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The Russian people (русские, russkiye) are an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russiamarker and neighboring countries.

The English term Russians is used to refer to the citizens of Russia, regardless of their ethnicity (see demographics of Russia for information on other ethnic groups inhabiting Russia); in Russian, the demonym Russian is translated as rossiyanin (россиянин, plural rossiyane), while the ethnic Russians, again, are referred to as russkiye (sg. русский, russkiy). According to the 2002 census, ethnic Russians make up about 80% of the population of Russia


The modern Russian ethnicity is formed from two groups (Northern and Southern) made up in past of Kriviches, Ilmen Slavs, Radimichs, Vyatiches and Severians East Slavic tribes. Genetic studies show that modern Russians do not differ significantly from Poles or Ukrainians. Russians in northern European Russia, however, also share moderate genetic similarities with Finno-Ugric peoples,, who lived in modern north central European Russia and who were partly assimilated by the Slavs as the Slavs migrated northeastwards. Among those peoples were Merya and Muromian.

Outside archaeological remains, little is known about the predecessors to Russians in general prior to 859 AD, the year from which the account in the Primary Chronicle starts. It's thought that by 600 AD, the Slavs had split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches. Eastern one was settled between the Western Bug and the Dnieper River in what is now Ukrainemarker; from the 1st century AD through almost the millennium they have been spreading peacefully northward to the Baltic lands assimilating indigents and forming the Dregovich, Radimich and Vyatich Slavic tribes on the Baltic substratum, therefore having language features such as vowel reduction. Later, both Belarusians and South Russians formed themselves on this ethnic linguistic ground.

Another group of Slavs moved since the 6th century from Pomerania to northeast of the Baltic Seamarker, where they encountered the Varangians of the Rus' Khaganate and established the important regional center of Novgorodmarker. This is possibly why Russians are known in Baltic-Finnic languages as Venedes, a name derived for West Slavs. The same Slavic ethnic population also settled the present-day Tver Oblast and the region of Beloozeromarker. With the Finno-Ugric substratum they formed Kriviches and Ilmen Slavs.

Emergence of Russian ethnicity

According to some modern ethnologists, ethnic Russians originated from the earlier Rus' people and gradually evolved into a separate ethnicity from the western Rus peoples, who became known as the modern-day Belarusians and Ukrainians. Early ancestors of the Russians were East Slavic tribes migrating to the East European Plain in the early Middle Ages. Most prominent Slavic tribes in the area of what is now European Russia included Vyatichs, Krivichs, Radimichs, Severians and Ilmen Slavs. By the 11th century, East Slavs assimilated the Finno-Ugric tribes Merya and Muroma and the Baltic tribe Eastern Galindae that used to inhabit the same area with them (now Central Russia).

Ethnic Russians used to be referred to as Great Russians (as opposed to the ethnonyms White Russian and Little Russian) and began to be recognized as a distinct ethnic group in the 15th century. At that time, during the consolidation of the Russian Tsardommarker as a regional power, they were referred to as Moscovites. Between the 12th and 16th century, Russians known as Pomors migrated to Northern Russia and settled the White Seamarker coasts. As a result of these migrations and Russian conquests, following the liberation from the Mongol Golden Horde domination during the 15th and 16th century, Russians settled the Volga, Urals and Northern Caucasus regions. Between the 17th and 19th century, migrants settled eastwards in the vast, sparsely inhabited areas of Siberiamarker and the Russian Far East. The Cossack movement played a significant role in these territorial expansions and migrations.


Russians are the most numerous ethnic group in Europe and one of the largest in the world with a population of about 140 million people worldwide. Roughly 100 million ethnic Russians live in Russiamarker and about 17 million more live in the neighboring countries. A relatively significant number of Russians, around 3 million, live elsewhere in the world, mostly in the Americas and Western Europe, but also in other places of Eastern Europe, Asia and elsewhere.


Russian culture started from that of East Slavs, with their pagan beliefs and specific way of life in the wooden areas of Eastern Europe. Early on, the culture of Russian ancestors was much influenced by neighbouring Finno-Ugric tribes and by nomadic, mainly Turkic, peoples of the Pontic steppe. The Scandinavian Vikings, or Varangians, also took part in the forming of Russian identity and state in the early Kievan Rus' period of the late 1st millennium AD. Rus' had accepted the Orthodox Christianity from the East Roman Empire in 988, and this largely defined the Russian culture of next milleniummarker as the synthesis of Slavic and Byzantine cultures. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Russia remained the largest Orthodox nation in the world and claimed succession to the Byzantine legacy in the form of the Third Rome idea. At different points of its history, the country also was strongly influenced by the European Culture, and since Peter the Great reforms Russian culture largely developed in the context of the Western culture. For most of the 20th century, the Communist ideology shaped the culture of the Soviet Union, where Russia, or Russian SFSR, was the largest and leading part.

