, Chukchi preferred close

combat where they may show their skills in spear fencing. Quite long,

about 60 cm, knives were used as subsidiary thrust weapon. Sling was

a weapon of settled seaside inhabitants. It was hunting weapon; at the

time of battle it was used as protection during the defence of

fortification, rarely as than as offensive weapon (every so often

replaced by bow). Only in the second part of the 19th century firearms

spread among the Chukchi.

Clothes and tattoo. Chukchi had not clear distinction between

everyday and military clothing. In the fight Chukchi, independently of

season, get dressed in light summer clothes composed of fur shirt and

pants. Usually Chukchi had not used headgear, however as a military

cap sometimes mentioned wolfish scalp with stand-up ears.

Chukchi men had their own symbols of military valour. Men of

coastal villages wore a head band embroidered with beads indicated

number of killed enemies. At the end of the 18th century the Coastal

Chukchi and Eskimos tattooed on their arms images depicting

enemies they killed. Probably this was an attempt to turn a dead

enemy's soul into helper or even to join his soul to their own.

Chukchi who lived near the Kolyma River after every assassination

tattooed dot on the interior of their right wrist towards the elbow,

from top to bottom. Face tattoo was typical for the Eskimos as to the

Maritime Chukchi, whose tattoos appeared under the influence of the

former. Tattoo had a guard function. Perhaps, face painting with the

reindeer blood originally had a protective nature.

War transport. Even if Chukchi were using any special sledge it

didn't differ from the ordinary ones used in a campaign. Male sledge

was intended for one person and had couple of gelding male reindeer

in harness. For the foray Chukchi used light racing sledge. For pacing

used the snow-shoes and skis, which as well was used to walk but not

to slide on the snow surface.

The Coastal Chukchi and Eskimos made raids or travels around

sea on leather baydars with crew of eight persons each. It is also

known a particular type of a large baydar, with rectangular sail made

of rovduga, which could cany up to 20—0 persons and was meant to

accomplish distant voyages and campaigns. To travel the rivers, the

Reindeer Chukchi together with baydars used single-seated boats

made of the whole trunk or rafts made of sledges covered with skin.

Warfare. «Primitive» people had two major stereotypes of

warfare: either to fight against well-known neighborhood or against

permanent hateful enemies. First above mentioned enenly group

deign «civilized way» war: declared war in advance, gave time to

prepare the fight, sometimes even released captive men and women.

Against second group was waged «all-out warfare»: preferred to attack

unexpectedly, killed or sometimes tortured to death captives, took

away women and children as slaves. During three quarters of the 18th

centuiy Chukchi waged extirpation war against Russians, Koryaks,

and Eskimos who inhabited Bering Strait islands and western coast of

Alaska. Even waging these wars Chukchi kept elements of the

«civilized way» war: threat-warning that notified enemies about next

attack or signing an armistice.

Vengeance —major cause of the war, was unwritten law to

Chukchi. In the 18th century war was motivated by economic reasons

and bean counter. Chukchi wage permanent wars against Koryaks

over reindeer herds. Russians defended Koryaks, who were under

Russian jurisdiction, and carried out several campaigns in order to get

submission and impose duty. As Yukaghirs allied Cossacks in the

second half of the 17th—18th centuries, Chukchi began to attack and

annihilate them. The Maritime Chukchi foray Bering Strait Islands

and Alaska Eskimos for pillage or because of vengeance evolved from

quarrels about hunting grounds.

As long as Chukchi had not specialized fighting squads, they

did not wage war continuously; their war was seasonal. Material

resource absence as well as food supplies lack hampered the development

of large-scale operations. The conflict could be resolved by

single combat with fixed rules: one side was assaulting another, which

protected itself, then vice versa.

Could be clearly recognized exact seasons for the certain

operations. In winter Chukchi foray Koryaks to seize their reindeers.

The reason was in use of sledges, harnessed with reindeer, which

allowed moving headily and was not effective in summer. During

winter the Reindeer Chukchi crossed the ice of the Bering Strait to

Alaska. In summer they made overseas raids.

The Reindeer Chukchi usually did not stand guards and never

erect any permanent fortifications. They spent the night in pologs

(tents) during the campaign. Camp planning was quite simple and,

perhaps, orient was the area in marching caravan. Usual way of raid

was a slow migrating with all kin group towards enemy territory. In

long-distance raids only men could participate. In general, during

summer time small foot groups by origin from poor families resorted

to tundra in search of plunder. In order to avoid unnecessary losses

Chukchi attacked their enemies unexpectedly at daybreak in order not

to give enemy to organize defence and simply to slaughter sleepers, to

seize loot and leave away at once. They usually encircled enemy

jarang and one of the warriors fling lasso over the poles of jarang

skeleton and overthrow it, while other warriors were killing the

villagers and drive herds out.

Leaders clarified beforehand campaign its action plan and

objectives. There were strategic and tactic reconnaissance. Important

information could be received from a scout who stayed in hostile

camp or village as a guest or from runaway slave, as well as from

refugees from ruined settlements. Waiting for the enemy scout was

observing scene of action from height or spies was send out to the

enemy camp, and the arriving enemy send spies to scout around the

area and look out for details about the camp of their adversary.

The warriors reached battlefield by sledges in full armour or

they put their armour on the spot. They aligned and leader took his

stand in the center, which was assaulter. At the battlefield before close

fight Chukchi outflank enemy in order to force them to retreat. In

general was the following battle tactics: first, both opposite sides shot

one at another, and then began to fight with spears in hand-to-hand

combat. Characteristic of Eskimos fight was to battle using bow and

arrows, while Chukchi were both shooting and fighting hand-to-hand

with spears. The latter used new tactics against Russians: they allow

enemy to fire a volley and after that rushed to the attack and started

in-fighting. Battle turned into series of single combats while warriors

showed their skills in fencing.

