Russians (Russian: русские, tr. russkiye, IPA: ˈruskʲɪje) are an East Slavic ethnic group native to European Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe (some territories of the former Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire); they are the most numerous ethnic group in Europe. The majority of ethnic Russians live in the Russian Federation, but notable minorities exist in other former Soviet states such as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Ukraine and the Baltic states. A large Russian diaspora (sometimes including Russophones, i.e. Russian-speaking non-Russians) has developed all over the world, with notable numbers in the United States, Germany, Brazil, and Canada. The culture of the ethnic Russian people has a long tradition and it is a foundation for the modern culture of the whole of Russia. The Russian language originally was the language of ethnic Russians. They are historically Orthodox Christians by religion.
|Regions with significant populations|
|7,170,000 (2018) including Crimea|
(including Russian Jews and Russian Germans)
(excluding ethnic German repatriates)
(including Russian Jews and Russian Germans)
(including Russian Jews)
(Russian ancestry, excluding Russian Germans)
|approx 96,000 (1999)|
|Predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christianity |
(Russian Orthodox Church)
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other East Slavs (Belarusians and Ukrainians), Eastern South Slavs (Bulgarians, Serbs, Macedonians, and Montenegrins)|
The ethnic Russians formed from East Slavic tribes and their cultural ancestry is based in Kievan Rus'. The Russian word for ethnic Russians is derived from the people of Rus' and the territory of Rus'. The Russians share many historical and cultural traits with other European peoples, and especially with other East Slavic ethnic groups, specifically Belarusians and Ukrainians. Many ethnic groups had a common history within the former Soviet Union and Russian Empire, which was influential in the spreading of Russian culture and language. The Russian language is official in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and is also spoken as a secondary language in many former Soviet states.
The ethnic Russians make up the largest of the 194 ethnic groups who live in Russia, according to the 2010 census. Some 80.90% (111,016,896 people) of the population identified voluntarily as ethnically Russian. The Constitution declares Russia to be a multinational (multiethnic) state and it namedthe "multinational people of Russia" as a sovereign nation (i.e. not ethnic Russian, officially Russia is not a nation state). The Russian word used for citizens of Russia is different from the word for ethnic Russian (see Citizenship of Russia); other languages often do not distinguish between these two groups. The Tsardom of Russia became a multi-ethnic state in the 16th century in its imperial phase (see History of Russia). The number of ethnic Russians living outside the Russian Federation is estimated at roughly between 20 and 30 million people (see Russian diaspora).
Two Russian words are commonly translated into English as "Russians". One is "русские" (russkiye), which most often means "ethnic Russians" (the subject of this article). Another is "россияне" (rossiyane), which means "citizens of Russia". The former word refers to ethnic Russians, regardless of what country they live in or whether they hold Russian citizenship. Under certain circumstances, this term may or may not extend to denote members of other Russian-speaking ethnic groups from Russia, or from the former Soviet Union. The latter word refers to all people holding citizenship of Russia, regardless of their ethnicity, and does not include ethnic Russians living outside Russia. Translations into other languages often do not distinguish these two groups.
The name of the Russians derives from the Rus' people (supposedly Varangians). According to the most prevalent theory, the name Rus', like the Finnish name for Sweden (Ruotsi), is derived from an Old Norse term for "the men who row" (rods-) as rowing was the main method of navigating the rivers of Eastern Europe. It could be associated to the Swedish coastal area of Roslagen (Rus-law) or Roden, as it was known in earlier times. The name Rus' would have the same origin as the Finnish and Estonian names for Sweden: Ruotsi and Rootsi. Although Russian history and culture is shaped also by Germanic people such as the Vikings, there are also theories that Rus' is of a non-Germanic origin. According to the historian Lydia Groth, Roslagen in IX—XII centuries was unsuitable for life, as it was under water at a depth of 6–7 meters. Furthermore, the name Roslagen was first documented only in 1493. According to other theories the name Rus' is derived from Proto-Slavic *roud-s-ь ( from *rъd-/*roud-/*rуd- root), connected with red color (of hair) or from Indo-Iranian (ruxs/roxs — «light-colored», «bright»).