Russian culture is extremely various and unique in many aspects. It has a rich history and can boast a long tradition of excellence in every aspect of arts, especially when it comes to literature and philosophy, classical music and ballet, architecture and painting, cinema and animation, which all had considerable influence on the world culture.

Russian literature is known for such notable writers as Aleksandr Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova, Joseph Brodsky, Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Sholokhov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Russians also gave the classical music world some very famous composers, including Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and his contemporaries, the Mighty Handful, including Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. In the 20th century Russian music was credited with such influential composers as Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinski. And many more famous Russian persons are associated with differrent aspects of culture.


Russian (  , transliteration: , ) is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages. Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and is one of three (or, according to some authorities, four) living members of the East Slavic languages, the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian.

Written examples of Old East Slavonic are attested from the 10th century onwards, and while Russian preserves much of East Slavonic grammar and a Common Slavonic word base, modern Russian exhibits a large stock of borrowed international vocabulary for politics, science, and technology. Due to the status of the Soviet Unionmarker as a super power, Russian had great political importance in the 20th century, and is still one of the official languages of the United Nations.

Russian has palatal secondary articulation of consonants, the so-called soft and hard sounds. This distinction is found in almost all consonant phonemes and is one of the most distinguishing features of the language. Another important aspect is the reduction, or drawling, of unstressed vowels, not entirely unlike a similar process present in most forms of English. Stress in Russian is generally quite unpredictable and can be placed on almost any syllable, one of the most difficult aspects for foreign language learners.


Around 63% of the Russia's population identify themselves with Orthodox Christianity most of whom belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, which played a vital role in the development of Russian national identity. In other countries Russian faithful usually belong to the local Orthodox congregations which either have a direct connection (like the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, autonomous from the Moscow Patriarchate) or historical origin (like the Orthodox Church in America or a Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Even non-religious Russian people may associate themselves with Orthodox faith for cultural reasons. Some Russian people are Old Believers: a relatively small schismatic group of the Russian Orthodoxy that rejected the liturgical reforms introduced in the 17th century. Other schisms from Orthodoxy include Doukhobors which in the 18th century rejected secular government, the Russian Orthodox priests, icons, all church ritual, the Bible as the supreme source of divine revelation and the divinity of Jesus, and later emigrated into Canada. An even earlier sect were Molokans which formed in 1550 and rejected Czar's divine right to rule, icons, the Trinity as outlined by the Nicene Creed, Orthodox fasts, military service, and practices including water baptism.

Other world religions have negligible representation among ethnic Russians. The most prominent are Baptists with over 85,000 Russian adherents. Others are mostly Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans and Jehovah's Witnesses.

For the last decades Slavianism (a Slavic Neopagan movement) seems to gain certain popularity and there are many web-sites dedicated to the study of the ancient Slavic religious traditions and thoughts.

Russians outside of Russia

Ethnic Russians historically migrated throughout the area of former Russian Empiremarker and Soviet Unionmarker, sometimes encouraged to re-settle in borderlands by Tsarist and later Soviet government. On some occasions ethnic Russian communities such as Lipovans who settled in the Danube delta or Doukhobors in Canadamarker immigrated as religious dissidents fleeing the central authority.

After the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War starting in 1917, many Russians were forced to leave their homeland fleeing the Bolshevik regime, and millions became refugees. Many white émigrés were participants in the White movement, although the term is broadly applied to anyone who may have left the country due to the change in regime.

Today the largest ethnic Russian diasporas outside of Russia live in former Soviet states such as Ukrainemarker (about 8 million), Kazakhstanmarker (about 4.5 million), Belarusmarker (about 1.2 million), Latviamarker (about 700,000) with the most Russian settlement out of the Baltic States which includes Lithuaniamarker and Estoniamarker, Uzbekistanmarker (about 650,000) and Kyrgyzstanmarker (about 600,000).

Over a million Russian Jews emigrated to Israelmarker during and after the Refusenik movements; some brought ethnic Russian relatives along with them. Out of more than one million Russian-speaking immigrants in Israel, about 300,000 are not Jewish. There are also small Russian communities in the Balkans, Eastern and Central European nations such as Germanymarker and Polandmarker, as well Russians settled in Chinamarker, Japanmarker, South Koreamarker, Latin America (i.e. Mexicomarker and Brazilmarker) and Australia. These communities may identify themselves either as Russians or citizens of these countries, or both, to varying degrees.

The governments and the majority public opinion in Estoniamarker and Latviamarker, which has the largest share of ethnic Russians among the Baltic countries, hold the view that many of the ethnic Russians arrived in these countries as part of a Soviet-era colonization and deliberate Russification by changing the countries' ethnic balance. Among the many Russians who arrived during the Soviet era most came there for economic reasons, or in some cases, because they were ordered to move.