Battle might begin with single combat that ended with death of

one of fighters, his exhaustion or simply with loss of spear —main

weapon of duel. After loss of the weapon combat did not continue

with knives or with fisticuff. Ending of combat was quite standard:

loser has to acknowledge his defeat and was asking to kill him being

afraid to deprive his authority in society. After the combat battle

continued and usually supporters of the defeated did not flee. This

single combat was not only tribute to the heroic ethos but also had

underlying theme: a try to avoid unnecessary battle casualties, because

even a few men loss had vital importance to the relatively small

patriarchal family where every man was a bread-winner. If defeated

enemies were not annihilated during the battle, they escaped, and

then best runners were picked out for the chase. Male prisoners were

usually killed. Victors quite often released only two men in order to

break news about defeat to their forces. As long as Chukchi highly

rate public opinion the defeated enemy had to spread news about

valour and bravery of victors. Dead enemies were left where they fell

but their weapon, armour and dress were captured as spoils. Women

and children, escorting defeated side with caravan were taken

prisoners, and then the latter became slaves. Servitude had a patriarchal

nature and was mainly women's because male prisoners were

dangerous to families.

Chukchi arranged different sorts of ambushes. In the first place,

not numerous troop could was able to make sudden attack numerous

enemy and obtain a successful result. Secondly, using feigned retreat

was possible to ensnare enemy to entrapment and after all defeat it.

Thirdly, started fight from battle-front and thereby not letting enemy

to transfer any forces to another positions to gain the rear of the

enemy and to encircle it.

Asiatic Eskimos and Coastal Chukchi did not raise special war

dogs. However they were using same huskies during military

operations of necessity. These animals had several functions. They

were guarding dwelling doing ordinary dog's task. Dogs were intended

to fight against men in case of attack or pursuit. Finally, considering

the brute of predator, dogs were set on reindeer of enemy caravan,

thereby taking away hostile transport and causing disorder among

people, warriors attacked caravan and followed inevitable defeat of the


Siege and defence. The Reindeer Chukchi, like any nomads at

all, had no developed skills of erecting fortifications. They conducted

military operations reckoning on surprise, even in spite of the tradition

to declare war. The nomadic Chukchi made use of temporary

dwelling only, both natural and artificial, as their campaigns were not

counted on any long-term siege or defence because the natural

conditions and lack of provision laid obstacles to them. They built

fortified refuges only in case of serious menaces from the enemy. For

erecting such just material at hand was utilized, viz. sledges, skins,

stones, and turf. Inhabitants together with herds tried to leave and to

find some safe place. If enemy superior in numbers Chukchi preferred

to defend from fortifications. Otherwise, war ethos demanded to meet

enemy face to face at the battlefield. The main method of defence was

shooting arrows from fortifications with the object of inflicting great

losses on foe and forcing them to retreat. The storm, a main method

of the siege, could be directed both along the entire perimeter of

hostile fortification and against their weakest points. No special siege

equipment was at Chikchi's disposal. Its lack was replaced by a

number of various tricks. Sometimes, when conducting siege

operations the Chukchi could make use of big wooden shields to

protect themselves form the Russian bullets. After enemy departure

temporary fortifications were dismantled. The Maritime Chukchi and

Eskimos erected stone fortifications on the heights dominating in area

and waited there till the raid was over. Typical way to defend

fortification was to slide down sledges laden with stones towards

attacking enemy.

Naval warfare. Chukchi learned basic elements of seafaring

from the Eskimos who were skilled in navigation. They used baydars

as transport for the landing operations and not for the naval battle.

There was no any difference between boat crew and passengers, both

were soldiers. As well as in land warfare in naval expeditions Chukchi

used natural conditions and time to make sudden attacks with small

crew that helped to avoid undesirable losses. After the landing they

began to operate as in usual land fight. In raid usually participated few

baydars, however, exist record of large fleet of 100 baydars (the 18th


Religious realm of warfare. Making war man suffers from great

psychological burden, Chukchi tried to reduce pressure with the help

of narcotics. Probably, before fight they were eating flyagarics to reach

light intoxication. Chukchi were not afraid of death, contrary they

crave for it. This could be explained by their belief in afterlife and

transmigration. This belief, however, did not exclude bearing of

numerous amulets, which protected person from evil spirits. In the

war was used special military magic: different kinds of spells, bedevil

the enemy, sorcery in finding the right road or bringing fog or storm.

Before fight Chukchi sacrificed some reindeer to the spirit of the area.

In the 18th —beginning of the 19th century occurred human sacrifices,

but in extraordinary situations.

Prisoners. Women and children were taken prisoners, as males

including elders were annihilated. At the end of the 18th century

coastal inhabitants had women slaves from Eskimos of Alaska who

were captured in sea raids. These women married poor men or they

were sold to the Reindeer Chukchi. For example, one slave for either

twelve young female reindeer or ten female reindeer and two riding

reindeer; children were even cheaper. Usually, there were just few

slaves in kin group because of the ransom. Few days after the raid

relatives were visiting victors and ransom prisoners. Sometimes there

were cases when killer rendered his relative to the family of dead man,

and who fulfil family needs instead of the killed. Chukchi did not

yield themselves, they preferred to perish or commit suicide together

with their families. Captured enemy was tortured. Probably, originally

these tortures had a ritual nature but already in folklore they were

explained by vengeance. Usually captured enemy leader was tortured

because he was the one who was responsible for the damage and

prejudice to Chukchi.

Translated by Anthon Xenophontov