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Meet our Peoples

The Finno-Ugric peoples are part of a unique family of human cultures possessing languages, cultural and artistic traditions that form a distinctive and irreplaceable part of the beautiful tapestry of humanity. 

The linguistic kinship of the Finno-Ugric peoples was discovered by a Hungarian Catholic priest, János Sajnovics (1733-1785).  Today, the Finno-Ugrics are known to be part of a larger family, the Uralic languages which includes also the Samoyedic peoples:  the Nenets, Enets, Nganasans and Selkups.

According to the Russian Federation's 2002 census, 2 650 402 people identified themselves as Finno-Ugric.  However, experience shows that in all probability a large number of ethnic Finno-Ugrics, possibly even half, would likely have chosen to identify themselves simply as Russian.  Therefore, in all probability, the real number of Finno-Ugrics in the Russian Federation is 5 million or more.

When we add Estonians, Finns, Hungarians and Saamis, the world population of Finno-Ugrics exceeds 26 million! That means, there are nearly as many Finno-Ugrics as there are citizens of Canada!

 
 2 Udmurts, 1 Estonian, 2 Komi, 2 Mordvin

History of our Peoples

The original home of the Finno-Ugric peoples is generally believed to be west of the Ural Mountains, in the area of Udmurtia, Perm, Mordva and Mari-El.  By 3000 BC, the Baltic-Finnic groups had migrated west to the shores of the Baltic Sea.  At about the same time, the Saami migrated further north and further west, reaching the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.  The Magyars (known as Hungarians in English) made the longest and most recent journey from the area of the Ural Mountains to their present home in central Europe only in AD 896.

How old are the Finno-Ugric peoples?

The "Comb Ceramic Culture" (so named due to the comb like tool used to give artistic decoration to their pottery), which flourished between the Urals and the Baltic Sea between 4200 and 2000 BC, is generally presented as the oldest clear evidence for early Finno-Ugric communities.  This identification of the Comb Ceramic Culture is based in part upon discoveries of skeletal remains which share the Finno-Ugric distinctive mixture of caucasian and mongoloid features. 

But does the Finno-Ugric Comb Ceramic Culture represent the start or arrival of the Finno-Ugric people, or does the distinctive comb pattern simply show a new artistic tradition among an already old Finno-Ugric civilization?  Archaeologists are currently unable to answer that question. While archaeologists have discovered human settlements in this region going back to before the end of the last ice age, there is currently no evidence to identify these earlier settlements with the Finno-Ugrics or with any other known culture.  Since two or more ethnic groups may live in the same area, the geography itself is not sufficient to prove a relationship.  In order to positively identify these earlier settlements, it would be necessary to show some kind of connection, for example, similar artistic traditions that show a common culture.  Unfortunately, as these earlier settlements are 10 000 years old, there simply is not enough surviving evidence to make this kind of a link, leaving their identity a mystery.

How old are the Finno-Ugric peoples?  Currently it is impossible to give an exact answer.  The best we can say, is that the Finno-Ugric peoples originated west of the Urals sometime between the end of the last ice age in 8000 BC and 4200 BC.

To put that in perspective:
            writing was invented by the Sumerians in about 3800 BC.
            the pyramids in Egypt were built in 2500 BC
            Stonehenge in England was built in 2200 BC
            the Celts, ancestors of the Irish and the Scottish, arrived in the British Isles about 500 BC
            the English arrived in the British Isles after AD 400
            the Turks began their migration to Turkey in about AD 600.

As a result, anthropologists have referred to the Finno-Ugric peoples as being among the oldest permanently settled people groups in Europe, and the oldest surviving residents of north-eastern Europe.

It is, however, no longer possible to separate the history of the Finno-Ugric peoples from the history of a different people group, the Indo-European Slavs.

By AD 600, the Slavs had divided into southern, western and eastern branches and began a slow process of migration and expansion.  In the 9th century, the Eastern Slavs developed their power centres of Kievan Rus and Novgorod.  By the mid 16th century, with the Russian conquest of the Khanate of Kazan, virtually all Finno-Ugric group, not counting the Sami, Finns, Estonians and Hungarians, were under Russian control.

Today, most Finno-Ugric people groups live within Russian Federation, their future being forever linked to that of their large Slavic neighbour.

The Finno-Ugric Languages

 "Language diversity is essential to the human heritage. Each and every language embodies the unique cultural wisdom of a people. The loss of any language is thus a loss for all humanity."  UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Estonian philologist Mall Hellam has discovered only one sentence that is almost mutually intelligible in the three largest Finno-Ugric languages, Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian:  "The living fish swims under water."

