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Ethnicities in Russia: the Tatars, Altai, Chukchi, and Yukaghir People

What traits do you think of when you imagine "a Russian"? Of course, in a country that covers such a vast area of land, it's impossible to have a wholly homogenous society. In fact, Russia is known as a multinational state; here you can find more than 190 nationalities. Most of them ended up on the territory of the modern Russian Federation peacefully, in the process of the annexation of new territories. Each nation is distinguished by its rich history, culture, and heritage. The uniqueness and diversity of its people are a few of the main cultural treasures of Russia.

Of course, Russians are the most numerous ethnic group in Russia and make up about 80% of the whole population, but there are also many other nationalities, the number of which can be from 100 to 5 million people. We will not be able to touch all the wealth of nationalities of Russia in one article, so we will only focus on some of them.


Tatars are a group of Turkic people living in central European Russia. 37% of all Tatars in Russia live in the Republic of Tatarstan and make up the majority (53%) of the republic's population. The national language is Tatar (a part of the group of Altaic languages) and has several dialects. The majority of Tatars are Sunni Muslims, there are also orthodox, and those who do not identify themselves as belonging to any specific religious movements. One of the most significant pre-Islamic holidays is Sabantuy, a plough holiday held in spring and symbolizing the end of sowing.

Altai People

The Altai people are an ethnic group that includes the following nationalities: Teleuts, Telengits or Teles, Kumandits, and Tubalars. They are generally divided into two groups - southerners and northerners. Southern Altaians speak the Southern Altai language which was called Oirat until 1948. The Altai people are very spiritual people, they believe that everything has a soul: from stones to water, wood, and other inanimate objects. Every Altai family has its own sacred mountain. There live their spiritual protectors, the ancestors of their family. It is strictly forbidden for women to visit this mountain, and it is also forbidden to stand barefoot at the foot of the shrine.


What do you know about Chukotka? The harsh climate and winters that last for months are not the best conditions. Therefore, such a place is home only to the descendants of the reindeer herders and sea hunters. Even in ancient times, the Russians, Yakuts, and Evenks called the reindeer herders, that lived in the far north-east of Russia, Chukchi. The name speaks for itself. On the language of the herders, "chauchu" - rouhgly trasnlates as "rich in reindeer". People who deal with the herds refer to themselves by that name. And the dog breeders are referred to as the Ancalyns. This ethnic group was formed as a result of a mixture of Asian and American phenotypes. The Chukchi are accustomed to live in camps, which are removed and revived as soon as they run out of reindeer food. In summer, they move closer to the sea. The constant need to relocate does not prevent them from creating rather large dwellings. The main and daily food of the Chukchi used to be meat, both cooked and raw. It is also worth noting the special love of the Chukchi people for alcohol and tobacco.

Yukaghir people

The Yukaghirs are the descendants of the once strong and numerous ethnic group of Omoksk people, that inhabit the territory from the Indigirka to Anadyr. They are hardworking, live rather calmly, are engaging in reindeer breeding, hunting animals, fish, and birds, and make clothes out of reindeer skins. Their lifestyle is similar to that of the Chukchi. The dwellings of these herders resemble Russian huts, the only difference being the hearth that is used instead of an oven. Nomadic Yukaghirs, however, live in portable tents. The Yukaghirs love their music and singing, as well as fairy tales. On one side the folklore has stories about their prowesses and hunting feats and about old bogatyrs, as well as legends, especially about the deeds of their ancestors; on the other side, it had an abundance of gentle love stories. The Yukaghirs tend to be quite sociable, carefree, and hospitable. Like many other ethnic groups indigenous to Russia, the traditional beliefs of Yukaghir people are not monothetic and usualy focus on the nature around them. They worship the animals, the fire, the bears, and their own ancestors.

There are also many people from other countries in Russia. For example, Germans, Vietnamese, Arabs, Serbs, Romanians, Czechs, Americans, Kazakhs, Ukrainians, French, Italians, Slovaks, Croats, Tuvans, Uzbeks, Spaniards, British, Japanese, Pakistanis, etc. Most of these ethnic groups make up 0.01% of the total population, but there are some that make up more than 0.5%.

One can go on and on, for the vast territory of the Russian Federation is capable of accommodating many peoples, both indigenous and those arriving from other countries and continents, under one roof.

In case you want to learn more about how Russian territory is divided and where each ethnic group lives, we would recommend you this video!

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