People who had arrived in Latviamarker and Estoniamarker during the Soviet era, including their descendants born in these countries, mostly Russians, were provided only with an option to acquire naturalised citizenship which required passing a test demonstrating knowledge of the national language as well as knowledge of the country's history and customs. The language issue is still contentious, particularly in Latvia, where ethnic Russians have protested against plans to educate them in the national language instead of Russian. Since 1992, Estonia has naturalized some 137,000 residents of undefined citizenship, mainly ethnic Russians. 136,000, or 10 percent of the total population, remain without citizenship.

Ethnic Russians in former Soviet Union states
Although not among the largest immigrant groups, significant numbers of Russians emigrated to Canadamarker, Australia, the United Statesmarker and Brazilmarker. Brighton Beachmarker, in the New York Citymarker borough of Brooklynmarker, is an example of a large community of recent Russian immigrants. Another one is in Sunny Isles Beachmarker, a northern suburb of Miamimarker and "Little Moscow" in Hollywood of the Los Angelesmarker area.

At the same time, many ethnic Russians from former Soviet territories have emigrated to Russia itself since the 1990s. Many of them became refugees from a number of states of Central Asia and Caucasus (as well as from the separatist Chechen Republic), forced to flee during political unrest and hostilities towards Russians.

There are also the million-plus ethnic Germans, descendants of 16th to 18th century German settlement under the Russian empire from Belarusmarker, the Ukrainemarker and Central Asia in Kazakhstanmarker and Uzbekistanmarker. Many have left Russia and other former Soviet states for Germanymarker since the 1990s but aren't considered culturally German, as they have been "Russified".

Both the European Union and the Council of Europe, as well as the Russian government, expressed their concern during the 1990s about minority rights in several countries, most notably Latviamarker. In Moldovamarker, the Russian-dominated Transnistriamarker region broke away from government control amid fears the country would soon reunite with Romaniamarker. In June 2006 Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the plan to introduce national policy aiming at encouraging ethnic Russians to immigrate to Russia. [9413]

Russian Chinese

After the Russian Revolution in 1917, many Russians who were identified with the White army moved to Chinamarker — most of them settling in Harbinmarker and Shanghai. By the 1930s Harbin had 100,000 Russians. Many of these Russians had to move back to the Soviet Union after World War II. Today, a large group of people in northern China can still speak Russian as a second language.

Russians are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of Chinamarker (as the Russ), and there are approximately 15,600 Russian Chinese living mostly in northern Xinjiang, and also in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiangmarker. See also Harbin Russians and China Far East Railway.

Notable achievements

Various Russians have greatly contributed to the world of music, sports, science, technology and arts. Notable Russian scientists include Dmitri Mendeleev, Alexander Popov (one of inventors of radio), Nikolai Lobachevsky, Ivan Pavlov, Alexander Lodygin, Pavel Yablochkov, Nikolai Zhukovsky, Alexander Prokhorov and Nikolay Basov (co-inventors of laser), Georgiy Gamov, Vladimir Zworykin, Nikolai Semyonov, Aleksandr Butlerov, Andrei Sakharov, Sergey Korolyov and Mstislav Keldysh (creators of the Soviet space program), Aleksandr Lyapunov, Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky, Nikolay Bogolyubov, Andrei Kolmogorov, Andrei Tupolev, Yuri Denisyuk (the first practicable method of holography), Mikhail Lomonosov, Vladimir Vernadsky, Pyotr Kapitsa, Igor Sikorsky, etc.

The first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, was Russian, and the first artificial satellite to be put into outer space, Sputnik 1, was launched by the Soviet Unionmarker and was developed mainly by Sergey Korolyov who had a Russian father (his mother was Ukrainian).

Russian Literature representatives like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, Anton Chekhov, Alexander Pushkin, and many more, reached a high status in world literature. In the field of the novel, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in particular were important figures, and have remained internationally renowned. Some scholars have described one or the other as the greatest novelist ever. "Russian literature." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 16 July 2007 />.

Russian composers who reached a high status in the world of music include Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Prokofiev, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Russian people had a crucial part in the victory over Nazi Germany at World War II. Russian's casualties in WWII is the biggest of all nationes with number more than 20 mln died (average 80% Russians in total 26.6 mln lost in USSRmarker population), which is about half of all World War II casualties and the vast majority of Allied casualties. According to the Britishmarker historian Richard Overy, the Eastern Front contained more combat than all the other European fronts combined. The German army suffered 80% to 93% of all of its total WW2 combat casualties on the Eastern Front. Overy also wrote that it was on the Eastern Front that the war was won or lost, for if the Red Army had not succeeded against all odds in halting the Germans in 1941 and then inflicting the first major defeats at Stalingradmarker and Kurskmarker in 1943, it is difficult to see how the western democracies, Britainmarker and the USmarker, could have expelled Germany from its new empire. .

See also

References and notes

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