5 extinct ethnic groups who lived in Russia


The Kamasins Family, 1925. Krasnoyarsk Territory.

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There are people from over 190 different ethnic groups living in Russia today. However, just over a century ago there were even more indigenous peoples here.

Throughout history there are many examples of ethnic groups who over time lost their traditions, cultures and languages, and eventually merged with other peoples and lost their distinct ethnic identities. For example, by the 17th century the Couronians had mingled with the Baltic peoples, and by the 14th century the Meryans were assimilated into the Mari and Mordva. During this time, the Bulgarians eventually became part of the ethnogenesis of the Tatars, Kumyks and Nogai and gave their name to the whole country of Bulgaria. But all this happened a long time ago, when these indigenous peoples of Russia disappeared relatively recently, just yesterday by historical standards.

1. L’Évrimeiset

Historically, the Karelian Isthmus (north of St. Petersburg) has been home to many indigenous peoples. At different times, its territory passed between Russia and Sweden, and in various places Russians, Swedes, Finns, Vepsians, Vods and Karelians lived there. One of the local indigenous peoples was the Evrimieiset. They originally lived along the Vuoksi River (north of St. Petersburg) and were related to the Finns, Karelians, and Izhorians. They belonged to the Lutheran and partly Russian Orthodox churches, but had their own customs and language (similar to Karelian and Finnish).

At the beginning of the 17th century, the province of Ingria was established there, the Evrimieiset constituting the majority of its population. Their new neighbors were the Savakot, settlers from the Finnish region of Savonia. At first the two ethnic groups did not mix much, however, by the late 19th and early 20th centuries the differences between the two groups had largely disappeared and the inhabitants of the two lands were all referred to simply as Ingrians. At this point, the Ingrians are also considered indigenous peoples with few living representatives: only around 4000 currently live in the Leningrad region. The list of traditional villages of Evrimeiset includes: Luppolovo, Vartemyagi, Rappolovo, Toksovo, Baryshevo and Kavgolovo.

2. The Mateurs

The Samoyed People, 1890s.

Now let’s turn the globe to Siberia. Here on the northern slopes of the Sayan Mountains (south of Krasnoyarsk and Khakassia Territory), not so long ago lived the Mators, who belonged to the Samoyed peoples (which also include the Nenets, Enets, Nganasans ). As with other peoples of the North, their main occupations were hunting and reindeer herding. The Mator language was one of the two main Samoyed languages ​​(Kamassian was the other), but it is now considered extinct. In the 19th century, the Mators assimilated to their neighbors, the Tuvinians and the Khakas. Many representatives of the Mator also died in a smallpox epidemic.

3. The Kamasins

The Kamasins' family, 1925.

The Kamasins lived in the territory of present-day Khakassia and in the south of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. They were divided into Steppe Kamasins and Taiga Kamasins (sometimes also called Taiga Tatars), while the Kamassian language had different dialects. This ethnic group was already on the verge of extinction in the 17th century, when Russian explorers in this region numbered only around 500 Kamasins.

By the end of the 19th century, the Samoyeds had almost completely mingled with the Russians and Khakasses living in the region. Interestingly, during research expeditions, Soviet ethnographers encountered rare representatives of the Kamasins in the Sayan Mountains. Like their parents from the north, they lived in tipis. The last speaker of Kamassian died in 1989, while the last two Kamasins were recorded in the 2010 census.

4. The Kott

Here is the city of Kansk in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, 1899. This district was the center of the Kotts settlement.

The Kotts (Kan Tatars) were nomads who lived in southern Siberia along the Yenisei River. They spoke the Kott language, which is part of the Yenisian language group. Yenish languages ​​are now considered dead, with the exception of Ket, which is still spoken by some 200 people. What remains of the Kotts on the map are place names that end in “shet” and “chet” (eg, the town of Tayshet).

By the end of the 19th century, the Kotts had completely assimilated with the Samoyeds (including the Kamasins), as well as the Buryats and Russians. At the time, an expedition by philologist Matthias Castren found only five remaining speakers of the Kott language. In the 1960s, Soviet linguist Alexander Matveyev led an ethnographic expedition to the regions where this ethnic group lived and discovered that nothing remained of the Kotts at that time.

5. La Goaye

The Caucasus is perhaps the most multi-ethnic part of Russia, with dozens of ethnic groups living here. Along the Ashe River (in present-day Krasnodar Territory) since time immemorial lived the Goaye, an Adyghe sub-ethnic group. They enjoyed a sort of privileged status and a special degree of independence among other ethnic groups. At least 17 clans belonging to this sub-ethnic group have left traces in local place names. The Goaye spoke a dialect of the Adyghe language. They are believed to have died out after the Caucasian War in the mid-19th century. However, in 1930, Soviet ethnographers encountered several Goaye families who still bore the old surnames of their ancestors. The researchers also managed to find local elders who remembered another family of Goaye princes who lived near Sochi. Of them today only a village called Alekseyevka, whose old name was Gvai, and an area called Guarek remain.

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