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The Karelians

The Karelianas live in Russia (124,9 th. p.)
The name Karelia first occurs in Scandinavian sources in the 8th century. In the mid-12th century Karelia and the Karelians are mentioned in Russian chronicles. The Karelians are the original Baltic-Finnic tribe in the area between Lakes Ladoga and Onega. However, the Finns from Finnish Karelia have also been called Karelians, although they speak a Finnish dialect. The Izhorians are of the same origin as the Karelian people.
In early references the Karelian language is also Olonets or East Karelian. The speakers of Karelian proper (North and South Karelian) use the same name karjalaiset or karjalazhet for themselves and their language is karjalan kieli(i). The Olonets Karelians call themselves lidi or ligi and livvikit, and their language is livvin kieli. The speakers of the Ludic dialect use ldikit or luudikoit for themselves and their language is ldi or luudikiel.
The Karelians are widely distributed over a large territory. The Karelians of Karelia live chiefly west of the St. Petersburg-Murmansk railway line in the Karelia their administrative centre is Petrozavodsk or Petroskoi. The Tver Karelians inhabit areas west of Moscow where, they have enclaves in the districts of Likhoslavl, Spirovo, Rameshkovo and Maksatikha (in the 1960s they numbered approximately 90,000--100,000) A large group of Karelians lives in the districts of Vesyegonsky, Sandovo and Brusovo (in the 1960s approximately 20,000). There are Karelian villages in the districts of Molokovo, Krasny Holm and Vyshni Volochok, the southernmost of which are located in the vicinity of Rzhev. The southernmost Karelians live separately from other Tver Karelians in five villages on the Djorzha, a tributary of the River Volga. In 1890 there were 1,664 Karelians in the South Tver area, in 1911 they numbered 1,952. Today, their number has been reduced to 70 (according to J. ispuu), most of whom return to their home villages only in summertime.
Anthropologically the Karelians belong to the East-Baltic race in which strongly European features are blended with some Mongolian traits.
Karelian belongs to the North group of the Baltic-Finnic language, with the closest related language being Finnish. Some scholars do not regard Karelian as a separate language at all, but classify it as an eastern dialect of the Finnish language. However, it should be considered a separate language because of its geo-political location within the boundaries of another state.
The traditional activities of the Karelians have been land tillage, fishing, hunting and timber cutting. As recently as the second half of the 19th century, the Karelians lived in big 25--30 member families. Large industries were developed in the Soviet period. As a result, there was a constant influx of Russian-speaking people and now the Karelians have become a minority in their native land.
The Karelians possess a rich and original folkloristic heritage. This has been preserved in its authentic form longer than the folklore of other Baltic-Finnic nationalities. Most of the Kalevala songs are of Karelian origin. Apart from academic publications concerning Karelian folklore and some research, very few Karelian-language books have been published. The oldest Karelian-language text -- a three-line birch bark letter -- dates from the 13th century. It was found during archaeological excavations in the Novgorod region in 1957 and it is believed to be the oldest Baltic-Finnic text. The first Karelian-language books were printed in the early 19th century in Cyrillic script (the translation of a prayer book and catechism into North Karelian and Olonets dialects, 1804, St. Matthew's gospel in South Karelian Tver dialect, 1820). Because of the unfavourable conditions, there is no common Karelian language.

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