The modern Russians formed from two groups of East Slavic tribes: Northern and Southern. These tribes included the Krivichs, Ilmen Slavs, Radimichs, Vyatiches and Severians. Genetic studies show that modern Russians do not differ significantly from Belarusians and Ukrainians. Some ethnographers, like Dmitry Konstantinovich Zelenin, affirm that Russians are more similar to Belarusians and to Ukrainians than southern Russians are to northern Russians. Russians in northern European Russia share moderate genetic similarities with Finnic peoples, who lived in modern north-central European Russia and were partly assimilated by the Slavs as the Slavs migrated northeastwards. Such Finnic peoples included the Merya and the Muromians.
The territory of Russia has been inhabited since 2nd Millennium BCE by Indo-European, Ural-Altaic, and various other peoples; however, not much is known about them. Slavic people are native to the western part of Russia. Outside archaeological remains, little is known about the predecessors to Russians in general prior to 859 AD, when the Primary Chronicle starts its records. By 600 AD, the Slavs are believed to have split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches.
The eastern branch settled between the Southern Bug and the Dnieper rivers in present-day Ukraine; from the 1st century AD through almost the turn of the millennium, they spread peacefully northward to the Baltic region, forming the Dregovich, Radimich and Vyatich Slavic tribes on the Baltic substratum. They developed some changed language features, such as vowel reduction. Later, both Belarusians and South Russians emerged from this ethnic linguistic ground or family.
From the 6th century onward, another group of Slavs moved from Pomerania to the northeast of the Baltic Sea, where they encountered the Varangians of the Rus' Khaganate and established the important regional center of Novgorod. The same Slavic ethnic population also settled the present-day Tver Oblast and the region of Beloozero. With the Uralic substratum, they formed the tribes of the Krivichs and of the Ilmen Slavs.
Kievan Rus' was a loose federation of states that existed from the late 9th to the mid-13th century. Modern Russians derive their name and cultural ancestry from Kievan Rus'.
In 2010, the world's Russian population was 129 million people of which 86% were in Russia, 11.5% in the CIS and Baltic countries, with a further 2.5% living in other countries.
Roughly 111 million ethnic Russians live in Russia, 80% of whom live in the European part of Russia, and 20% in the Asian part of the country.
Former Soviet states
Ethnic Russians historically migrated throughout the area of former Russian Empire and Soviet Union, sometimes encouraged to re-settle in borderlands by the Tsarist and later Soviet government. 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 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 Russia live in former Soviet states such as Ukraine (about 8 million), Kazakhstan (about 3.8 million), Belarus (about 785,000), Latvia (about 520,000) with the most Russian settlement out of the Baltic States which includes Lithuania and Estonia, Uzbekistan (about 650,000) and Kyrgyzstan (about 419,000).
There are also small Russian communities in the Balkans, including Lipovans in the Danube delta, Central European nations such as Germany and Poland, as well Russians settled in China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, 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. 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 the 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.
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 Russian Jewish immigrants. Other examples are Sunny Isles Beach, a northern suburb of Miami, and in West 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.
Russian culture originated from that of the East Slavs, who were largely polytheists, and had a specific way of life in the wooded areas of Eastern and Northern Europe. The Scandinavian Vikings, or Varangians, also took part in forming the Russian identity and state in the early Kievan Rus' period of the late 1st millennium AD. The Rus' accepted Christianity from the Byzantine Empire in 988, and this largely defined Russian culture for the next millennium, namely as a 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 was strongly influenced by European culture, and since the reforms of Peter the Great Russian culture largely developed in the context of Western culture. For most of the 20th century, Marxist ideology shaped the culture of the Soviet Union, where Russia, i.e. the Russian SFSR, was the largest and leading part.
