Ulchi in Russia

Photo Source:  Alexander Khimushin 
Map Source:  Peoples of the Red Book
People Name: Ulchi
Country: Russia
10/40 Window: No
Population: 2,500
World Population: 2,500
Primary Language: Ulch
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 4.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.70 %
Scripture: Unspecified
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
People Cluster: Ural-Siberian
Affinity Bloc: Turkic Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Ulchi are a small group of indigenous people who live in eastern Siberia near the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Russia. The Ulchi first came into contact with European Russians in the 17th century. The Ulchi traded sable furs to the Russians for things they were unable to make themselves. As sable furs became rarer, the Ulchi traded dried salmon and furs of other animals. The Ulchi speak their own language of Ulch with their families and Russian with outsiders. As far as we know, there are no written Ulch alphabet or Scripture portions translated into Ulch.

What Are Their Lives Like?

In many ways the Ulchi live as their ancestors did. Catching and selling salmon is their main source of food and income. They are able to dry the salmon so it can be eaten and sold later. Ulchi also take seals for their meat and skins. A third source of income is hunting deer, rabbits, squirrels, bears and other land animals. The women gather berries, plants and roots during the short warm summers of Siberia. The traditional form of land transportation was sled dogs. These dogs and sleds are being replaced with snowmobiles. The Ulch normally have two homes, one for winter and one for summer. One or more stoves are at the center of their log houses. The winters in Siberia are extremely cold. The Ulchi also have two sets of clothing depending on the time of year. The clothing consists of cotton undergarments covered by layers of animal skins. The Ulch tend to marry among themselves. They will occasionally marry a member of another Far East Russian indigenous people. There is a possibility that the Ulch language could disappear in the next couple of decades as Ulchi young people prefer to speak Russian. A few families of Ulchi moved to the Ukraine during the time of the Soviet Union.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The large majority of the Ulchi practice folk religion. They believe that spirits inhabit the objects of nature such as rocks, rivers, trees, mountains, animals, and the sky. The Ulchi feel that they must appease these natural spirits or they can bring harm on the people and villages. Each village has a shaman who prays, performs rituals and keeps the Ulchi in contact with the spirit world. Ulchi also practice ancestor worship. The dead are honored in various ways and asked to watch over the living. A tiny fraction of the Ulchi claim to be follower of Christ and members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

What Are Their Needs?

The Ulchi need to be delivered from their fear of evil spirits and their ancestors. Only the Lord can do this. He alone can forgive their sins and give them eternal life. The Ulchi need some other sources of income as the animals they live on are getting rarer. They would also benefit by solar cells which could power cell phones and appliances. Modern medical care is often many miles away and not available when an Ulchi person gets ill or injured.

Prayer Points

Pray that each Ulchi adult and child has the opportunity to hear the good news in a way that he or she can understand. Pray that God delivers the Ulchi from their fear of evil spirits. Pray that the Ulch language is put into writing so the people would have the Word of God in their heart language. Pray the Lord raises up a Disciple Making Movement among the Ulchi of Siberia in this decade.

Text Source:   Joshua Project