Population: 16,000 people
Language: Chukchi, Paleoasiatic language family
Region: Chukotka Peninsula, Far East of Russia
Religion: Shamanism. Orthodox Christianity. A few Evangelical churches.
IBT Bible Translations:
Selections of Luke (1995),
Gospel of Luke with audio cassettes (2004),
Gospel of John 1:1-17 (2008, 2011)
Current Work in Progress: Luke & Jonah are being prepared for publication; the translation of the Children's Bible has been drafted.
The Chukchis live at the farthest eastern tip of Russia, on the Chukotka peninsula, directly across the Bering Strait from Alaska. It is a place noted for its extremely harsh climate. The Chukchi language is spoken by about 5,000 people out of the 16,000 total that make up the entire Chukchi population. Until 1931, the Chukchi language had no official orthography, despite attempts in the 1800s to write religious texts in it. The Chukchi writing system was created during the Soviet period, first with a Roman script (1931) and later (1937) with a Cyrillic script. Chukchi is an endangered language, but one in which there are a number of Christian believers and active churches that want to get the Gospel out to the primarily animist Chukchis in their mother tongue.
History and the present situation: The Chukchis were earlier a prosperous people, renowned for their love of freedom and combative spirit. At the time of the Russian Empire, the Chukchis were the only people of the Far North who resisted paying tribute to the tsarist government. Reindeer herding and hunting sea animals were the two main activities of the tundra-dwelling Chukchis and the coastal Chukchis, respectively. Unfortunately, the traditional Chukchi way of life began to deteriorate already in the late 19th century, when American ships engaged in commercial whaling along the coast of Chukotka. During the Soviet era, exploitation of the area for the state economy had tragic consequences. Children were forced into boarding schools to get an education. Although this increased the literacy rate, it destroyed the fragile local social system of blood kinship. Indigenous people were evicted from their hunting grounds, and their settlements were turned into collective farms. The tundra ecology seriously deteriorated due to industrial pollution, when the mining industry became the core of the Chukotka economy. Nuclear tests in the region caused serious damage to the health of local population. After the fall of the Soviet Union, industry in Chukotka collapsed, and more than half of the population left the peninsula at that time. People suffer from high rates of tuberculosis, and alcoholism is rampant, even among women and children; drug addiction and suicides among young people are also widespread. According to Chukchi authorities, the only way to save the Chukchis as an indigenous people with their unique culture is to help them find self-esteem and self-respect. The Bible can give the Chukchis a meaningful life – and help them to save and develop their language!
Religion and the Bible translation: The traditional religion of the Chukchis is Shamanism, but in recent years many Chukchis have turned to Christ – there is now a church in almost every village. The growing number of Christian believers, both Orthodox and Protestant, is a hopeful sign. Chukchi Christians are in dire need of biblical texts not only in Russian, but, more importantly, in their own language. In 2004 the Chukchis received their first Gospel portion – 2,000 copies of Luke were printed and an audio-recording of the text was made. The books with cassettes were distributed to the most remote villages and roused great interest among the Chukchis; for them this was a sign of respect for their people and their language. Such is their desire to have more Biblical texts in their mother tongue that at the initiative of a local church, one elderly teacher launched into a full translation of the IBT Children’s Bible, and has already drafted the entire book! We also received a request from Chukchi believers to prepare a 2nd edition of Luke, this time as a diglot with a parallel Russian text. The revision of Luke has been accomplished with the help of local believers, and part of the text has been checked by the consultant. One more consultant check is awaited on the 2nd half of Luke in 2017. We have also translated the book of Jonah, which is interesting to Chukchi culture because of their intimate knowledge of whales and other sea creatures that they hunt. This book has also been audio recorded. We would like to publish Jonah not only with the audio CD, but also with illustrations. A local artist is now preparing pictures for it. We expect to print both Jonah with an audio recording and the revised edition of Luke by the end of 2017.
Your donation of 500 rubles will allow IBT to print and deliver 1 copy of the Gospel of Luke, and 1 copy of Jonah to the Chukchi people.