Shor is indigenous people of Kemerovo region in RF. It belongs to the Turk language group. The traditional territory of Shor is so called the Mountain Shoria - land at the basins of rivers Tom, Mrassu and Kondoma. In Russia there are 16 000 Shors. 12000 still live in Kemerovo region.

Traditionally, the Shors were stealers, blacksmiths, hunters and primitive growers. The iron products made by the Shors were in great demand throughout the entire Siberia. Those were valued by the Enisey Kyrgyz and Jungars, whom Shors paid the tax (“alban”). When the first Russian Cossacks first encountered the Shors they gave them a name “The Blacksmith Tartars”. In Russian “blacksmith” is “Kuznetz”. That is why that land is called even now the “Kuznetzk region”.

The Southern Siberia was totally colonized by the Russian Cossacks. Taking over the lands of Shors the Russians at first used to give to the Shor’s village leaders (“pashtyks”) a sort of title to the territory of a village. But when the colonizing process was completed, the entire lands of the Shors were announced to be the property of the Tzar family and all the titles were annulled. The taxes (“yasak”) that the Shors paid to the Russian Tzar were in furs.

All hunting territories were divided between the clans. The Russians strictly forbid the Shors to practice blacksmith and ironsmith in fear that Enisey Kyrgyz and Jungar could use those weapons in wars against the Russians.

Shors were organized in clans. Every clan was headed by a Pashtyk. Pashtyks were selected by the entire clan gathering, which was the supreme ruling power of a clan. All the major decisions were made at those gatherings, such as selection of the Pashtyk, size of an alban or yasak, to be baptized or not for a particular clan. The clan gatherings also was the clan court. For the guilty or not decision and for assessment of a punishment six wisest old men were selected. Those were the judges under the leadership of Pashtyk. When the judges made a decision they would ask the gathering: ”Tcharar bah?” (Do you agree?). If the majority answered: “Tcharar!” (Agree!), then the decision stayed. If not - the judges had to deliberate again. The decision agreed to by the gathering was a must for everyone.

The Shors were a shamanic people. The world according to Shors consisted of 3 parts. The Sky Land, the home of the supreme deity Ul’gen; the middle land were people live and the Under Land - the home of evil spirits and their leader Erlik. The middle land was full of spirits - the masters of taiga-forest, mountains, rivers and lakes. All contacts with the spirits were through shamans. The shamans were called upon in cases of sickness, funerals, before hunts, during a childbirth, before harvests. Only shamans could do the ceremonies for Ul’gen.

In 1926, the soviets created so-called the Shors Ethno-Cultural region. During that period a lot was done for the Shor traditional culture - the Shor “intelligentsia” was developed, books and text-books in Shor language were published.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of the 30ths, the Soviets discover huge deposits of coal, iron and gold in the area. By the late 30ths large numbers of non-indigenous people were arriving to the Mountain Shoria to work in the coal and iron mines and on the steel production plants. In 1939 the Shors Ethno-Cultural region was officially annulled.

From that point on the Shors traditional culture went into a rapid decline. Assimilation, loss of language and traditions became overwhelming. Beginning the Stalin’s times the Kuznetzk region was covered by the intense network of Gulag labor camps. That have had the devastating effect on the Shors morals and spiritual ethics.

At the late 80ths - beginning of 90ths a revival of the Shors culture and tradition have started. The Association of Shor people was created with branches throughout the Mountain Shoria. Due to the work of the Association, in every major administration of the region a position of deputy administrator on ethnic issues was created. In 1993 the Shor became a member of Association of Indigenous Smallnumbered Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russian Federation. At the local regional University a Shor language course is being taught, as well as in some village schools.

But there are many problems lie before the Shor people and the main issue is the issue of land and compensations for the destroyed land and the way of life. Almost 90% of the traditional territory of the Shor is destroyed by the mining industry. The authorities do not want even to consider a discussion on the issue.

Liubov Tchulzhanova,
Shor, IIC

Photo by V. Zagumennov