Ethnic groups

Ethnic groups

The first people along the upper Volga (Idel) were the Mari and their west ethnic group named Merya (?ä??). In the 8th and 9th centuries Slavic colonization began from Kievan Rus’. The Slavs brought Christianity, and a part of local people took Christianity and gradually became East Slavs; the remainder of Mari people migrated to the west far inland. In the course of several centuries they assimilated the indigenous Finnic population which included Merya and Meshchera peoples. The surviving peoples of Volga (Idel) Finnic ethnicity include the Maris and Mordvins of the middle Volga (Idel).

Apart from the Huns, the earliest Turkic tribes arrived in the 7th century and assimilated some Finnic and Indo-European population on the middle and lower Volga (Idel). The Christian Chuvash and Muslim Tatars are descendants of the population of medieval Volga (Idel) Bulgaria. Another Turkic group, the Nogais, formerly inhabited the lower Volga (Idel) steppes.

The Volga (Idel) region is home to a German minority group, the Volga (Idel) Germans. Catherine the Great had issued a Manifesto in 1763 inviting all foreigners to come and populate the region, offering them numerous incentives to do so. This was partly to develop the region but also to provide a buffer zone between the Russians and the Mongol hordes to the east. Because of conditions in German territories, the Germans responded in the largest numbers. Under the Soviet Union a slice of the region was turned into the Volga (Idel) German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to house many of the Volga (Idel) Germans. Others were executed or dispersed throughout the Soviet Union prior to and after World War II.

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