(Chapter IX, section 9)


Racial Characters of the Eastern Finns


Before studying in detail the physical characters of the Finno-Ugrian speaking peoples apart from the Baltic group and from the Hungarians, it will simplify matters considerably to state one fact which the existing anthropometric documents make evident: these peoples are all very much alike. The Mordvins, the Cheremisses, the Permians, the various Ingrian groups of the Leningrad region, and the Carelians as well, vary among themselves to only a very minor degree. In this respect they differ not only from the Baltic Finns and Magyars, but also to a lesser extent from the Ugrian-speaking peoples of Siberia. In order to define the basic racial type of the present-day central Finnic peoples, it will be easiest to describe that one group which has been subjected to the most thorough and most definitive modern racial study, the Carelians,72 and afterwards to see how the description so obtained applies individually to the other Finnic peoples.

There are nearly half a million Carelians in Europe; approximately half of these live in eastern Finland, and the rest are divided between the Carelian Republic of the USSR, which is adjoining, and small ethnic islands in the upper Volga country.73 Zolotarev's adult male sample includes 728 from the Carelian Republic, and 277 from the Volga country. In both divisions, what he considers dark hair is found among 9 per cent of the whole, and the same is true for dark eyes. The Volga group has 27 per cent of hair designated as quite blond, while the remaining majority falls into the light brown and brown category. The Carelians of the Republic have, in contrast, 40 per cent of the lightest class. The opposite disproportion is true of eye color; 42 per cent of the Volga Carelians are called light eyed and 49 per cent mixed; in the Republic the figures are 35 per cent and 55 per cent respectively. To begin with, therefore, the Carelians are typically light or mixed in pigmentation, and fully or nearly as blond as most Scandinavians. There is little difference in degree of hair and eye pigment between these Finns and Iron Age Nordics. The Carelians are prevailingly ash-blond rather than golden, and only 4 men out of a thousand show any rufosity.

The mean stature of the total Carelian group is 165.7 cm., with the Volga males slightly taller than those farther north and west. This is a moderate or medium height, neither notably tall nor short; it is short by Nordic standards, and about average when compared with that of most Russians. The bodily proportions as indicated by Zolotarev's data as well as by those of other investigators do not show the lateral, heavily built type predicted by the study of Finnish influence in Scandinavia; on the contrary, the relative sitting height index of 53 is little higher than that expected among Nordics. The shoulder and hip diameters are similarly of an intermediate European form. The Carelians are not distinguished by any notable peculiarity in body build, and are more nearly slender than massive.

The head dimensions, while variable, are smaller than those we have found among Scandinavian peoples. The mean length for the total group is 187.8 mm., for the Volga sample 186.0 mm.; ten whole millimeters shorter, for example, than the Icelandic head length. At the same time the breadth, 152.1 mm. for the total group and only 151.7 mm. for the Volga Carelians, is less than that of many dolichocephalic Scandinavians. The cephalic index, which varies between the extremes of 69 and 90, has a mean of 81.1 for the total, 80.9 for the Republic sample, and 81.6 for the Volga group. The standard deviation of 3.3 index points for the total shows that the Carelians form a reasonably homogeneous group in this respect. The head form of these basic Finns is therefore sub-brachycephalic, or falls into an extremely high mesocephalic category. In size, as well as in proportions, the Carelian head stands close to the old Neolithic Danubian racial standard. The vault elevation of 127 mm. is high, but not extremely high; it is equal to that of Iron Age Nordics in Scandinavia, and comparable to that found on the skull among Danubians.

The forehead breadth of 105.8 mm. is again equal to that of Nordics, while the bizygomatic of 139.4 mm. is slightly wider; the total face height of 120.8 mm. is between short and medium. The facial index of 86.8 falls into a moderately broad-faced category. The nose is absolutely quite short (50.9 mm.) and of only moderate breadth (35.5 mm.). The resultant nasal index, 70.2 in the total group and 69.5 in the Volga sample, lies on the borderline between leptorrhiny and mesorrhiny. One of the most distinctive measurements in this Carelian group is the interorbital diameter, with a mean of 34.1 mm., which shows the expected wide-eyed Finnish form.

