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The self-designations used are inkeroine-izhora-izhoralaine, 'Izhorian', also karjalain 'Karelian' and maaväki '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' (maaväki).

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.

Habitat. 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.

Population. Data on the population of the Izhorians is available from the middle of the 19th century on:

native speakers
184817,800 (P. von Koeppen)
189721,700 (census)
19591,06234.7 %
197078126.6 %
197974832.6 %
198982036.8 %

The Izhorians have never been a particularly numerous people, but their number increased steadily until the 1930s. After this time mass repressions and persecutions reduced the number of the Izhorians drastically.

It should be noted that the post-war censuses are not entirely accurate. In order to survive, Izhorians listed themselves as Russians (also as Estonians or as Finns) and so the actual number of Izhorians and native Izhorian speakers was somewhat larger than recorded in the official data.

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.

Finnish linguists do not consider Izhorian to be a separate language, they consider it to be an eastern dialect of Finnish like the dialects of Ingrian Finns. Estonian linguists (P. Ariste, A. Laanest) are of the opinion that it is a separate language, they claim that the dialect has developed from the ancient Karelian language and the Izhorians are the native inhabitants of the country, not later immigrants. The same opinion was voiced by V. Porkka (1885, Über den Ingrischen Dialekt).

Language. 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.

History. The ancestors of the Izhorians had separated from the Karelian tribes by the 11th century and moved from the isthmus of Karelia and the shores of Lake Ladoga southward. The oldest archaeological finds come from the 11th and 12th centuries, from the area between the Gachina and Olhava (Volkhov). In written records of the 12th century, along with Watlandia, Ingria is mentioned in connection with its subjugation to Novgorod. The Izhorians were subjected to taxation by the feudal republic, and they were also forced into military allegiance -- records of Izhorians as regular soldiers in the Novgorod army exst from 1270. Tragically, as several alien powers fought for control of Ingria the Baltic-Finnic tribes were forced against each other. Estonians formed a large part of the Teutonic army, the Finnish were amongst the ranks of the Swedish troops, and Novgorod had many Votes and Izhorians in its army.

The armed conflicts between the Russians and the Swedes were brought to an end by the Pähkinäsaare (Oreshek) Peace Treaty of 1323, which was also a decisive event in the lives of the Izhorians. The main Karelian territories remained under Swedish rule, however Ingria was given over to Russia, and as a result Izhorian contact with kindred tribes diminished. This in turn influenced the development of the Izhorian language. However, the situation at the Swedish-Russian border, which was the area the Izhorians inhabited was not secure and the Izhorians migrated away from the isthmus of Karelia -- to territories west of Narva, and further south along the River Oredezh.

In 1478 Moscow conquered the Republic of Novgorod. The new rulers strove to join the new territories with the Grand Principality of Muscovy. In 1484 and in 1488 large numbers of Votes and Izhorians were deported to Russia. They were replaced by Russian colonists. From the 16th century on special attention was given to the dissemination of Russian Orthodoxy. From that time the Izhorians began to use the Russian names which were given to them when they were converted to the Orthodox faith. The Izhorians did, however, usually adjust the names according to the rules of their own language.

As a result of the Stolbovo Peace Treaty in 1617, Ingria was reincorporated into the Kingdom of Sweden. Many Orthodox inhabitants of the area had already migrated deeper into Russia, after the Stolbovo Treaty many more -- the Izhorians included -- were forced to make a similar move. Peasants from Savo and Vyborg (Viipuri) area settled -- either willingly or forcibly -- to the almost empty territories (Savakot and Äyrämöiset). There was no assimilation because of religious differences: Votes and Izhorians generally being Orthodox and Ingrian Finns Lutherans.

In the Great Northern War, Peter the Great joined Ingria once more to Russia (de facto in 1703, de jure in 1721). To consolidate the conquest, a new town, St. Petersburg, was founded on the estuary of the Neva, where there had once been the town of Nyen (Nevanlinna). In 1704 peasants were made into serfs and in 1710 Ingria became a province of St. Petersburg. Local place-names were translated into Russian or adjusted to Russian pronunciation (Sutela -- Volkovo, Kotko -- Orly, Soikkola -- Soikino, Kukkusi -- Kurovitsy etc). Although the Russian versions were the official ones, the native place-names are still in use until the present day.

The capital city grew and large numbers of builders and various other workers, servants and officials were needed. The Izhorians also found employment opportunities and they became known as traders, wholesale dealers and cabmen. For peasants the town was a good market where cattle, vegetables and handicraft products were taken. At the same time, St. Petersburg was a rapidly developing city and a fascinating cultural and economic centre, which attracted people of different nationalities and absorbed them into the Russian environment. In 1861 serfdom was abolished and with the new freedom of movement, the Russian language began to spread (especially in the case of men). Russian schools, Russian Orthodoxy and the Russian capital St. Petersburg were the main factors uniting the Izhorians with the Russian cultural spectrum. Of the three, Orthodoxy was the most important, as its influence extended to all spheres of life.

In the first years of Soviet power the Izhorians cherished the hope that their persecution would come to an end. And, in fact, the initially enterprising attitude Izhorians' was encouraged: education was improved, an Izhorian written language was created and books were published in it. Unfortunately, this was only a surface phenomenon. Collectivization came and the property of the more prosperous peasants was confiscated while they themselves were deported either to Siberia or to Central Asia. The Bolsheviks railed fiercely against private property and wealth and militant atheists fought against the Church and its followers. In 1937 Russian chauvinists closed Izhorian schools and similarly, the end was signalled for Izhorian cultural and social life.

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.

Ethnic culture. 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.

Writing. 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.

Research. The first recorded fragments of the Izhorian language were published in a comparative dictionary by P. S. Pallas "Linguarum totius orbis vocabularia comparativa" (1787--89). In it Izhorian equivalents of 286 words were recorded. The first special research, "Über den ingrischen Dialekt" (Helsinfors, 1885) by V. Porkka, gives a survey of Izhorian grammar. In his book (1966) A. Laanest dealt with all the dialects of the Izhorian language and their geography. A collection of language samples "Isuri murdetekste" by A. Laanest was published in the same year. A dictionary of the Izhorian language "Inkeroismurteiden sanakirja" by R. E. Nirvi was published in Helsinki in 1971.

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.


  1. P. Ariste, Isuri keelest. -- Emakeele Seltsi aastaraamat II, Tallinn 1956
  2. O. Kurs, Ingeri põliselanike saatus. -- Akadeemia 7, 1990
  3. A. Laanest, Isurid ja isuri keel -- meie lähemaid sugulaskeeli, Tallinn 1964
  4. A. Laanest, Isuri murrete rühmitamisest. -- Keele ja Kirjanduse Instituudi Uurimused VI, Tallinn 1961
  5. A. Laanest, Kes on isurid? -- Saaremaast Sajaanideni ja kaugemalegi, Tallinn 1970
  6. H. & A. Moora, Lisandeid vadjalaste ja isurite etnilisele ajaloole. -- Etnograafiamuuseumi aastaraamat XIX, Tallinn 1964
  7. V. Uibopuu, Meie ja meie hõimud. Peatükke soomeugrilaste minevikust ja olevikust, Lund 1984
  8. E. Öpik, Vadjalastest ja isuritest XVIII saj. lõpul. Etnograafilisi ja lingvistilisi materjale Fjodor Tumanski Peterburi kubermangu kirjelduses, Tallinn 1970
  9. И. А. Селицкая, Библиография литературы на ижорском языке. -- Советское финноугроведение 1, 1965


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