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About Russia

Nations of Russia

The Izhorians

The self-designations used are inkeroine-izhora-izhoralaine, 'Izhorian', also karjalain 'Karelian' and maav¤ki 'the Ingrian people'. The language is known as izhoran keeli ~ maakeeli. The Izhorians are descended from the Karelian tribes and even to this day they sometimes use the self-designation karjalain. The Ingrian territory has received its name from the southern tributary of the Neva, the Inkere, and according to some theories the Izhorian tribe has its origins in the valley of Inkere. The names izhora-izhoralaine, and the Estonian word isur come from the Russian version of the name of the river. Like the Estonians and the Votes, the Izhorians have also on occasion referred to themselves as 'country people'.
In written records the Izhorians have been mentioned from the 12th century on. In one of the papal bulls of Alexander III (ab. 1181--1195) in addition to the Karelians, the Lapps, and the Votes, "the pagans of Ingria" were also mentioned among those to whom it was forbidden to sell arms.
The Izhorians live in the western part of the St. Petersburg region, in the area between the Rivers Neva and Narva. In the Kingissepp District they live on the Kurkova (Kurgolovo) and the Soikkola (Soikino) peninsulas, in the Lomonosov District on the Izhorian Plateau in the neighbourhood of the River Khevakha (Kovash). An Izhorian linguistic enclave was also situated in the Gachina District, in the area of the River Oredezh, about 100 km south of Leningrad. Some traces of it (for instance in the village of Novinka) were preserved until the 1960s.
The development of the Izhorian habitat has been strongly influenced by neighbouring peoples. The Izhorians had moved from their original habitat on the River Neva to the west by the 17th century at the latest (partly as a result of the pressure of Russian settlers). The region of the Oredezh dialect came into being in connection with the migration after the Stolbovo Peace Treaty in 1617.
In 1848 the Izhorians lived in 222 villages and the number remained approximately the same in 1926. In 1964 A. Laanest recorded only 22 Izhorian villages, including 4 Votic-Izhorian and 2 Finnish-Izhorian mixed villages. In 1989 the situation was almost the same, for instance on the Soikkola Peninsula the Izhorians formed the majority, or at least a significant part, in 15 villages.
Anthropologically the Izhorians belong to the East Baltic race. In appearance the Izhorians do not differ from the Votes or the Finns in that they usually have fair hair and blue eyes.
The Izhorian language belongs to the northern group of the Baltic-Finnic languages. Its closest kindred languages are Karelian and the eastern dialects of Finnish. Once the ancestors of these peoples formed an ancient Karelian tribe, where Karelian was more or less commonly spoken. The separation had presumably occurred by the 11th century and by the 17th century the Izhorian language had reached its present area of distribution. On the basis of habitation, the Izhorian language is divided into 4 dialects: the Lower-Luga and Soikkola dialects which are spoken in the western part of Ingria, the Kheva dialect on the Izhorian Plateau, and the Oredezh or the Upper-Luga dialect which was spoken near the River Oredezh. The Oredezh dialect is now extinct.
Due to its origin, the Izhorian language is closely related with the Eastern-Finnish dialects. There have also been numerous contacts with the neighbouring Votes and Finns, who had begun to arrive from the southeast of Finland by the 17th century. These contacts resulted in mutual influences. In West-Ingria (Lower-Luga, Soikkola) the Votic language has influenced both Izhorian and Finnish (the more distant Oredezh dialect excluded) and in the surroundings of the River Khevakha there is a discernible Izhorian influence in the Votic language.
Although the first contacts with Russia were made in the 13th century the fact that several kindred languages (Izhorian, Votic, Estonian, Finnish) were used in the area, acted as a check on the influence of Russian. It was not until the brutal suppressions and the russification campaign of the 1930s that the Izhorian resistance was broken, and the Russian language became predominant. In addition to numerous loan words, the phonetics and grammar of the Izhorian language have also been significantly influenced by Russian.
In 1942--43 the Izhorians and the Votes were evacuated to Finland. After the war ended the Soviet Union sought to reclaim them, and they were deported to the Novgorod, Kalinin, Vologda and Jaroslavl regions. When after 1956 they were finally allowed to return home (where Russian colonists had settled in the meantime), there were only 1,062 Izhorians left. Physical extermination and russification had achieved their purpose: post-war generations of Izhorians have no knowledge of their native tongue.
The Izhorians have always cultivated land and been seafarers and fishermen. Their land was not fertile, so it was necessary to fish and hunt. Later trade, handicraft and migrant work increased in importance. East Ingria was always an important area for traffic and transitory trade. The Izhorians living on the banks of the Neva had been reloading goods and forwarding consignments since the 12th--13th centuries.
As with the Russians, the land in Ingria belonged to village communities. It was divided according to the number of families, or men, into plots. As there was not enough land, people had to earn a living through handicrafts and odd jobs as well. In the coastal villages the Izhorians took to carpentery in between fishing seasons, the Izhorians of Toldoga and Kargal were known as smiths and iron founders, and the East Izhorian villages were known for their weaving.
On the whole life within Izhorian villages resembled that in Russian villages by the beginning of the 19th century.
In 1930s an Izhorian written language based on the Latin alphabet was created. In Izhorian schools of West Ingria it was possible to get a native language primary education. Between 1932 and 1937, 25 textbooks in Izhorian were published (for instance V. Yunus. Izhoran keelen grammatikka. Morfologia. Opetajaijaa vart. 1936; V. Yunus, N. Ilyin. Inkeroisin (izhoran) keelen oppikirja alkushkouluja vart. 1936). Unfortunately, the Izhorian written language, their native-language schools, textbooks and even teachers were liquidated in 1937.
A remarkable amount of folk poetry, especially folk songs, have been collected in Ingria. In a Finnish anthology of folk songs "Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot" published in 1915--31, there are nine volumes (6,500 pages) of Izhorian songs. In the last decades A. Laanest has been the most active researcher in this field. His latest monograph "Isuri keele ajalooline foneetika ja morfoloogia" was published in 1986.


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