January 01, 2022

TikTok Gets Cultured


TikTok Gets Cultured
Vladimir, of the Khant ethnicity, frolics with his pup Aivas Igorevich on TikTok

TikTok might be best known for banal teen dancing, comedy, and bizarre challenges, but it’s also a place where people of other cultures might challenge you.

Russia boasts over 190 ethnic groups that include approximately 19 percent of the Federation’s population. In late November, National Geographic Russia connected with TikTok influencers from some of Russia’s many ethnic groups who post videos showcasing traditions, dress, food, and other cultural practices.

Vera, who was born in Udmurtia, posts content that both celebrates Udmurt culture and breaks down misconceptions. “There are stereotypes that the Udmurts are modest, and also ugly and envious. Of course, I would like the Udmurts to be known as creative, talented, open-minded, smiling, and beautiful. I would also like to say that the Udmurts are a very sensual people, we have a strong connection with nature and the forest; it is said that we even have some mystical abilities.” There are about 600,000 Udmurts living in Russia today.

Vladimir, of the Khant nationality, spends his time herding reindeer in a nature reserve about 100 kilometers from Kogalym, the city of his birth. “My account is about nature, about the uniqueness of the culture of the North, about the traditional way of life. I also show a strange, very rare way of fishing, without modern bells and whistles. This is how my parents taught me, and their parents taught them,” Vladimir explained. The Khanty people, like the Mansi, are from western Siberia, and both speak the Ob-Ugric language. Together, the two nationalities numbered approximately 30,000 at the end of the twentieth century.

Millions of people globally are following such accounts, and while they raise awareness of  nationalities that might otherwise be unknown, some influencers find it more important to be inspiring youth from these backgrounds to be prouder of their heritage.

Fatima, an Avarka born in the village of Untsukul in the Republic of Dagestan, believes taking joy in one’s culture is essential for its preservation. “I am really rooting for my native languages, which are on the verge of extinction, and I understand that the only salvation of these languages is their speakers. I wanted to show by example that I am not ashamed to speak my native language, that it is beautiful, and that each language is unique and beautiful in its own way." The Avar language is also grouped with the Andi and Dido languages, also known as Dagestanian languages. According to 2010 census data, approximately 910,000 Avars live in Russia today.

Click to learn more about Vera, Vladimir, Fatima, as well as Tatyana and Gulnaz.

 

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