Siberian people who speak a Turkic language.

Most were formerly seminomadic, raising cattle and horses. They lived in winter settlements of earth-covered log huts and summer camps of conical birch-bark tents near pasturage and sources of hay for winter fodder. Through assimilation, many southern Sakha turned to farming while northern Sakha adopted reindeer breeding from the Evenk. The Sakha were noted for their ironwork (supernatural power was attributed to blacksmiths) and also made pottery; traditional arts such as ivory and wood carving are still practiced. Filmmaking has become popular more recently. The Sakha number about 380,000. See also Siberian peoples.

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also called  Yakut,  

      one of the major peoples of eastern Siberia, numbering some 380,000 in the late 20th century. In the 17th century they inhabited a limited area on the middle Lena River, but in modern times they have expanded throughout Sakha republic (Yakutia) in far northeastern Russia. They speak a Turkic language. The Sakha are thought to be an admixture of migrants from the Lake Baikal region with the aborigines of the Lena—probably mostly Evenk (Evenki), who have contributed much to their culture. Other evidence, however, points to a southern ancestry related to the Turkic-speaking tribes of the steppe and the Altai Mountains.

      The early history of the Sakha is little known, though epic tales date from the 10th century. In the 17th century they had peacefully assimilated with other northern peoples and consisted of 80 independent tribes, subdivided into clans. The nuclear family was the primary Sakha social unit. The position of women in family and public life was generally inferior. Supernatural power was attributed to blacksmiths, since their art was considered a divine gift. The old Sakha religion had many supernatural spirits, good and evil. Black shamans (shamanism) dealt with evil spirits and could be benevolent or harmful; white shamans were concerned with spiritual intercession for human beings. Two major religious festivals were celebrated with ritual use of koumiss (fermented mare's milk), one in spring for good spirits and one in fall accompanied by blood sacrifices of livestock for evil spirits.

      The majority of the Sakha were formerly seminomadic, with winter settlements of earth-covered log huts and summer camps of conical birch-bark tents sited near pasturage and sources of hay for winter fodder. Through the process of assimilation many of the southern Sakha turned to farming, while the more northerly ones adopted reindeer breeding from the Evenk. Much noted for their ironwork, the Sakha also made pottery, a unique occupation among the historical Siberian tribes.

      Despite the Arctic climate, the Sakha have clung to an economy based on the raising of cattle, reindeer, and horses, though their livestock must be sheltered and fed a large part of the year. Dairy products occupy a prominent place in their diet, with meat reserved for special occasions. Fishing in rivers and lakes is the second most important economic activity. Many traditional arts, such as ivory and wood carving and jewelry making, are still practiced, though such relatively modern arts as filmmaking are also popular. Playing of the khomus, or mouth harp, once an accompaniment to shamanic ritual, has also experienced a resurgence.

also called  Yakutia  or  Yakut-Sakha  

      republic in far northeastern Russia, in northeastern Siberia. The republic occupies the basins of the great rivers flowing to the Arctic Ocean—the Lena, Yana, Indigirka, and Kolyma—and includes the New Siberian Islands between the Laptev and East Siberian seas. Sakha was created an autonomous republic of the Soviet Union in 1922; it is now the second largest republic in Russia.

      A mountainous area interspersed with broad plateaus and broken by river and coastal lowlands, Sakha extends from the Central Siberian Plateau on the west to the Kolyma Lowland on the east and from the Arctic coast on the north to the Stanovoy Mountains on the south. The climate of Sakha, which is the most severe of the inhabited world, is the extreme of continental, with an average January temperature of −46 °F (−43.5 °C) and an average July temperature of 66 °F (19 °C). Only exceptionally dry air and calm weather conditions make the lower temperatures bearable. Precipitation everywhere is low, amounting to 8–16 inches (200–400 mm) annually. The entire region is underlain by permafrost, with only isolated unfrozen patches in the south. At Yakutsk, the capital, the permafrost is 450 feet (140 metres) deep, while on the coast, where there are extensive areas of fossil ice, it reaches 1,000 feet (300 metres) or more in depth. Tundra vegetation occurs in a broad strip along the northern coast and then gives way in a southward progression to stunted forests of Dahurian larch and dwarf birch and to swampy forests, or taiga, of birch, pine, and spruce.

      The Sakha (Yakut), a people who formed from the mixture of local tribes with Turkic groups that migrated from the south in the 6th–10th centuries AD, joined the Russian state in the first half of the 17th century. Yakutsk, the republic's largest city, was founded in 1632. In 1638 the Yakutsk province was established and the area was opened to Russians, who settled in the towns along the middle Lena River. By the 19th century many of the nomadic Sakha had adopted a sedentary life. In the late 20th century the Sakha constituted only about a third of the republic's population.

      Economic conditions reflect the remoteness and harsh physical conditions of Sakha. Agriculture is possible only in the south along the Lena River and its tributaries, where potatoes, oats, and vegetables are grown and cattle are raised. The Sakha, Evenk (Evenki), and Even peoples live chiefly by herding reindeer, fishing, and hunting squirrel, fox, and ermine. Mining and timber working are the main industries. Mineral resources include deposits of gold near Aldan and Tommot in the south and in the Indigirka River valley, salt in the Vilyuy River basin, tin in the Yana River valley, and coal along the Lena River. Approximately one-fourth of the diamonds sold worldwide come from Sakha mines, although very little revenue trickles down to the native Siberians. (As a result of the degradation of the landscape and the toxic by-products of mining, the Russian government declared the Vilyuy basin an environmental disaster area in 1992.) Huge deposits of natural gas in the Vilyuy basin are connected by pipeline with Yakutsk. The area around Yakutsk is the most industrially developed part of the republic. A hydroelectric station on the Vilyuy River at Chernyshevsky is in operation. Apart from limited rail lines and the road links to Yakutsk, the only transportation routes over this vast area are the rivers (open only for three or four months a year), winter sled trails, and the air. Area 1,198,200 square miles (3,103,200 square km). Pop. (1996 est.) 1,023,000.

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Universalium. 2010.

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