On the whole, the Carelian sample shows nothing in common metrically with the large-headed mesocephalic and brachycephalic populations of western Norway and Denmark; it may be compared, however, most profitably with the Iron Age Nordic type of eastern Scandinavia; in comparison with the latter, the Carelians are short in stature, short in absolute head length, short in face height and nose height, and slightly broad in face breadth. The metrical position of the Carelians among living European races is comparable to that of the Danubian type in the skeletal series. Both in pigmentation and in basic metrical character it shows a certain fundamental relationship to the Iron Age Nordic form.

The observations tabulated by Zolotarev confirm this general impression. The facial outline is called rectangular in 55 per cent of the series, and ovoid in 33 per cent; the nasal profile is straight in half the sample, concave in 40 per cent, and convex in the remaining tenth. The tip of the nose points upward twice as frequently as downward; the lateral profile of the forehead is as a rule steep; in only one out of ten instances are the two profile lines parallel, as in the characteristic Nordic form. Mongoloid features, including an internal eyefold and extreme malar projection, are not typical, but are more frequent in the series from the carelian Republic than in that from the Volga country. Only six men out of 1008 have the true Mongolian eyefold and these are all in the Republic series.

From these observations as from the measurements, we derive a composite picture of a moderately variable racial type which is more blond than brunet, but prevailingly light mixed in pigment character; square or oval faced, with a straight to concave snub-tipped nose, a steep, often protruberant forehead, and only moderately projecting malars. A slight facial flatness gives a superficial mongoloid impression, but evolved mongoloid features are usually lacking. Throughout there is an incipient Nordic suggestion, and in roughly ten per cent of the whole, the Nordic head form and facial features, with a longer, elliptical face and parallel forehead and nasal profiles, appear. There is undoubtedly a submerged Nordic element here, as well as a lesser mongoloid one.

In view of the general position of the central Finnic type, as exemplified by these Carelians, it has seemed most in accordance with the facts to leave the designation East Baltic for the larger-bodied, larger-headed, and quite different population of the eastern Baltic states, whether Finnic or Baltic-speaking, and not to attach it to this clearly differentiated racial group which has its geographical center elsewhere. In view of the close similarity between this central Finnic type and the Danubian racial entity suggested by the early skeletal material, and in view of the fact that the earliest identifiable Finnic skeletal remains were mostly of this type, it has seemed appropriate, as stated in the concluding section of Chapter VIII, to name this racial type Neo-Danubian.

In the early Finnish skeletal remains there was evidence of considerable admixture with wide-eyed, broad-faced, meso- and brachycephals from the northern forest, and to a lesser extent with what seemed to be Corded people or evolved Nordics; these same admixtures are equally apparent in the present amalgam, which however remains, for the most part, of the same basic racial type to which the earliest agriculturalists to enter central Europe overland from the east belonged. It is a mistake to associate the origins of the Finnic people and Finnic speech with a forest culture, on the basis of modern associations; the Finns were from the start agriculturalists, and have remained such when circumstances have permitted.

Let us now study the other Finnic groups inhabiting Russian territory. Data on the physical characters of Ingrians are extremely scarce; the Ijores,74 with a mean of 165.6 cm., equal the Carelians in stature, while the two Leningrad tribes, the Evremeiset and Savakot,75 are taller (167.1 cm.). The Ijores have a mean cephalic index of 82.6, the Vodes76 of 83.2. Thus the deviation of the Ingrians, as shown by the evidence from the Carelian standard, is in the direction of brachycephaly. The Vepses, who live in a more northerly habitat, are close to the Carelian means in these two criteria, with 164.0 cm. for stature, and 81.9 for the cephalic index.77 Observations on a small series of Vepses,78 however, show a majority of brown hair shades, of gray eyes, of broad noses, and of oblique eyes, with a weak beard development in many cases, indicating a higher Mongoloid content in this group exposed to Lappish and Samoyed influences, than in most other Finnic samples.