"Eleven hal úszkál a víz alatt."  (Hungarian)
"Elävä kala ui veden alla."  (Finnish)
"Elav kala ujub vee all."  (Estonian)

To this can be added Erzya                             "Эрцця калосо укщны ведь алга" 

The Finno-Ugric languages are commonly divided into the following sub-families:

    Number of
Speakers
Total
Population 
UNESCO Rating: 
 Ugrian Hungarian   14 500 000 14 500 000   Not Endangered
Khanty  13 568 28 678   Endangered
Mansi   2 746 11 432   Seriously Endangered
Permian-
Finnic
Udmurt   463 837 636 906   Endangered
Komi, Zyryan  217 316 293 406   Endangered
Permian Komi   94 328 125 235   Endangered
Volga-
Finnic 
Erzya Mordvin   614 260 843 350   Endangered
Moksha Mordvin   Endangered
Meadow Mari   451 033 604 298   Endangered
Hill Mari   36 822  Endangered
Baltic-
Finnic
Finnish   5 500 000 5 500 000   Not Endangered
Estonian   1 000 000 1 000 000   Not Endangered
Karelian   52 880 93 344   Endangered
Aunus Karelian   Endangered
Vepsian   5 753 8 240   Seriously Endangered
Izhurian   362 327   Seriously Endangered
Votian   60 73   Nearly Extinct
Livonian   10 20   Nearly Extinct
Western 
Saami 
Northern Saami   15 000 80 000*   Endangered
Lule Saami   1 500  Seriously Endangered
Southern Saami   500  Seriously Endangered
Pite Saami   10-20  Nearly Extinct
Ume Saami   10-20  Nearly Extinct
Eastern
Saami
Kildin Saami   787  Seriously Endangered
Inari Saami   500  Seriously Endangered
Skolt Saami   400  Seriously Endangered
Ter Saami   10  Nearly Extinct
Akkala Saami   -  Extinct as of Dec. 2003
Kemi Saami   -  Extinct as of 19th. cent.

 Numbers for people groups in Russia taken from the 2002 Census of the Russian Federation.
*Total Saami populations are extremely difficult to determine due to assimilation
and the fact that they are spread out between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia

Compare the Finno-Ugric Languages

As with any family, members will have a closer resemblance with some and a more distant resemblance with others.  But it is the common roots of our language that identify us as a family, and form the foundation for exploring similar cultural, artistic and philosophical connections.

Finno-Ugric Numbers

 

10 

Finnish yksi kaksi kolme  nelj viisi  kuusi  seitsemän  kahdeksan  yhkeksän  kymmenen 
Estonian üks kaks kolm  neli  viis  kuus  seitse  kaheksa  üheksa  kümme 
Vepsa ükś kakś koume nel'  viž kuź  seičeme kahcan  ühcan  kümńe 
Karjala yksi kaksi  kolme   nelli viizi  kuuzi  seiččie   kaheka  yheks  kymmene 
Komi öти кык  куим  нель  вит   квайт  сизим   кöкъямыс  öкмыс   дас 
Udmurt одӥг кык куинь ньыль вить куать сизьым тямыс укмыс дас
Erzya вейке  кавто  колмо  ниле вете  кото  сисем  кавксо  вейксэ  кемень 
Meadow Mari ик  кок  кум  ныл  вич  куд  щым  кандащ  индещ  лу 
Hungarian egy kett  három négy öt hat  hét nyolc kilenc  tiz 
Khanty ит катн  хулм  нял  вет  хут  лапат  ниил  яртьянг  янг
Northern Saami okta guokte  golbma  njeallje  vihtta guhtta  čieža gávcci ovcci logi
Proto-Finno-Ugric ykte  kakte  kolm- neljä- vit(t)e  kut(t)e 

Common Finno-Ugric Words

  heart hand  eye  blood  go  fish  ice 
 Finnish sydän  käsi  silm  veri  menn  kala  jää 
 Estonian süda käsi  silm  veri  mine kala  jää
 Komi сьöлöм ки   син вир   мун  чери   йи  
 Udmurt сюлэм ки син   мын чорыг йӧ
 Erzya седей кедь сельме верь молемс кал эй
 Moksha              
 Meadow Mari шӱм кид шинча  вур  мияш  кол  ий 
 Hungarian szív kéz szem vér menni hal jég
 Khanty сам  ёш  сэм   вур  мана  хул  енгк 
 Northern Saami   giehta  čalbmi   mannat guolli jiekŋa
 Proto-Finno-Ugric śiδä(-mɜ) käte  śilmä   mene- kala jŋe

Finno-Ugric Personal Pronouns

 

 Baltic-Finnic

 Permian-Finnic

   Finnish Karelian Aunus Karelian Vepsa  Estonian Udmurt  Komi 
 I min  mie  min  min  mina  мон   ме
 you  sin  sie sin sin sina тон   тэ
 he / she  hän  hiän häi hän tema со   сiйö
 we  me  my müö meie ми   ми
 you (pl.)  te  työ tüö teie тӥ  тi
 they   he  hyö hüö nemad соос   найö

 

 Volga-Finnic

 Ugrian

   Mordvin Mari  Hungarian  Khanty 
   Erzya

Meadow
Mari 

 

     
 I мон   мый    én ма  
 you тон   тый    te нанг   
 he / she сон   тудо    õ лув   
 we минь   ме    mi мунг / мин   
 you (pl.) тынь   те    ti нын   
 they сынь   нуно    õk лув / лын   

 
Elupuu Elupuu in english Erzja page Khanty Komi Mari Udmurtia Veps