Russians - Emergence of Russian Ethnicity

Emergence of Russian Ethnicity

According to some modern ethnologists, ethnic Russians originated from the earlier Rus' people and gradually evolved into a separate ethnicity from the western Rus peoples, who became known as the modern-day Belarusians and Ukrainians. Early ancestors of the Russians were East Slavic tribes migrating to the East European Plain in the early Middle Ages. Most prominent Slavic tribes in the area of what is now European Russia included Vyatichs, Krivichs, Radimichs, Severians and Ilmen Slavs. By the 11th century, East Slavs assimilated the Uralic tribes Merya and Muroma, and the Baltic tribe Eastern Galindae that inhabited the same area (now Central Russia).

Ethnic Russians were referred to as Great Russians (as opposed to the ethnonyms White Russian and Little Russian) and began to be recognized as a distinct ethnic group in the 15th century. At that time, during the consolidation of the Russian Tsardom as a regional power, they were referred to as Moscovites in the West. Between the 12th and 16th century, Russians known as Pomors migrated to northern Russia and settled the White Sea coasts. As a result of these migrations and Russian conquests, after the liberation from the Mongol Golden Horde domination during the 15th and 16th century, Russians settled the Volga, Urals and Northern Caucasus regions. Between the 17th and 19th century, migrants settled eastwards in the vast, sparsely inhabited areas of Siberia and the Russian Far East. The Cossack movement played a significant role in these territorial expansions and migrations.

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