mannequin in traditional salmonskin coat with photo of a Nanai family
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Amur River Peoples.
This mannequin, standing before a photograph of a Nanai family group, is dressed in a traditional salmonskin coat as worn by the Nanai women from the Lower Amur basin. The design and cut of these garments reflect Chinese rather than Siberian stylistic influence.

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Map of Amur River Cultures, Siberia to Alaska
The southernmost portion of the Siberian Pacific, once part of the ancient empires of China and Korea, is formed by the lower Amur basin. The Amur River is the largest in Siberia (about 2700 miles), equal in size and might to Alaska's Yukon River. For ages, the Amur River served as a "cultural highway" along which peoples moved, exchanging and mixing customs, beliefs, and artistic traditions. The Amur was the main route of communications connecting the forests of the Siberian interior, the Pacific coastland, and even the remote shores of the Arctic Ocean. Migrations of peoples from China and the Central Asian steppe brought agriculture, animal husbandry, metalware, and pottery to the gateways of of Siberia.

The Native people who inhabited the lower Amur valley were a mixture of various of Tungus and Manchu tribes from the interior, Nivkh, and probably Ainu migrants from Sakhalin Island and the Amur estuary. Except for the Nivkh, all Native peoples of the Amur valley speak closely related languages of Tungus-Manchu stock. They share the same general name for themselves, nani ("local people"), and a number of clan names and clan groups cross ethnic lines. Presently, those nations are known as: Nanai (pop. 12,000), Ulchi (pop. 3200), Udegai (pop. 1,900), Oroch (pop. 900), and Negidal (pop. 600). Another 1,500 Nanai and 4,000 Oroch live on the Chinese side of the Amur and along adjacent streams.

- Igor Krupnik
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