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The Russian people (, russkiye) are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia,[1] speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries.

The English term Russians is also used to refer to the citizens of Russia, regardless of their ethnicity;[2] the demonym Russian is translated into Russian as rossiyanin ( , plural rossiyane), while the ethnic Russians are referred to as russkiye (sg. , russkiy).

According to the 2010 census, ethnic Russians make up about 81% of the population of Russia.[3]



The modern Russian is formed from two groups, Northern and Southern, which were made up of Kriviches, Ilmen Slavs, Radimichs, Vyatiches and Severians East Slavic tribes. Genetic studies show that modern Russians do not differ significantly from Poles or Slovenians or Ukrainians. Some ethnographers, like Zelenin, affirm that Russians are more similar to Belarusians and Ukrainians than southern Russians to northern Russians. Russians in northern European Russia share moderate genetic similarities with Uralic peoples,[4][5] who lived in modern north central European Russia and were partly assimilated by the Slavs as the Slavs migrated northeastwards. Among those peoples were Merya[6] and Muromian.[4][7]

Outside archaeological remains, little is known about the predecessors to Russians in general prior to 859 AD when the Primary Chronicle starts.[8] It is thought that by 600 AD, the Slavs had split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches. The eastern branch was settled between the Southern Bug and the Dnieper Rivers in what is now Ukraine; from the 1st century AD through almost the millennium, they spread peacefully northward to the Baltic region, 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.[9]

Since the 6th century, another group of Slavs moved from Pomerania to northeast of the Baltic Sea, where they encountered the Varangians of the Rus' Khaganate and established the important regional center of Novgorod. This is possibly why Russians are known in 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 Beloozero. With the Uralic substratum, they formed Kriviches and Ilmen Slavs.


Russians show the characteristic R1a genes of paternal descent from a single male at 33.4% in North Russia to 49% in rest of Russia.[10][11][12] Such large frequencies of R1a have been found only in Eastern Europe and South and Central Asia.[13]

In Europe, R1a (Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA)) is found at its highest levels among peoples of Eastern European descent (Sorbs, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians; at about 50 to 65%).[14][15]

The percentages of Y-chromosome markers vary in ethnic Russian populations, and in different studies. The top four Y-DNA haplogroups are[16][17]:

Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA) - 19.8% to 62.7%, with an average of 46.7%

Haplogroup I (Y-DNA) - 0% to 26.8%, with an average of 17.6% (All regions), and 23.5% (Central and South Russia)

Haplogroup N (Y-DNA) - 5.4% to 53.7%, with averages of 21.6% (All regions), and 10% (Central and South Russia)

Haplogroup R1b (Y-DNA) - 0% to 14%, with an average of 5.8%

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 Uralic tribes Merya and Muroma, and the Baltic tribe Eastern Galindae that inhabited the same area (now Central Russia).

Ethnic Russians were 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 Tsardom as a regional power, they were referred to as Moscovites in the West. Between the 12th and 16th century, Russians known as Pomors migrated to northern Russia and settled the White Sea coasts. As a result of these migrations and Russian conquests, after 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 Siberia 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 116 million ethnic Russians live in Russia and about 16 million more live in the neighboring countries. A significant number of Russians, around 4,6 million, live elsewhere in the world, mostly in the Americas and Western Europe, but also in other places of Eastern Europe, Asia and elsewhere.


A girl in folk costume performing a Russian folk dance. Saint Basil's Cathedral on the Red Square, Moscow Russian culture started from that of East Slavs, who were largely polytheists, and had a specific way of life in the wooden areas of Eastern Europe. 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 millennium as the synthesis of Slavic and Byzantine cultures.[18] 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 Marxist 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,[19] especially when it comes to literature[20] and philosophy, classical music[21][22] and ballet,[23] architecture and painting, cinema[24] 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 Dostoyevsky, Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova, Joseph Brodsky, Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Sholokhov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Andrei Platonov, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Varlam Shalamov. 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, Igor Stravinski, Georgy Sviridov, and Alfred Schnittke. Many more famous Russian people are associated with different 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.

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 Union as a super power, Russian had great political importance in the 20th century, and is one of the official languages of the United Nations.

A group of Russian children, 1909. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. 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 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,[25] 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.

