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Russia is a vast country covering a massive geographical area, from east to west it covers 11 time-zones and is the largest country in the world. It is only natural that a great different number of indigenous people found home within its international borders.

The population of Russia is 147 million, which makes it the 9th largest populated country in the world. Of this number, 120 million are Russian which make up the East Slav ethnic group. This group is made up from the northern and southern tribes and makes up the majority of the people living in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine.

The East Slavs have always resided on the vast East European Plain, and although over time they have come into contact with other indigenous populations, there has been little mixing during these periods. The Eastern Slavs survived in the dense forests by practicing the “slash and burn” agricultural methods.

This proved to be successful and their natural increase in numbers saw them spreading northwards occupying other areas. As this spread continued, the Russian people split politically into Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, all speaking different languages.

The Tartar people in traditional dress

Another large indigenous group of people in Russia are the Tartars, with a population of almost 7 million people. They are part of the Turkic people who mainly occupy Turkey. The group descended from the Mongol empire that travelled westwards from the far-East, pushing the Tartars into central Russia.

The largest group is the Volgar Tatars who speak their own language. There is a large influence of Asian culture in the Tatars who have originated from Mongolia. Their spread across the Russian Plain was a result of the empire building activities of their leader Genghis Khan in the 12th century.

As they have spread into Russia, they have split into different ethnic groups with the largest group being in Tatarstan. However, there are many other Tatar groups, but they do not have the same numbers as the Volga Tatars.

There are almost 850,000 Mordvins that live in Russia, with just over half of them residing in Mordovia. There are two separate groups: the Erzya and the Moksha. The Erzya people speak Erzyan and are spread widely across the country. The Moksha also speak their own language and are as widely spread as the Erzya.

Mordvin children

Mordvins are recognizable from other Russians by their appearance. They pride themselves on their national costumes which are colorful outfits, often accompanied by head dresses. They also have original looks, with much of the population being slight in frame with dark hair and blue eyes.

The Chechens are a large ethnic group that is found in the Caucasus Mountains, in the republic of Chechen. The isolated nature of the region has influenced the group, making it fiercely independent, and it is home to over 1.2 million Chechens who live there.

The Chechens have descended from the Nakh people who have lived in the mountains of this area for 3000 years. They have been influenced by different cultures, but now the people are mainly Muslim, and throughout their history they have been at conflict with the rest of the country, as they seek their own independence.

Another population related to the highlands are the Armenians who are the dominant ethnic group in Armenia. With a population totalling over 3 million, the group are mainly Christian, but they are not as isolated as the Chechens. There are over 2 million Armenians that now live in other areas of the world.

Russia is also home to the Avars who live in the North Caucasus region. There are over 540,000 who live in villages that can generally be found at about 2000m metres above the sea level. They are mainly Sunni Muslims and speak the Avar language. They are known to have originated to the south-east of the Caspian Sea before migrating into the region.

Russia has many more indigenous peoples, but they are smaller in numbers and restricted to small areas of the region.