Of the original Volga Finns, but two tribes, the Mordvins and the Cheremisses, retain their ethnic identities, while still living in the center of the original Finnish territory. The Mordvins are scattered in single villages and groups of villages throughout the middle Volga provinces; these settlements, although not continuous, contain collectively a large population, officially enumerated by Zolotarev at 1,167,537.79 Some 35,000 more live apart from their own people in the Bashkir and Tatar republics, while over 50,000 more have been settled in Siberia and in the central Asiatic khanates. Since the Mordvins are excellent farmers and hardy colonists, they were sent eastward in large numbers by the czars to settle newly opened agricultural lands.

The Cheremisses, who call themselves Mari, number about half a million, and live to the north of the Mordvins in the neighborhood of Kazan. Owing to its compactness, their territory has been given the status of an autonomous district. They are usually divided into two groups, the Forest Cheremisses and the Mountain Cheremisses; the former live in the lowlands on the western bank of the Volga, while the latter inhabit a more isolated territory to the east, where they preserve many pagan customs. Besides following the usual Finnish pursuits of farming and bee culture, the Cheremisses, like the Siberian Ugri, are also hunters and stream fishers.

The Mordvins and Cheremisses resemble each other closely in an anthropometric sense, and both in turn deviate but little from the standard established by our study of the Carelians.80 The Mordvin stature mean is 166.4 cm., that of the Cheremisses 163.7 cm. In bodily proportions the Carelian similarity seems complete; in head dimensions the only difference is that the Mordvin vault (134 mm.) and that of the Cheremisses (130 mm.) may be slightly higher, although these differences may in part be due to technical factors. The faces of the Mordvins and Cheremisses are again slightly larger than those of the Carelians, with nasion-menton heights of 124 and 123 mm., and bizygomatic diameters of 141 and 140 mm. The Mordvin nasal index mean, 65.4, is leptorrhine, while that of the Cheremisses; 71.4, is mesorrhine.

In pigmentation and in soft part morphology, these Volga Finns resemble the Carelians less closely. Bunak, Sergeev, and Mainov find respectively 33 per cent, 52 per cent, and 60 per cent of light eyes among the Mordvins; while there is no specific information regarding the hair color of these people, Bunak's statement that 50 per cent of his series belongs to a brunet pigment type would indicate that brown was the commonest color. Among the Cheremisses, Sommier finds 28 per cent of light eyes as against 39 per cent of dark ones; 21 per cent of "light blond" hair, and 35 per cent which is dark brown and black. Thus the Cheremisses appear to be darker than their more southerly neighbors, and both darker than the Carelians. A special series of eastern or mountain Cheremisses, measured by Nikolsky, shows clear differences from the major group - with a mean stature of 167.4 cm., a cephalic index of 78.6, and 60 per cent of blue and gray eyes, and only 32 per cent of black and dark brown hair.

Observations of statistical value which describe these people are scarce. However, there seems to be a moderately high incidence of concavity of the nasal profile, 18 per cent among Mordvins and 39 per cent among Cheremisses; of a median eyefold, which is a sign, as a rule, of a low bony orbit - 34 per cent among Mordvins and 46 per cent among Cheremisses; and 64 per cent of weak beard growth among Mordvins, and 77 per cent among Cheremisses. In general, the Cheremisses seem more mongoloid than the Mordvins, but on the other hand the isolated Forest Cheremisses preserve the least mongoloid type of all, and that closest to a Carelian and to a Nordic form. The implication is that while both Mordvins and Cheremisses preserve their original Finnic type with considerable fidelity, the infiltration of Mongol and Tatar peoples into their country since the time that the ancestors of the Carelians and other western tribes departed has had some recognizable effect upon them.

