The Evenks are a nomadic indigenous people, one of the Northern Indigenous Peoples (pop. 30,000 est.) of Siberia, Russia. The Evenki form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.
The Evenks were formerly known as tungus. This designation was spread by the Russianss, who acquired it from the Yakuts and the Siberian Tatars (in the Yakut language tongus) in the 17th century. The Evenks have several self-designations of which the best known is even, evenk. This became the official designation for the people in 1931. Some groups call themselves orochen, 'an inhabitant of the River Oro' orochon, 'a rearer of reindeer', ile, 'a human being', etc. At one time or another tribal designations and place -- names have also been used as self-designations, for instance, manjagir, birachen, solon etc. Several of these have even been taken for separate ethnic entities. The Evens or Lamuts receive a separate mention, because though originally close to the Evenks, they are now considered to be a different people.
The Evenks inhabit a huge territory of the Siberian taiga from the River Ob in the west to the Okhotsk Sea in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north, to Manchuria and Sakhalin in the south. The total area of their habitat is about 2,500,000 km². In all of the Russian Federation only the Russians inhabit a larger territory. According to the administrative structure, the Evenks inhabit, amonst others, the Tyumen and Tomsk regions, the Krasnoyarsk district, the Irkutsk, Chita, and Amur regions, Buryatia and Yakutia, the Khabarovsk district and the Sakhalin region. However, their autonomous national territory is confined solely to the Krasnoyarsk district, where 3,200 of the 30,000 Evenks live. Close to 12,000 Evenks live in Yakutia. A large Evenk community (the Solon, the Tungus, the Ainak, the Nakagyr and the Orochon) lives in the northeast of China, close to the Soviet border, while others inhabit areas of Inner Mongolia and Manchuria.
The Evenk language is the largest of the northern group of the Manchu-Tungus languages, a group which also includes the Even and Negidal languages. The basic vocabulary has much in common with the Mongolian and the Turkic languages, indicating a close relation. In certain areas the influences of the Yakut and the Buryat languages are strong. The influence of Russian is general and overwhelming (in 1979, 75.2 % of the Evenk were fluent in Russian). The Evenk language varies considerably and is divided into three large dialect groups: the northern, the southern and the eastern dialect. These are further divided into minor dialects. The written language was created in the late 1920s.