March 16, 2010

Vepses: who they are?

Veps or Vepsians are a Finnic people that speak the Veps language, which belongs to the Baltic-Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric languages. The self-designations of these people in various dialects are vepslaine, bepslaane, and (in northern dialects, southwest of Lake Onega) lüdinik and lüdilaine. In early Russian chronicles, they are called "Весь" (Ves’).

From archeological studies and old names suggest that they lived at least in the valleys of the rivers Sheksna, Suda and Syas. They probably also lived in Olonets Karelia and on the northern coast of Lake Onega. One of the eastern routes of Vikings went through their area. Tomb findings prove that they had contact with Staraya Ladoga, western Finnish area and Meryans, other Volga Finnic tribes and later with Novgorod and other Russian principalities.
Later Vepsians inhabited also Western and Eastern shores of Onega.

From 12th century their history is connected with first Novgorod and then Russia. Eastern Vepsians in Kargopol area merged linguistically with Russians before 20th century. Western Vepsians have kept their language and culture. Nowadays almost all Vepsians speak fluently in Russian.

In modern times, they live in the area between Lake Ladoga, Lake Onega (Änine), and White Lake or Lake Beloye (Valged’ärv, Белое Озеро) - in the Russian Republic of Karelia in the former Veps National Volost (the northern Veps dialect area), in Leningrad Oblast along the Oyat River in the Podporozhskii and Lodeinopolskii raions and further south in the Tikhvinskii raion (western parts of the Central Veps dialect area), in the Vytegorskii and Babayevo raions of the Vologda Oblast (eastern parts of the Central Veps dialect area), and in the Boksitogorskii raion of the Leningrad Oblast (southern Veps dialect area).

According to the 2002 census, there were 8240 Veps in Russia. Of the 281 Veps in Ukraine, 11 speak Vepsian. (Ukr. Census 2001).

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