Parallel, in linguistic taxonomy, to the combined Baltic and Volga Finnic group is that of the Permians. These are divided into three living peoples, the Votiaks, Syryenians (or Zyrians), and Permiaks. All of these peoples live north of the Mordvins and Cheremisses, from whose general area they are said to have migrated. The most southerly are the Votiaks, who, numbering approximately half a million, live on the banks of the Kama River, a branch of the Volga, in the southeastern part of the former Viatka government. This region has been made into the Votiak Autonomous S. S. District by the Soviet authorities. Some 25,000 other Votiaks live in the Bashkir Republic, 20,000 in the Samarsk government, 1700 in Siberia, and others still in the Tatar Republic. In general, the modern destiny of the Votiaks has been to a certain extent associated with that of Turkish-speaking peoples. In their own language they call themselves Udmurt, and this language contains many loan words from Chuvash and Tatar speech. They have, however, failed to become Moslem; their religion, at the time of the Russian revolution, was officially Orthodox Christianity, which served as a cloak for the retention of much of the original Finnish heathendom.

Metrically the Votiaks resemble the Cheremisses very closely.81 A cephalic index mean of 82 is slightly higher, and reflects a slightly smaller head length. The mean stature is 162 to 163 cm. The pigment characters of the iris are similar to those of the Mordvins and Cheremisses, since between 30 per cent and 35 per cent of eyes are called brown, and the rest divided between blue, gray, and mixed colors. In head hair color however, a difference may be seen, for Maliev's series shows that but 2 per cent are black, 32 per cent dark brown, 29 per cent brown, 15 per cent light brown, and 7 per cent flaxen. Of the rest, 11 per cent are listed as reddish-brown. Chomiakov confirms this high incidence of rufosity, with 6 per cent of red hair color. Among Maliev's subjects only 15 per cent had black or brown beards; of the others 47 per cent were listed as red. These Votiaks, then, are not as blond as the Carelians, but blondism is frequent and characteristic; rufosity, notably absent from both the Carelian group and from the Iron Age Nordic race, and not important among the two tribes of Volga Finns, becomes a major factor among Permians.

The Votiaks are usually deficient in body hair, and the beard is frequently sparse, although in individual cases very heavy beards and very abundant body hair are found. The Ainu-like pilosity of many Russian peasants is commoner among Slavs than among Finnic speakers, but is exceptional in both groups. Neither, by and large, are as hairy as most western European brachycephals. The hair form is predominantly straight, only exceptionally wavy or curly. Forty per cent of Votiaks are listed as long- or oval-faced; the remainder as round-, broad-, or flattishfaced. The nose is straight in 60 per cent of individuals, convex in but 12 per cent. Maliev states that 37 per cent are "solid" in bodily build, only 6 per cent linear or thin. All in all the Votiaks are typical Finns, slightly shorter and rounder headed than Carelians or Mordvins, oddly rufous, and not noticeably more mongoloid than their southerly neighbors.

North of the Votiaks live two allied tribes, the Syryenians and Permiaks, both of whom call themselves Komi. These two peoples are generally lumped into a single category, especially since they speak mutually intelligible languages and occupy contiguous territories. The Syryenians occupy the wide expanse stretching from 58º N. Latitude to the Arctic Ocean, and from the Ural Mountains on the east to the Pinega River, a tributary of the Dvina, on the west. There are also a few Syryenians who live on the Siberian side of the Urals. The chief town of the Syryenians is Ishma, on the Pechora River. The Permians live more on the eastern side of the upper Kama River. Population statistics regarding these peoples are very variable. Zolotarev gives 186,000 as the total for Syryenians living in Russia, and 9566 for Siberia. Jochelson estimates the Syryenians at 260,000, and the Atlas of Finland at 364,000. Zolotarev finds 130,000 Permiaks in the Komipermiaktsk and Berhuekamsk districts of Uralsk province.

