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Russia Guide > Are Russians Asian?

Are Russians Asian?

Russian people are a diverse ethnic mix and as such, it is no more correct to say that Russians are Asian than it is to say they are Caucasian or that they represent any other group. In fact, with over 143 million people living here, there are few countries that can match Russia for its ethnic diversity.

Location

Russia’s land mass takes in two continents in Europe and Asia with the vast majority of the land falling into the Asian sector. This factor alone could lead to anyone asking are Russians Asian, with the entire country west of the Urals falling outside of the European zone.

If therefore, you wanted to answer this question in terms of pure geography, you would concede that many Russians are currently living in Asia but as far as ethnic origins are concerned, it simply isn’t as simple as to refer to the majority of Russians as being Asian.

2002 census

At the last confirmed census in 2002, it was declared that ethnic Russians accounted for 79.8% of the country’s total population but what exactly are ethnic Russians?

Essentially, Russians are an East Slavic race who formed the original population of the Mediaeval Kievan Rus. Little is known of their history prior to the mid 9th century but over time they evolved to colonise Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus. Within the East Slavic mix as a whole, there are a number of ethnic sub divisions but the majority of the group are known simply as Russians.

Therefore, it’s fair to say that around 80% of the country’s population are comprised of ethnic Russians.

Further Groups

The census in 2002 produced some interesting figures relating to other groups contained within the country. Among the other main ethnic groups were Tatars, Ukrainians, Chechens and Armenians who ultimately contribute to over 20% of the country’s final population.

As the second highest recorded group, Tatars comprised around 3.8% of the final census figures with something like 5.5 million of their people spread across the Russian federation. Original Tatar tribes inhabited Russia from the 11th century onwards and their descendants form a small, yet significant part of the nation today.

In addition, around 2% of the population are classed as Ukrainians and as we’ve already seen, this is a minor distinction due to the fact that Ukrainians as a whole belong to the same East Slavic group as Ethnic Russians.

The most diverse mix

Overall, there are 160 recorded ethnic groups living in Russia today and around 100 different languages are spoken. This makes the country one of the most diverse collection of people on the entire planet.

So when you ask the question are Russians Asian, it isn’t really sufficient to answer with a simple ‘no’. Much of Russia may fall into the Asian sector but with such a diverse range of ethnicity, it’s a query that deserves far more investigation.

Matt Harris

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