Non-religious Russians may associate themselves with the 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.[26] 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.[27][28][29]

Russians outside of Russia

Sainte-Genevi ve-des-Bois Russian Cemetery, the resting place of many eminent Russian migr s Ethnic Russians historically migrated throughout the area of former Russian Empire and Soviet Union, sometimes encouraged to re-settle in borderlands by Tsarist and later Soviet government.[30] On some occasions ethnic Russian communities, such as Lipovans who settled in the Danube delta or Doukhobors in Canada, emigrated 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 migr s 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 Ukraine (about 8 million), Kazakhstan (about 3.8 million), Belarus (about 785,000), Latvia (about 556,000) with the most Russian settlement out of the Baltic States which includes Lithuania and Estonia, Uzbekistan (about 650,000) and Kyrgyzstan (about 419,000). Russian Orthodox Church in Shanghai around 1948 Over a million Russian Jews emigrated to Israel 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,[31] about 300,000 are considered not Jewish according to the rabbinical commandments (but not all of them are ethnic Russians).[32] There are also small Russian communities in the Balkans, Eastern and Central European nations such as Germany and Poland, as well Russians settled in China, Japan, South Korea, Latin America (i.e. Mexico, Brazil and Argentina) and Australia. These communities may identify themselves either as Russians or citizens of these countries, or both, to varying degrees.

People who had arrived in Latvia and Estonia during the Soviet era, including their descendants born in these countries, mostly Russians, became stateless after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and were provided only with an option to acquire naturalised citizenship. The language issue is still contentious, particularly in Latvia, where ethnic Russians have protested against plans to liquidate education in minority languages, including 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 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 Latvia and Estonia. In Moldova, the Transnistria region (where 30.4% of population is Russian) broke away from government control amid fears the country would soon reunite with Romania. In June 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the plan to introduce a national policy aiming at encouraging ethnic Russians to immigrate to Russia.[33]

Significant numbers of Russians emigrated to Canada, Australia and the United States. Brighton Beach, Brooklyn and South Beach, Staten Island in New York City is an example of a large community of recent Russian and Jewish Russian immigrants. Other examples are Sunny Isles Beach, a northern suburb of Miami, and "Little Moscow" in Hollywood of the Los Angeles 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.

After the Russian Revolution in 1917, many Russians who were identified with the White army moved to China most of them settling in Harbin 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 (eluosizu) are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China (as the Russ); there are approximately 15,600 Russian Chinese living mostly in northern Xinjiang, and also in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang.

Notable achievements

Yuri Gagarin, first human in space (1961) Various Russians have greatly contributed to the world of music, sports, science, technology and arts. Notable Russian scientists include Dmitri Mendeleev, Nikolay Bogolyubov, Andrei Kolmogorov, Ivan Pavlov, Nikolai Semyonov, Dmitri Ivanenko, Nikolai Lobachevsky, Alexander Lodygin, Alexander Popov (one of inventors of radio), Nikolai Zhukovsky, Alexander Prokhorov and Nikolay Basov (co-inventors of laser), Georgiy Gamov, Vladimir Zworykin, Lev Pontryagin, Sergei Sobolev, Pavel Yablochkov, Aleksandr Butlerov, Andrei Sakharov, Dmitry Ivanovsky, Sergey Korolyov and Mstislav Keldysh (creators of the Soviet space program), Aleksandr Lyapunov, Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky, Andrei Tupolev, Yuri Denisyuk (the first practicable method of holography), Mikhail Lomonosov, Vladimir Vernadsky, Pyotr Kapitsa, Igor Sikorsky, Ludvig Faddeev, Zhores Alferov, Fyodor Shcherbatskoy, Nikolai Trubetzkoy 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 Union and was developed mainly by Sergey Korolyov who had a Russian father (his mother was Ukrainian).

Russian Literature representatives like Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lev 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 Dostoyevsky, in particular, were important figures and have remained internationally renowned. Some scholars have described one or the other as the greatest novelist ever.[34]

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

Russian people played a crucial role in the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Russia's casualties in this war were the highest of all nations, and numbered more than 20 million dead (Russians composed 80 % of the 26.6 million people lost by the USSR), which is about half of all World War II casualties and the vast majority of Allied casualties.[35] According to the British historian Richard Overy, the Eastern Front included more combat than all the other European fronts combined. The Wehrmacht suffered 80% to 93% of all of its total World War II combat casualties on the Eastern Front.

See also

References and notes

External links

kbd: af:Russe ar: an:Rusos av: az:Ruslar ba: be: be-x-old: bg: bxr: cv: cs:Rusov cy:Rwsiaid da:Russere de:Russen et:Venelased el: es:Pueblo ruso eo:Rusoj eu:Errusiar fa: fr:Russes fy:Russen ga:R isigh gag:Ruslar got: /Rusans ko: hy: hr:Rusi id:Bangsa Rusia ik:Uruusiq os: it:Russi he: krc: ka: kk: lbe: la:Russi lv:Krievi lt:Rusai hu:Oroszok mk: xmf: mdf: nl:Russen (volk) ja: no:Russere nn:Russarar mhr: uz:Ruslar pl:Rosjanie pt:Russos ro:Ru i ru: sah: sk:Rusi sl:Rusi cu: sr: sh:Rusi su:Urang Rusia fi:Ven l iset sv:Ryssar tt:Ur s xalq chr: tr:Ruslar udm: uk: vi:Ng i Nga fiu-vro:Vindl seq bat-smg:Ros zh:

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