Below 65º N. Latitude the Syryenians and Permiaks farm, and are noted for their skill and perseverance in obtaining crops at such high latitudes. Beyond the line at which agriculture becomes impossible, the Syryenians breed reindeer and live a less settled existence. They are noted for their ability at trading and their general financial sharpness. In religion they are said to adhere strictly to Orthodox tenets and to have forsworn the pagan practices which linger on among the Votiaks.

In stature, in body build, and in head dimensions and proportions both the Permiaks and Syryenians seem to be identical with their relatives the Votiaks;82 a difference between these peoples and the Volga Finns, however, may exist in nose form, for the nasal index mean of the Permiaks is 64.9,82 of the Syryenians 65.7.82 Only 11 per cent of Syryenians, and 14 per cent of Permiaks, are said to have dark eyes; thus these northern Permians are perhaps both lighter eyed and more leptorrhine than most of the Volga Finnic group. One sub-group of Syryenians, living in the Ust-Sylosk district, seems to have mixed with Samoyeds or other non-Finnic peoples, for the cephalic index is 83.3, as contrasted with the usual mean of 81 for other Syryenians, and the ratio of dark eyes is twice that for the others.

In hair color, for the Syryenians as a whole, we find at last a series of observations based on the Fischer chart, and taken on a series of 400 individuals.83 The authors divide the scale into three categories; dark (Fischer #4-8), golden (#9-15), and ashen (#16-26). The percentages are 53.1 per cent, 9.6 per cent, and 37.4 per cent. It is to be noticed that no individuals were listed as black, or as red. A medium or dark brown is the most numerous shade, with ash-blond next commonest. One is led, in view of this, to suspect that the high degree of rufosity reported among Votiaks may be partly of technical origin.

Summarizing the data on these Permian speakers, we may state that they seem to resemble the Carelian norm more completely in head and face form, and in pigmentation, than do the Cheremisses or Mordvins. It seems likely that those Finns and Permians who dispersed from their homes during the early centuries of the present era in a northward as well as in a westward direction carried with them the older Finnish features, while those who remained in their Volga home were to a greater extent affected by Tatar and other influences. On the whole, however, the generalization that the entire body of Finnic and Permian speakers, apart from the Baltic groups which remain to be studied, are closely unified in race has been shown to be accurate.

Before concluding this survey of eastern Finno-Ugrian peoples, one further group requires examination, that of the Ostiaks and Voguls, the Ob-Ugrians, the primitive hunters and fishers of western Siberia, who are the closest linguistic relatives of the Magyars. The Ostiaks have been reduced to less than 20,000 individuals, while the Voguls number between 5000 and 7000. Some of the Ostiaks have been thoroughly Russianized, while others have mixed with Samoyeds, and have taken over reindeer breeding. At the time of the Russian expansion eastward into Siberia, the Ostiaks were the first to feel the pressure, and hence the southern part of their territory was taken from them, and they were reduced to more primitive circumstances than before.

One must expect the modern Ostiaks and Voguls to show the effects of centuries of reduced conditions of living, and this is, indeed, manifested in their reduction in stature; various means place them at levels between 154 and 160 cm., but the largest series of both groups fall in the 158-159 cm. category. The bodily form of both is in most cases slight and lean.84 Sommier, with a series of 106 male Ostiaks, finds 50 per cent to have brown eyes, and the rest mixed and light; the Voguls are apparently somewhat lighter eyed.85 About 25 per cent of Ostiaks have light brown or blond hair, and the Voguls are again slightly fairer.86 In both groups and in all series, black hair is very much in the minority. Ten per cent of it among Ostiaks may well indicate Samoyed admixture. On the whole, these Siberian forest Ugrians are the darkest of the Finno-Ugrian-speaking peoples, aside from the Lapps, whom we have already studied.

