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Ethnic Minorities

Russia is regarded as the most ethnically diverse country in the world. According to the results of the 2002 national census there are about 160 nationalities within the country.


Besides the Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians), who account for 85.4 percent of Russia's population, three main ethnic groups and a handful of isolated smaller groups reside within the federation.

The Altaic group accounts for 8.1 percent of the countrys population and includes mainly speakers of Turkic languages widely distributed in the middle Volga, the southern Ural Mountains, the North Caucasus, and above the Arctic Circle. The main Altaic peoples in Russia are the Tatars, Balkars, Bashkirs, Buryats, Chuvash, Dolgans, Evenks, Kalmyks, Karachay, Kumyks, Nogay, and Yakuts.

The Uralic group, consisting of Finnic peoples living in the upper Volga, the far northwest, and the Urals, accounts for 2.2 percent of the total population and includes the Karelians, Komi, Mari, Mordovians, and Udmurts.

The Caucasus group contributes 2.1 percent of Russias population and is concentrated along the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. Its main subgroups are the Adyghs, Chechens, Cherkess, Ingush, and Kabardins, as well as about thirty Caucasus peoples collectively classified as Dagestani. 

According to the 2002 national census, Russians constituted 80 percent (or 116 million) of the population of the Russian Federation. The next-largest groups were Tatars (5.56 million). Other nationalities exceeding one million are the Ukrainians (2.94 million), Bashkirs (1.67 million), Chuvash, Chechens, and Armenians. A further 23 nationalities have a numerical strength of over 400,000, including Mordovians, Belarusians, Kazakhs, Udmurts, Russian Germans, and Ossetians. 

A total of 140,000 assigned themselves to a new nationality - Cossacks. The first census in Imperial Russia in 1897 categorized the Cossacks as a social class, rather than an ethnic group.  See also POPULATION.




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