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The beginnings of the Uralic Peoples

About 25,000 years ago groups of modern humans began migrating from the Near East into Central Europe. They were Racially similar to the Sami (Lapp) peoples. They spoke a language very remotely related to the Uralic, Basque and Caucasian languages. Some of these tribes began migrating east, who became the Proto-Uralic peoples. They settled the area between Scandinavia and the Ural Mountains. Those who remained were assimilated by the Proto-Indo-Europeans during the spread of the Proto-Indo-European languages into Europe 10,000 to 7,000 years ago. When the ancestors of the Proto-Uralics remained behind they learned the Proto-Indo-European languages, they learned the languages incorrectly because of there different accent, these errors remained in many of the Indo-European languages, and are still traceable today.

According to the linguist Janos Pusztay, Proto-Uralic was never one language but a Language Union or a chain of language contact. Which had a Western and Eastern center. The Eastern center was where the Mordvin, Ugric and Samoyed languages originated from. The Finnic languages originating from the western center. Permic and Mari originated in the middle of the Language Union. The Eastern center was a connecting link between the Uralic languages and non-Uralic Siberian languages.

A more traditional theory is that the homeland of the Uralic Peoples is thought to have been in the area of the central Ural mountain range, possibly slightly west of the mountains. Where they migrated from originally is uncertain. Part of the Uralic peoples origin probably originated with the Proto-Altaic, Paleosiberian and other Siberian language speaking people, there are undeniable linguistic and racial features (more with Samoyeds and other eastern Uralic peoples) in common with these peoples.

Proto-Uralic is thought to have been spoken around 5,000 - 8,000 BC In the central Ural mountain range. Knowledge of this location is partially based on shared cognate (related words) words that are common in modern Uralic languages of elements found in the Ural Mountain range, such as plants, animals etc. For example certain types of spruce are found in all Uralic languages excluding Hungarian (Finnish: kuusi, Lapp: guossa, Mordvin: Kuz, Khanty: Kol, Komi: Koz, Selkup: Kut, Nenets: xady, etc. This fur tree is found in more northern climates, it can be assumed that the widespread use of the name of the tree suggests a period in which Proto-Uralic was spoken within the zone.

The Samoyed people are believed to have separated from the Uralic tribes around 3,000 B.C. The Samoyeds headed east but remained relatively near the Ural mountains. The Finno-Ugric tribes moved south and west in the direction of the junction of the Volga and Kama rivers. It is possible that the ancestors of Lapps may have separated at this time or slightly afterwards and headed towards Scandinavia.

There is a theory that five or six thousand years ago there existed a primitive Uralic Empire. This empire possibly started to break up into the ancestors of the modern Uralic peoples by at least 3000 BC when the Samoyeds are believed to have separated although the empire could have continued even past this separation, but it seems likely that there would have been knowledge of it in historical or mythological sources if it would have continued past 1000-500 BC. There may have been groups of Proto-Uralic peoples not affiliated with the empire, or possibly more than one empire at a time. The word for the Mordvins may have been one of the prehistoric names for the Uralics. How the word Mordvin came into being is unknown. Their neighbours called this empire Mordens or Merdens, meaning ‘those who grant death’. Although direct evidence for this theory is lacking, it does seem as a possible conclusion explaining the high variation of races within the Uralic language family, they may have assimilated many non-Uralic peoples into there empire for example: Altaic (which would bring the Mongoloid racial characteristics) and Indo-European speaking groups.

In terms of racial characteristics the Uralic peoples are considered a blend of Europoid and Mongoloid racial types, with the western Uralic peoples considered strongly Europoid with and the more eastern Uralics especially the Samoyeds being strongly Mongoloid. The Uralic Peoples have mixed with many different peoples and have been altered racially because of the different environments they settled in during the thousands of years they have been apart. The racial characteristics of the Ancient Uralics were similar to the Lapp, Mari and Permic peoples of today.