The head form of the two Siberian tribes is the same as that of the Volga Finns and Permians, the dimensions somewhat smaller. The faces seem to be shorter, and the noses are definitely mesorrhine. Photographic evidence makes it certain that both the Voguls and Ostiaks have absorbed a perceptible amount of mongoloid blood, which manifests itself especially in facial features. They are still, however, basically similar in most characters to their relatives on the other side of the Urals.87


72. Zolotarev, D. A., Kareli, SSSR.

73. Atlas of Finland, 1925. Zolotarev, TKIP, 1928.

74. Zolotarev, D. A., TKIP, 1928, after Prelov, E. I., Alexandrova, A. I., and Ul', E. F.

75. Ibid.

76. Zolotarev, D. A., Kareli, SSSR, after Alexandrova.

77. Zolotarev, D. A., Kareli, SSSR, after Rozov.

78. Mainov, V. N., 1877, from a réumé in AFA, vol. 11, 1879, p.329.

79. Zolotarev, D. A., TKIP, #15, 1928.

80. The chief sources for Mordvins and Cheremisses are:
Bunak, V., RAJ, vol. 13, 1924, pp.178-207.
Sergeev, V. I., PCZA, 1930, pp.318-319.
Older works include:
Maliev, N., résumé in AFA, vol. 12, 1880, p.392.
Nikolsky, B., résumé in AFA, vol. 26, 1899, pp.187-190.
Sommier, S., APA, vol. 18, 1888, pp.215-257.

81.Chief sources on the Votiaks are:
Chomiakov, M. N., TKU, vol. 43, #3, pp. 1-294. Résumé in ZBFA, vol. 17, 1912.
Maliev, N., TKU, vol. 4, #2, 1874, pp.1-17. Résumé in AFA, vol. 9, 1876, p.227.
Khonuakov, 1911, after Zolotarev, TKIP, 1928.
Teploukhov, S. A., after Zolotarev, TKIP, 1928.

82. Sources on these peoples are:
Alexandrova, A., Nurk, L., and UI', E., PCZA, 1930, pp.287-288.
Ivanovsky, A. L., AFA, vol. 48, 1925, pp.1-12.
Maliev, N., TKU, vol. 16, #4, 1887.
Nalimov (after Zolotarev, TKIP, 1928).
Sevastianov (after Zolotarev, TKIP, 1928).
Vishnevsky, B., Anthropologicheskia Dannia o Naselenii Permskaga Uezda.

83. Alexandrova, Nurk, and Ul', op. cit.

84. Chief sources on Ostiaks and Voguls are:
Maliev, N. M., RAJ, vol. 5, 1901, pp. 73-81.
Rudenko, S. I., BMSA, vol. 6, ser. 5, 1914, pp.123-143.
Sommier, S., APA, vol. 17, 1887, pp.71-222.

85. Rudenko finds 87 per cent of brown eyes among 53 Ostiaks, 76 per cent among 75 Voguls.

86. Rudenko, again, has 96 per cent brown hair for Ostiaks, 81 per cent for Voguls. I have taken Sommier's figures in preference to Rudenko's because Sommier's series are larger and his hair and eye color classifications more detailed, permitting judgment and recombination.

87. There has been much misunderstanding about the headform of the Voguls, who are usually called dolichocephalic in secondary works. This misunderstanding is principally due to a misprint in Maliev's article (Maliev, 1901) in which the Vogul head lenght mean is given as 182 mm., and the breadth 148 mm., while the cephalic index is printed as 77. Actually (148*100)/183 = 80.9. Rudenko, in his series of 75 Voguls, gives a cephalic index mean of 78.3, with length and breadth means of 192.2 and 149.9 mm. This figure, however, cannot represent the Voguls as a whole, since 72 Vogul crania in the Anthropological Museum of Moscow University have a mean cranial index of 78.3, which would be two points higher on the living. In the same way early and unreliable samples of Syryenians yelded cephalic index means as high as 87, which were widely copied and which, in company with the false Vogul mean, did much to mask the essential unity if Finno-Ugrians in head form.