Ethnographic Museum

Gallery of works

The Small Indigenous Peoples of the European North

About Varzuga


Konkurs 2011

Konkurs 2012

Seida - The Princess of Lapland

Varzuga Foundation


The Small Indigenous Peoples of the European North


Archaeological finds testify to the fact that the first people appeared on the Kola peninsula about 5 thousand years ago. The aboriginal population were the Saami (the Lapps). Their language belongs to the Finnish language group, their anthropological type is mixed having the features of European and Mongolian types.

The Saami were pagans. They used to build labyrinths and stone alters (“seids”) for sacrifice.

In the XIII century the Kola peninsula became a domain of Novgorod (testimony can be found in manuscripts of 1216 and 1270). At that time the southern coast of the peninsula was called “Ter”. This Saami word meant “land covered with forests”.

From 1478 the Kola peninsula became a part of the Russian State. The Russians brought their religion with them and in the middle of the XVI century the Saami also adopted Christianity (Orthodox).

It had a double effect: on the one hand people became harder, on the other hand it stimulated their acquaintance with Russian culture and brought the two peoples closer.

The main occupations of Saami at the end of XIX were — beginning of the XX century were:

1) fishing (in the lakes and rivers)
2) reindeer breeding
3) hunting.

They led a semi-nimadic life. In pre-Revolutionary Russia the Saami were practically a doomed nationality. They starved and suffered from numerous diseases, they were oppressed by the local and visiting merchants.

From the first days of the Soviet power the government took the great concern for the development of small nationalities of the North (saami, nenzy and komi).

Modern Saami don't wander about the tundra with their families any longer. The majority of the Saami people live in the centre of the peninsula in Lovozero. Their main occupation is still traditional reindeer breeding. There are about 1900 Saami on the territory of our region.


Vepses — one of the small peoples of the North-West Russia. As per the last (1989) census of the population there were 12,1 thousand Vepses in Russia. The major territory populated by Vepses — Karelia, the Leningrad and Vologda regions. The Veps language belongs to the Baltic-Finnish group.

On January 20, 1994, on the territory of three National village Soviets of the Southern Prionezhje of the Republic of Karelia, mostly populated by the Northern vepses, the self-governing territory — Veps National District — was established.

The administrative center is Village of Sheltozero.
Totally populated areas — 13.
Population — 3,387 (as of 01.01.99).

As per chronicles, archeological and linguistic data Vepses people was scattered all over the vast territory from the White Sea (modern Vologda region) to the Onega and Ladoga lakes, the so called Mezhozer'je (territory between the lakes).

Before Vepses appeared in the North, the ancestors of saami had populated these parts. Vepses are considered to have originated from the South-Western Baltic region, from where they had finally migrated by the beginning of the II millenium of our era.

The main activities of Vepses' ancestors were agriculture, hunting, fishing, well-developed commerce. The trade way from the land of Varangians to the land of Greeks (from Scandinavia to the South), which lay across the territory of Vepses, enhanced the establishment of intensive exchange with the Central and Southern territories.

      Copyright © 2004—2012 “Varzuga Foundation”
Telephone: (7 8152) 25-27-72; (7 921) 734-85-19.

Design by