Udmurt - Orientation

Identification. The Udmurt are an ethnic group who live primarily in the Udmurt Republic in Russia. The republic was formed in 1934 from the former Votyak Autonomous Territory (1920-1934). Udmurt means "meadowman."

Location. The Udmurt Republic is situated between the Vyatka and Kama rivers, to the east of Moscow. On the north and east it is bounded by Kirov Oblast, on the south by Tatarstan and on the southeast by Bashkirstan. Its area is 42,000 square kilometers. The climate is continental.

There is an abundance of rivers and streams (Cepca, Kilmez, Vala, Iz, Pozim) in the region, and 40 percent of the area is covered by forest, mainly by evergreens.

Demography. In the 1979 census, 713,000 people in the USSR listed themselves as Udmurt. According to official data, the Udmurt population, which was 421,000 in 1897, had increased to 514,000 by 1926, to 606,000 by 1939, and to 704,000 by 1969. In 1959 the population of the Udmurt Republic was 1,337,000, and 89 percent of the Udmurt people spoke their native language, whereas in 1979 the republic's population was 1,494,000 and only 76 percent of the above-mentioned 713,000 Udmurt spoke the Udmurt language.

Linguistic Affiliation. Udmurt belongs to the Permian Branch of the Finno-Ugric Language Family and is a typically agglutinative language with a considerable number of inflectional and derivational suffixes. The Uralic ancestor language broke into divisions around 4000 B.C. The forebearers of the so-called Permian tribes (Komi-Syryenians, Komi-Permians and Udmurt) had lived together for about 2,500 years and only separated around the eighth and ninth centuries A.D. , retaining strong relations after separation. This explains the similarity of the Permian languages, which share about 70 percent of their original vocabulary. Since becoming a separate language, Udmurt was influenced by the languages of the Chuvash and Tatars in the south and the Russians in the north. Present-day Udmurt has several minor and three major (Southern, Middle, and Northern) dialects. The literary language, which is in the process of establishment, is based on the Middle dialect, spoken mainly around Ivzevsk.

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