The Principality of Pelym: Some Considerations.
This is a part of A. Lintrop's article The Mansi - History and Present Day

The 16th-17th century principalities of the Khanty and Mansi were not states proper. Rather they were the early-feudal pre-governmental establishments where the leaders of the most powerful tribe had subjected the territory of the neighbouring tribe and posed taxes to its population. The governor remained in power due to the tribal customary law on the one hand, and, on the other hand, thanks to the small group of recruits consisting of his fellow-tribesmen and old allies whom he was obliged to supply with provision and armament. It was the Russians that started to call them princes, the Mansi words for them were most probably Tartar loan words khon and otyr. Sometimes Moscow entered into contracts with such Ob-Ugrian princes, more often they were turned into vassals who ruled according to the Tsars deed of gift from then on and saw to that Moscow would receive its amount of taxes more easily. Nevertheless, the Khanty and Mansi princes retained their relative power even as Tsar's vassals in the 17th century, and the principality of Koda retained its factual independence until 1644.

Ob-ugrian principalities
in the 17. century.

The principality of Pelym was located in the basin of the Konda river and stretched from the mouth of the Sosva near Tavda up to Tabary. The number of population could be inferred from a report from 1599 which states that the region was inhabited by 555 tax-paying citizens (Bahrushin 1955,2: 144). The stronghold of the Pelym princes was also a significant religious centre; a sacred Siberian larch grew in its surroundings and even in the 18th century people used to hang the skins of sacrificed horses on its branches. Near the sacred tree was a worship storehouse with five idols of human figure, and smaller storehouses with high pillars and human-faced peaks around it for storing sacrificial instruments. The bones of sacrificial animals were stored in a separate building (Novitski: 81). Konda formed the largest part of Pelym principality, according to the tax registers from 1628/29 it was inhabited by 257 tax-paying Mansi. The treasures of Agai, the Prince of Konda who was imprisoned by the Russians in 1594 gives us a good picture of the wealth of the Ob-Ugrian nobles of this period. Namely, the Russians confiscated two silver crowns, a silver spoon, a silver beaker, a silver spiral bracelet, "precious drapery" and 426 sable, 13 fox, 61 beaver and 1.000 squirrel skins from Agai (Bahrushin 1955,2: 146). The third part of the Pelym principality was the region of Tabary, which inhabited 102 adults in 1628/29. Preceding the coming of the Russians the Mansi of this region were farmers and according to the tradition Yermak collected tribute in form of grain (Bahrushin 1955,2: 147).

The structure of the former Ob-Ugrian principality could be described on the basis of statistical records of the Khanty of Koda principality near the Ob (In 1644 when it was incorporated into Russia 441 tax-paying people inhabited the region, except for the Vakh area - Bahrushin 1955,2: 117). The whole population was divided in four ranks: prince's family, the Khanty with public duties, the tax-paying Khanty and slaves. All the inhabitants of the ancient regions had to perform public duties, the inhabitants of those regions that had been incorporated later had to pay tribute. The Khanty with public duties had to be prepared for military service according to the prince's order. The records from 1631 state that there were 138 of them in Koda, 16 of them were permanently in service in the prince's stronghold. The prince supplied armament from his arsenal, also money and provision. 40 armours and other weapons were stored in the Troitsa church built in the stronghold of Koda. All the Khanty of this rank who had no public duties had to contribute furs to the prince. The tax-paying Khanty paid the prince annual taxes. There were 80 slaves in Koda in 1631 (Bahrushin 1955,2: 95, 117, 119, 120).

The successors of the Pelym and Konda princes in the 18th century - princes Vassili and Fyodor lived in Pelym. They became Russianized and performed various duties for the Tsarist government. The Mansi, however, considered them still as their rulers. The fact that the ancient family of princes ruled on in Konda is also proved by a tsar letter from 1624: "He, prince Vassili and prince Fyodor have close brothers in Big Konda - our tax-paying murzas, and our simple Voguls are ruled by them in Big Konda, the brothers of prince Vassili, the murzas" (Bahrushin 1955,2: 148). During the 18th century the role of the Russian empire in Konda was merely the receiving of the natural tax collected quite randomly by the local murzas "per amount, not per head in their villages". Even in 1654 a voyevod from Konda made a complaint to the Tsar: "Ruler, your subjects in your Konda parish are stealing and killing each other, they go robbing each other and they steal and beat and shoot arrows at each other and cut with knives and fight each other until they are dead. And the same murderers, Ruler, you tax-paying subjects evade recruitment into service, they shoot arrows at people in service."(Ibid.: 150). In spite of that, Kyntsha, the Prince of Konda received a deed of gift from Tsar in 1680 which confirmed his noble position. Even in the 18th century the Konda princes were known for their relative independence. It is assumed that even in 1715 prince Satyga and his 600 armed men made an attempt to impede the christianisation of the Konda Mansi (Novitski: 98). During 1732 - 1747 Konda was ruled by Satyga's son Ossip Grigoryev, followed by his own son Vlass Ossipov who received his education in the bishopric school of Tobolsky (ibid.). Interestingly though, one of the great-grandchildren of Satyga, the teacher in the Turinsky community school, Aleksander Satygin claimed himself the prince's title as late as 1842 (ibid.: 151).