Yakuts are a Turkic people associated with the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic.
The Yakut or Sakha language belongs to the Northern branch of the Turkic family of languages. There are about 444,000 ethnic Yakuts (Russian census, 2002) mainly in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the Russian Federation, with some extending to the Amur, Magadan, Sakhalin regions, and the Taymyr and Evenki Autonomous Districts. Their share of the population of Yakutia lowered during Soviet rule due to forced immigration, and other relocation policies, but has slightly increased since.
The Yakuts are divided into two basic groups based on geography and economics. Yakuts in the north are historically semi-nomadic hunters, fishermen, reindeer breeders, while southern Yakuts engage in animal husbandry focusing on horses and cattle.
The northern Yakuts were largely hunters, fishermen and reindeer herders, while the southern Yakut raised cattle and horses.
In the 1620s Russians began to move into their territory and annexed it, imposed a fur tax, and managed to suppress several Yakut rebellions between 1634 and 1642.
Russian brutality in collection of the pelt tax (yasak) sparked a rebellion among the Yakuts and also Tungusic-speaking tribes along the River Lena in 1642. The voivode Peter Golovin, leader of Russians, responded with a reign of terror: native settlements were torched and hundreds of people were tortured and killed. The Yakut population alone is estimated to have fallen as a result by 70 percent between 1642 and 1682. The discovery of gold and, later, the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway, brought ever-increasing numbers of Russians into the region. By the 1820s almost all the Yakuts had been converted to the Russian Orthodox church although they retained, and still retain, a number of Shamanist practices.
In 1919 the new Soviet government named the area the Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. There was a uprising in Yakut, known as the Yakut Revolt, led by Cornet Mikhail Korobeinikov.
In the late 1920s through the late 1930s, Yakut people were systematically persecuted, when Joseph Stalin launched his ruthless collectivization campaign. The Soviet regime established numerous forced labour camps (generally known as the GULAG system) where hundreds of thousands from all over the Union were sent for imprisonment. Tens of thousands of Yakuts also disappeared there, and not until the late 1960s had the Yakut population recovered to pre-collectivization levels.