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Template:Ethnic group

Russians (Russian: Русские - Russkiye) are an East Slavic ethnic group, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries.

The English term Russians is also used to refer to citizens of Russia, regardless of their ethnicity (see demographics of Russia for information on other nationalities inhabiting Russia); in Russian, this meaning is covered by the recently revived politically correct term Rossiyanin (Россиянин, plural Rossiyane). According to 2002 census, ethnic Russians make up about 80 % of the population of Russia [1].


Russians are the most numerous ethnic group in Europe and one of the largest in the world with a population of about 135 million people worldwide. Roughly 116 million ethnic Russians live in Russia and about 16 million more live in the neighboring countries. A relatively significant number of Russians, around 3 million, live elsewhere in the world, mostly in North America and Western Europe, but also in other places of Eastern Europe, Asia and elswhere.


Orthodox Christianity is a dominant faith among the Russians. More specifically, the vast majority of Russian believers belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, which played an important 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 under the Patriarch of Moscow) or historical origin (like the Orthodox Church in America or a Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Even non-religious Russians mostly associate themselves with Orthodox faith for cultural reasons. Some Russians are Old Believers: a relatively small schismatic group of the Russian Orthodoxy that rejected the liturgical reforms introduced in the 17th century.

Despite continuing growth in religious observance since Soviet times, church attendance rates in Russia are relatively low.

Other world religions have negligible representation among ethnic Russians.

See also category:Religion in Russia.

Russians outside of Russia

The largest ethnic Russian diasporas outside of Russia live in former Soviet states such as Ukraine (about 8 million), Kazakhstan (about 4 million), Belarus (about 1 million), Uzbekistan (about 700,000), Latvia (about 700,000), Kyrgyzstan (about 600,000) and Moldova (about 500 000). There are also small Russian communities in the Balkans, Eastern and Central European nations such as the Czech Republic, as well as in China and Latin America. These communities may identify themselves either as Russians or citizens of these countries, or both, to varying degrees.

The governments and the majority public opinion in Estonia and Latvia, which has the largest share of ethnic Russians among the Baltic countries, hold the view that many of the ethnic Russians arrived in these countries as part of a Soviet-era colonization and deliberate Russification by changing the countries' ethnic balance. Among the many Russians who arrived during the Soviet era most came there for economic reasons, or in some cases, because they were ordered to move.

People who had arrived to Latvia and Estonia during the Soviet era, mostly Russians, were only provided with an option to acquire naturalised citizenship which required passing a test demonstrating knowledge of the national language as well as knowledge of the country's history and customs. The language issue is still contentious, particularly in Latvia, where ethnic Russians have protested against plans to educate them in the national language instead of Russian.

Although not among the largest immigrant groups, significant numbers of Russians emigrated to Canada, Australia, and the United States. Brighton Beach, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is an example of a large community of recent Russian immigrants. 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.

Although accepting the need to redress the Soviet-era policies, 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. In Moldova, the Russian-dominated Transnistria region broke away from government control amid fears the country would soon reunite with Romania.

Russian Chinese

Russians (俄罗斯族) are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China (as the Russ), and there are approximately 15,600 Russian Chinese living mostly in northern Xinjiang, and also in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang. See also Harbin Russians and China Far East Railway.

Emergence of Russian ethnicity

Russians in traditional dress

Russians began to be recognized as a distinct ethnic group in the 15th century, when they were referred to as Muscovite Russians, during the consolidation of Muscovy Tsardom as a regional power. Between 12th and 16th century Russians known as Pomors migrated to Northern Russia and settled White Sea coasts. As a result of the migrations and Russian conquests (following liberation from the Mongol Golden Horde domination) during 15th-16th centuries Russians settled the Volga, Urals and Northern Caucasus regions. Between 17th and 19th centuries Russian migrants settled previously mostly uninhabited areas in Siberia and Russian Far East.

According to most ethnologists ethnic Russians originated from the earlier Rus' people (East Slavs of Kievan Rus), and gradually evolved into a different ethnicity from the western Rus people who became the modern-day Belarusians and Ukrainians. Some ethnologists maintain that Russians were a distinct Slavic group even before the time of Kievan Rus. Others believe that the distinguishing feature of the Russians is not primarily their separation from Western Rus, but that ethnic Russians are a mix of East Slavic and non-Slavic (for example Finno-Ugric, Germanic, Baltic and Turkic) tribes. However, the origin of the Slavic peoples is itself a matter of on which there is no consensus.

See also

Online references

  1. Federal Service of State Statistics: 4.1. Population by nationality (in Russian)

cv:Вырăссем de:Russen es:Etnia rusa eo:Rusoj ko:러시아인 ka:რუსები la:Russi lt:Rusai ja:ロシア人 os:Уырыссаг адæм pl:Rosjanie pt:Russos ru:Русские sl:Rusi sr:Руси fi:Venäläiset nl:Russen sv:Ryssar tt:Urıs xalqı uk:Росіяни zh:俄罗斯族