Pomors

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Pomors in a pre-revolutionary photograph
Not to be confused with Pomaks.

Pomors or Pomory (Russian: Помо́ры; IPA: [pɐˈmorɨ], Seasiders) are Russian settlers, primarily from Novgorod, and their descendants living on the White Sea coasts and the territory whose southern border lies on a watershed which separates the White Sea river basin from the basins of rivers that flow south.

History[edit]

As early as the 12th century, explorers from Novgorod entered the White Sea through the Northern Dvina and Onega estuaries and founded settlements along the sea coasts of Bjarmaland. Kholmogory served as their chief town until the rise of Arkhangelsk in the late 16th century. From their base at Kola, they explored the Barents Region and the Kola peninsula, Spitsbergen, and Novaya Zemlya.

Later the Pomors discovered and maintained the Northern Sea Route between Arkhangelsk and Siberia. With their ships (koches), the Pomors penetrated to the trans-Ural areas of Northern Siberia, where they founded the settlement of Mangazeya east of the Yamal Peninsula in the early 16th century.

Some authors speculate that Pomors settled, supposedly in the early 17th century, the isolated village of Russkoye Ustye in the delta of the Indigirka, in north-eastern Yakutia.[1]

The name of the Pomors derives from the Pomorsky (literally, "maritime") coast of the White Sea (between Onega and Kem), having the root of more (море, meaning "sea"; derived from an Indo-European root). The same root appears in the toponym Pomerania (Polish: Pomorze, German: Pommern).

Malye Korely, a 17th-century Pomor village, 28 km east of Arkhangelsk

The term Pomor which originally, in the 10th-12th centuries, meant "a person who lived near sea", gradually extended into one that referred to the population living relatively far away from the sea. And finally in the 15th century it became disconnected from the sea.[citation needed] The sea was not a major part of economy of this region.[citation needed] However, a territory of practically the whole European Russian North, including Murmansk region, Arkhangelsk and Vologda regions, Karelia and Komi republics, started to be called Pomor'e.[2]

The traditional livelihoods of the Pomors based on the sea included animal hunting, whaling and fishing; in tundra regions they practiced reindeer herding. Sea trading in corn and fish with Northern Norway became important. This trade was so intensive that a kind of Russian-Norwegian pidgin language Moja på tvoja (or Russenorsk) developed on the North Norwegian coast in 1750–1920.

In the 12-15th centuries Pomor'e formed an extensive colony of the state of Great Novgorod. By the early 16th century the annexation of Pomor'e by Moscow was completed. In the 17th century, in 22 Pomor'e districts the great bulk of the population consisted of free peasants. A portion of the land belonged to monasteries and to the Stroganov merchants. There were no landlords in Pomor'e. The population of Pomor'e districts was engaged in fishing, mica and salt production (Sol'-Kamskay, Sol'- Vychegodskay, Tot'ma, etc.) and other enterprises.

A 17th-century Pomor church near Kholmogory

Eminent Pomors include Mikhail Lomonosov,[citation needed] Fedot Shubin[citation needed] (both born near Kholmogory), Semyon Dezhnev[citation needed], and Yerofey Khabarov[citation needed] (both born in Veliky Ustyug).

Although some people now identify themselves as "Pomor" or of "Pomor origin", this is a new phenomenon.[citation needed] The Russian Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, in its 1890-1907 edition, classified Pomors as Great Russians or referred to them as Russian traders and trappers of the North. To date, no encyclopedia or encyclopedic dictionary refers to Pomors as a separate ethnic group.

During the 2002 census, it was possible for respondents to identify themselves as "Pomors", this group being tabulated by the census as a subgroup of the Russian ethnicity. However, only 6,571 persons did so, almost all of them in Arkhangelsk Oblast (6,295) and Murmansk Oblast (127).

Like most other Great Russians, Pomors are traditionally Orthodox Christians; prior to 1917 a large percentage of Russians from Pomorje (or Pomors) were practicing Old Believers.

Present day use of the name[edit]

One of the three universities of Arkhangelsk was named the Pomor State University (now merged into Northern (Arctic) Federal University). In line with the current Russian trend towards amalgamating the least populated or poorest federal subjects into larger entities, a merger of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk Oblasts, the Komi Republic, and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug has been proposed, one of the possible names of this new territory being the Pomor Krai.

The Pomortsy[edit]

The Pomors should not be confused with the Pomortsy: members of an Old Believer group which arose in the late 17th century in northern Russia, and have since been represented by small communities throughout Russia and adjacent countries.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tatyana Bratkova Russkoye Ustye. Novy Mir, 1998, no. 4 (Russian)
  2. ^ Pomors and Pomor'e