Russians - Origins

Origins

Further information: Rus' (people), Primary Chronicle, and Lech, Czech and Rus

The modern Russian is formed from two groups, Northern and Southern, which were made up of Kriviches, Ilmen Slavs, Radimichs, Vyatiches and Severians East Slavic tribes. Genetic studies show that modern Russians do not differ significantly from Poles or Slovenians or Ukrainians. Some ethnographers, like Zelenin, affirm that Russians are more similar to Belarusians and Ukrainians than southern Russians to northern Russians. Russians in northern European Russia share moderate genetic similarities with Uralic peoples, who lived in modern north central European Russia and were partly assimilated by the Slavs as the Slavs migrated northeastwards. Among those peoples were Merya and Muromian.

Outside archaeological remains, little is known about the predecessors to Russians in general prior to 859 AD when the Primary Chronicle starts. It is thought that by 600 AD, the Slavs had split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches. The eastern branch was settled between the Southern Bug and the Dnieper Rivers in what is now Ukraine; from the 1st century AD through almost the millennium, they spread peacefully northward to the Baltic region, assimilating indigents and forming the Dregovich, Radimich and Vyatich Slavic tribes on the Baltic substratum, therefore having language features such as vowel reduction. Later, both Belarusians and South Russians formed themselves on this ethnic linguistic ground.

Since the 6th century, another group of Slavs moved from Pomerania to northeast of the Baltic Sea, where they encountered the Varangians of the Rus' Khaganate and established the important regional center of Novgorod. This is possibly why Russians are known in Finnic languages as Venedes, a name derived for West Slavs. The same Slavic ethnic population also settled the present-day Tver Oblast and the region of Beloozero. With the Uralic substratum, they formed Kriviches and Ilmen Slavs.

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