Citizens of Russia

Have you ever wondered if Russia is culturally Asian or European? Well, there isn’t one universal answer. There’s way more to Russia than just Russians. Russia is full of different ethnic groups and cultures. Since the land is so big (and yes, it is the biggest country in the world) more than one indigenous group inhabit it. Ethnic Russians, or Slavs, make up 81% of the total population. However, 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples live within the Russian borders. Many of these cultures are tiny, numbering less than 500,000 people, but others are far more significant. In Russia, there are 21 ethnic republics: Adyghe, Altay people, Bashkirs, Balkars, Buryat people, Chechens, Chuvash, Circassians, Ingushs, Kabardins, Kalmyks, Karachays, Karelians, Khakas, Komi peoples, Mordvin people, Ossetians, Mari people, Tatars, Tuvinians, Udmurts, and Yakuts. I will now explain some of these in more detail.

Tatars

Their capital, Kazan, is a major center of Muslim culture inside Russia. They are Russian and Turkic speaking people, numbering roughly 7 million souls. The Qolşärif mosque located in Kazan Kremlin is the largest mosque inRussia. If you visit this mosque you can take a look at the largest Koran in the world. The cover is encrusted with gold leaf, silver, malachite, jasper, turquoise, topaz, gold stone, etc. I found this to be pretty impressive!

Ossetians

The Ossetians are an Iranic ethnic group of the Caucasus mountains. They speak Ossetic, which is an Iranian language and are originally Muslim, although many have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Adyghe peoples

The Adyghe (aka Circassians or Cherkess) are a North Caucasian ethnic group. They speak Circassian and mostly practice Sunni Islam.

Nenets

272 miles long peninsula Yamal in Siberia is considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is also mother soil for vagrant tribes, the Nenets people. Their main occupation is reindeer breeding and all they have are reindeer, because they build houses of reindeer skin and make their clothes of it. There are a few thousand of herdsmen on the peninsula who have more than 500,000 reindeer.

Kalmyks

The Kalmyk people live in the ethnic republic of Kalmykia, located on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, and is the only Buddhist nation in Europe. Yes! They are Buddhist! The capital, Elista, is home to the largest Buddhist temple in Europe “The Golden Cloister of Buddha Shakjamuni”.

Chukchi

The Chukchi are indigenous people inhabiting the Chukchi Peninsula in Far East Siberia and shores of the Bering Sea region of the Arctic Ocean within the Russian Federation. They speak the Chukchi language and have a peculiar culture. Their appearance resembles that of the Eskimos. They are originally a hunting and gathering nomadic society, which for hundreds of years depended solely on reindeer and sea mammals. Over the course of years, Chukchis were educated in Soviet schools and today are almost one hundred percent literate and fluent in the Russian language. Nowadays, only a portion of them work directly in reindeer herding or sea mammal hunting, and continue to live a nomadic lifestyle in yaranga tents. In Russia, there are many jokes related to Chukchas. In jokes, they are depicted as generally primitive, uncivilized and simple-minded, but clever in a naive kind of way.

Here are some examples:

1. A Chukcha applies for membership in the Union of Soviet Writers. He is asked what literature he is familiar with. “Have you read Pushkin?” “No.” “Have you read Dostoevsky?” “No.” “Can you read at all?” The Chukcha, offended, replies, “Chukcha not reader, Chukcha writer!”

2. “Chukcha, why did you buy a fridge if it’s so cold in tundra?” / “Why, is minus fifty Celsius outside yaranga, is minus ten inside, is minus five in the fridge — a warm place, however!”

Itelmeni

Itelmens are a small ethnic group, who are original inhabitants of the Kamchatka peninsula. Their population today (speaking only of pure-blooded Itelmens) is about 1500. A number of anthropological studies revealed that the Itelmens’ closest genetic relatives are Indians of the Tlingit tribe resident in Alaska. And that’s not a surprise – they’ve settled here before the Bering Strait separated Asia from North America. Nowadays they are much more educated than the other indigenous ethnic groups of Kamchatka. But still they haven’t gone far from the primitive communal system.

Anyways, with this blog post, I just wanted to show that not all the citizens of Russia are your typical blue-eyed blondes.  Even if that’s the image most people have in the head when they think of Russians, it’s really not like that. Russia is so big and has all sorts of people. I just wanted to show this diversity. Have a nice day!

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