Itelmens (endonym Itelmen, Itenmen – a local resident, an older name is Kamchadal) is an ethnic group in the Russian Federation. They mostly live in Koryakskiy Okrug of Kamchatka Krai, where they are concentrated in four settlements of Tigilski District: Kovran, Ust-Khairyuzovo, Tigil, Khairyuzovo, as well as the administrative centre of the Okrug, the urban-type settlement Palana.

General information

In the late 17th – first half of the 19th centuries, the northern frontier of Itelmen area of residence was the River Tigil in the western part of Kamchatka and the river Uka in the eastern coastline. The area of Itelmens’ dispersion went as far as the southern tip of the peninsula. In the second half of the 19th century, Itelmens mostly lived along the western part of Kamchatka, in the settlements of Sopochnoye, Moroshechnoye, Khairyuzovo, Kovran, Utholok, Napana, Sedanka Osedlaya. Due to the 1950s-1970s administrative reforms which included the agglomeration of the kolkhoz and shutting down the “unpromising, hopeless” settlements, the Itelmens living in Soppochnoye, Moroshechnoye, Utholok moved to Kovran, while those living in the settlements of Amanino, Napana and Sedanka Osedlaya moved to Tigil. Part of the Itelmen population moved to cities.

Surrounding society and the main economic activity of the region of residence

According to the 2023 data, there were 15,393 residents in Koryakskiy Autonomous Okrug (KAO), over half of which were indigenous ethnic groups: 11 percent was made up by Itelmens; 46.6 percent by Russians, 30.3 percent by Koryaks, 15 percent by the Chukchi, 8.5 by Evens and 0.5 by Kamchadals. The traditional economic activities for indigenous ethnic groups include fishing, reindeer herding, sea mammals hunting. Kamchatka is one of the major suppliers of fish and seafood in Russia.

Spiritual culture

Itelmens believed in the existence of spirits and in everything in the world being animate. Souls were thought to be immortal. Spirits were divided into good ones and bad ones. Many religious rituals were conducted with the goal of mollifying spirits. The religious practices were first and foremost related to the cult of nature. The one spirit worshipped above all was ‘the master of the sea” Mitg, who was visualised as a fish. The lord of all animals was Pilyachuch (Bilyukai), who lived in the clouds and sent rain onto the earth.

Supplementary materials
Other materials describing the life, culture and history of the people
Interactive Atlas of the Indigenous Small-Numbered Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East