The Russian nation is the main population of the Russian Federation (119865.9 thousand people), the most numerous of Slavic tribes. Outside the Russian Federation Russians live in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Byelorussia, Kirghizia, Latvia, Moldova, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Tadjikistan, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Armenia, and also in USA, Canada, the countries of the Western Europe etc. The Russian language belongs to eastern group of Slavic languages of Indo-European family of languages. Writing is based on the Russian alphabet which goes back to cyrillics. Religion is basically Orthodoxy.
The history of the Russians is closely binded with a history of territorial and ethnic expansion.
In the pre-Christian era, the region of modern Russia was inhabited by a variety of nomadic tribes. The Slavic tribes resided in the north. In 6-th century migration started. Gradually they evolved into three basic groups: the western Slavs (Poles, Slovaks, Czechs), southern Slavs (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Bulgars) and eastern Slavs (Belarusians, Russians, Ukrainians). The eastern Slavs expanded easily from the Baltic to the Black Sea with Kiev and Novgorod as the most important centres.
According to Russian tradition, the first Russian dynasty began in 862 as warring Slavic tribes invited Scandinavian leader Rurik to rule over them. Under the Rurik dynasty Russia expanded north-east and north-west. Kiev soon became the centre of so-called Kiev Rus', which reached its imperial peak in the middle of the 11-th century. In 988 Prince Vladimir of the Kievan Rus' decided to convert the empire to Byzantine Orthodox Christianity instead of Roman Catholisism. This contributed to isolation of Russia from West. This alienation was followed by the Mongol invasion in 1223. The Mongols controled Russia during two centuries while the Renaissance, the Reformation and the commercial revolution spread across the Western Europe. Mongol rule also made the western Russians flee further to the West. These people eventually became known as Belarusians. The people of Kiev also developed a separate culture and evolved into Ukrainians.
The Russians, as well as Ukrainians and Byelorussians, originated from the ancient Russian nationality (9-13 centuries), which took its roots from Eastern Slavic tribes during the period of disintegration of tribe relations and creation of the ancient Russian state around Kiev. In opinion of many researchers, the name 'Russian' goes back to the name of one of Slavic tribe - Rodii, Rossy or Rusy. Along with the ancient self-name in 19-th - beginning of 20-th centuries the name Velikorusy or Velikorossy was used.
Formation of the Russian, or the Great Russian, nationality took place during severe struggle against the hardest Tatar yoke and during the formation of the Russian centralized state around Moscow in 14-15 centuries. In 16-17 centuries borders of Russian state extended considerably; at this time Russians began to occupy the Lower Volga region, Ural, Northern Caucasus and Siberia. In 18-19 centuries the further expansion of state borders was accompanied by movement of Russians into the Baltic, Black Sea regions, Transcaucasia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Far East. Russians came into close contact with people who lived here, influenced them economically and culturally and perceived achievements of their culture and economics.
The Russian empire now strecthed beyond the original "Russian" areas and included many other nationalities. This triggered a series of Russification campaigns under Nicholas I and his successor Alexander II with the slogan "Autocracy, Orthodoxy and Nationality". In 1839 the Uniate church of Ukraine and Belarusia was suppressed, and in the 1860s the state ordered all teaching in public schools to be in Russian language and prohibited non-Russian newspapers and magazines. In the second half of the century, the Russian expansion in Caucasus and Central Asia began again. By the mid-1860s, the Caucasians were defeated and 20 years later the Russians also controled Central Asia.
In the Far East, the city of Vladivostok was established in 1860 on the coast near the Korean border after Russia gained the territory between the Amur river and the Korean border through the Treaty of Beijing the same year. The cost of these operations led tsar to sell Alaska to the USA for a ridiculously low amount of money.
With World War I and the Bolshevik revolution Russia lost control over Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Ukraine, and parts of the Caucasus as it was established in the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. As the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand in 1919, they forced to establish Soviet republics in Belarus, Ukraine (both in 1919), Azerbaijan, Armenia (1920) and Georgia (1921). With World War II, the Soviet Union regained most of the lost territories and pushed its sphere of influence further west than ever before.
At the beginning of 20-th century the new state Soviet Union was formed on fragments of Russian Empire which united different nationalities. The most numerous nation, however, remained Russians. In 1991 the USSR ceased its existence.
By virtue of specific development in different areas of the country, in the middle of 19 century there was a number of ethnographic groups among Russians. Largest of them, differing in dialects of language and features in buildings, clothes, some ceremonies etc., are northern and southern Velikorussy. A link between them is the middle great Russian group that occupes the central area - part of the Volga-Oka rivers land (including Moscow) and the Volga region; it includes both northern and southern great Russian features in its language and culture. Smaller ethnographic groups of the Russians - Pomors (on the coast of the White sea), Meshera (in the northern part of Ryazanskaya oblast), various groups of Cossacks and their descendants (on the rivers of Don, Kuban, Ural, Terek, and also in Siberia); old belief groups - "Polyaks" (in Altai), Semeyskiye (in Transbaikalia), "Kamenshiki" (on the river Buhtarma in Kazakhstan). The Russians made up special groups in Far North (on the rivers Anadyrs, Indigirka, Kolyma) apprehending many features of local people. Now these ethnographic groups in many respects lost the unique features because of historical and political reasons.