Ethnography of Eastern Europe and the Baltics

The region is specific historical and geographical area inhabited by different peoples. The East European Plain characterized by territorial unity, severe climate, meridional direction of big rivers and latitudinal arrangement of bioclimatic zones, occupies the larger part of its territory.


Today three peoples: Russians, Ukrainians and Byelorussians closely related in linguistic and cultural aspects and belonging to the East Slavic branch of the Slavic group are the most numerous ethnic groups on the territory of the East European Plain. Other Slavic peoples living here are Poles, Czechs, Bulgarians, Slovaks and some low-numbered groups mainly settled in large cities.

Non-Slavic people predominantly occupy peripheral territories. Finno-Ugric peoples: Karelians, Izorians, Votes, Vepsians, Finns, Saami, Komis and Komi-Permyaks live in the north. Finno-Ugric peoples (Udmurts, Mordvins, Mari) and Turkic ethnic groups (Chuvashs, Tartars and Bashkirs) also live in the Volga and Kama regions. Mongolic-speaking Kalmyk people inhabit the south-east. Finnish-speaking Estonians and Livonians and Baltic-speaking Latvians and Lithuanians occupy the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea.

The south-west and the south of the East European Plain are populated by Moldovans who linguistically belongs to Romanian group, Turkic-speaking Gagauz, and Greeks. . Although natural conditions generally favored formation of ethno-cultural unity in the East European Plain, there are several areas distinguished by unique elements of material culture and cosmovision.

Central Area

The Central area is predominantly populated by Eastern Slavs. The distinctive feature of the area traditional economy is combination of agriculture, husbandry with hunting, fishing and foraging.

Geographical conditions, socio-political and economical factors caused formation of specific ethnographic groups within every ethnos such as Cossacks, Pomors, Smallholders, etc. among Russians, Rusyns, Verjovintsi, etc among Ukrainians and Polekhi among Byelorussians.

The Baltics Area

The Baltic area is populated by Baltic peoples and Baltic Finnish groups. In great measure the cultural specifics of the area was determined by its borderline position between Central and Eastern Europe.

Northern Area

The Northern area is populated by Russians and Finno-Ugric peoples. As a result of centuries-old neighbourship these peoples got many common features in culture, which in respect of its elements (occupations, settlements, dwelling, clothing, etc.) is similar to the northern Russian culture.

The Volga Area

Apart of Russians the Volga area is populated by Finno-Ugric and Turkic peoples. Peoples’ economy is characterized by combination of agriculture and husbandry with hunting, forest bee-keeping, and crafts. In course of centuries common ethno-cultural symbols of the area such as heavy plough saban, women jewelry, embroidery, etc., emerged. Kalmyks, who were nomads until recent times, in linguistic, anthropological and confessional respects occupy particular place.

The South-Western Area

The South-Western area is populated by Moldovans, Gagauz and Bulgarians whose ethno-cultural interaction contributed to formation of common cultural complex including vine-growing, horticulture, wattle and daub huts, clothing, etc. Jews and Romanies reside almost everywhere. Germans, Hungarians, Karaites and some other peoples live more clustered.