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Nations of Russia

The Komi-Permyaks

They live in Komi-Permyak Autonomous Oblast, Permskaya Oblast.
Language: Komi-Permyak, belongs to Finno-ugric group
Religion: Orthodox Christians; some "Old Believers".
Diaspora: A couple of thousand Komi Permyaks live in Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

The Komi ancestors originally inhabited the middle and upper Kama river region. They were closely related with the Udmurts, but at some point more than 2000 years ago, they split. Around 500 AD, the Komi themselves split. Those who stayed behind in the Kama basin area became known as Komi Permyaks.
Perm is mentioned for the first time in Russian sources in 1187, when men from Novgorod completed one of their first campaigns to the Ural mountains to collect furs and taxes. In the 15th c., a Komi territorial formation existed, headed by a prince. Moscow had established its influence over the Vychegda area by this time, and started to expand their influence also to the Kama area, the homeland of the Komi-Permyaks. In 1463, bishop Iona baptised some of the Komi-Permyaks. Nine years later, after a military campaign, Moscow had gained control over the area, which became a forepost of trade with Siberia, and later - of the conquest of Siberia.
From the 16th c. onwards, Russians started to settle in the area, and salt and mining industry was established. Many Komi-Permyaks were exploited as cheap serf-like labour in these industries, suffering poverty and loss of their traditional way of life. At the same time population was increasing, and from the 19th c. onwards there was not enough land, and many migrated to Siberia.
After the revolution and the civil war, in 1921, the Komi autonomous oblast was established. After a couple of years of discussion on whether to try to include also the Komi-Permyaks in this administrative unit, in 1925 the Komi-Permyak autonomous okrug was established within the Perm oblast instead. The Komi-Permyaks experienced cultural progress, with schools and books in their own language, but the economy did not develop.
In the 30s, collectivisation and repression led to a hunger catastrophe and population decrease.
In the last decades, more and more Komi-Permyaks have been assimilated, and the proportion of the Komi-Permyaks living in the Komi-Permyak autonomous okrug has gone down, as many have moved out to other parts of the Perm oblast or to other regions.


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