Russian culture is varied and unique in many respects. It has a rich history and a long tradition in all of the arts, especially in fields of literature and philosophy, classical music and ballet, architecture and painting, cinema and animation, all of which had considerable influence on 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, 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.
Russian ( , transliteration: Russkiy yazyk, [ˈruskʲɪj jɪˈzɨk]) 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, Ukrainian and Rusyn.
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.
Russian has palatal secondary articulation of consonants, the so-called soft and hard sounds. This distinction is found in most consonant phonemes and is one of the most distinguishing features of the language. Another important aspect is the reduction of unstressed vowels, not unlike a similar process in English. Stress in Russian is often described as "unpredictable": it can fall on almost any syllable, and this is one of the difficult aspects for foreign language learners.
Due to the status of the Soviet Union as a super power, Russian gained a great political importance in the second half of the 20th century. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations. All astronauts working in the International Space Station are required to master Russian.
According to data published in the journal «Language Monthly» (No. 3, 1997), approximately 300 million people around the world at the time mastered the Russian language (making it the 5th most popular language in the world by total number of speakers), while 160 million considered Russian their native language (making it the 7th in the world by number of native speakers). The total number of Russian speakers in the world in the 1999 assessment was about 167 million, with about 110 million people speaking Russian as a second language.
Prior to 1991, Russian was the language of international communication of the USSR and the most common foreign language taught in schools in the countries of the Eastern Bloc in Central Europe. It continues to be used in the countries that were formerly parts of the Soviet Union, both as the mother tongue of a significant percentage of the population, and as a language of international communication. While for various reasons residents of these countries might be unwilling to openly identify with Russian language, a major sociological study on the Russian language in the post-Soviet states conducted by Gallup, Inc., revealed that 92% of the survey respondents in Belarus, 83% in Ukraine, 68% in Kazakhstan and 38% in Kyrgyzstan chose Russian-language forms to complete the questionnaire for the survey (most notably, over forms in corresponding national languages).
In the U.S. state of New York in 2009, an amendment to the electoral law was adopted, according to which in all cities in the state having over a million people, all documents related to the election process should be translated into Russian (thus gaining equal status with Spanish, Korean, Filipino, Creole languages and three varieties of Chinese).
In places of compact residence of immigrants from the countries of the former USSR (Israel, Germany, Canada, the United States, Australia, etc.) Russian-language periodicals, radio and television channels are available, as well as Russian-language schools.
As of a different sociological surveys on religious adherence, from 41% to over 80% of the total population of Russia adhere to the Russian Orthodox Church. It has 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 largest of these groups are Islam with over 100,000 followers from national minorities, and Baptists with over 85,000 Russian adherents. Others are mostly Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union various new religious movements have sprung up and gathered a following among ethnic Russians. The most prominent of these are Rodnovery, the revival of the Slavic native religion also common to other Slavic nations, Another movement, very small in comparison to other new religions, is Vissarionism, a syncretic group with an Orthodox Christian background.
In science and technology, notable Russian scientists include Dmitri Mendeleev, Nikolay Bogolyubov, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (a founding father of rocketry and astronautics), Andrei Kolmogorov, Ivan Pavlov, Nikolai Semyonov, Dmitri Ivanenko, Alexander Lodygin, Alexander Popov (one of inventors of radio), Nikolai Zhukovsky, Alexander Prokhorov and Nikolay Basov (co-inventors of laser), 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, Konstantin Novoselov, Fyodor Shcherbatskoy, Mikhail Kalashnikov (inventor and designer of the AK-47 assault rifle and PK machine gun), and Nikolai Trubetzkoy.
The first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, was a 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 Russian aerospace engineer Sergey Korolyov.
Russian Literature representatives like Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ivan Turgenev, Anton Chekhov, Alexander Pushkin, and many more, reached a high status in world literature. Prominent Russian novelists such as Tolstoy in particular, were important figures and have remained internationally renowned. Some scholars have described one or the other as the greatest novelist ever.
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, Modest Mussorgsky, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Russian people played a crucial role in the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. 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. 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.
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