Who are the Mordvin People?

The Mordovian Erzia Museum of Visual Arts in Mordovia.
The Mordovian Erzia Museum of Visual Arts in Mordovia.

The Mordvins, also known as Mordovians, Mordvinians, or Mordva are members of an indigenous group of people mainly living in the Mordovian Republic and speak a Mordvinic language originating from the family of the Uralic languages. The Republic of Mordovia whose capital city is situated in the city of Saransk is located at the Volga-Oka River basin. The Mordvins can also be found in other areas of the middle Volga River region of Russia. Despite the Mordvin being a well-established group of people they have never consolidated as a nation.

Overview Of The Mordvinian People

Being among the larger indigenous peoples of Russia, the Mordvins are mainly divided into two ethnic groups which are: the Moksha and the Erzya. The two are also dialect groups with the Moksha Mordvinians speaking the Moksha language and the Erzya Mordvinians speak Erzya language. There are other smaller subgroups which include the Teryukhan, Shoksha or Tengushev, and Qaratay. The three groups are Mordvins who became fully Turkified and Russified during the 19th and 20th centuries. While more than two-thirds of the Mordvins are scattered in different regions and countries like the US, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Far East, Siberia, Central Asia, Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, and Tatarstan. They are also found in Russian oblasts of Nizhny Novgorod, Orenburg, Penza, and Samara, only less than one-third can be found in the autonomous republic of Mordovia.

History Of The Mordvins

The Mordvin people originated from the common Volgaic group. The ancestors of both the Moksha and the Erzya have been distinguished by researchers by the variety of bronze jewelry, elements of their costumes, and most importantly the different orientations of their burial. Over the course of the 1st millennium AD, the Mordvin language started diverging into Erzya and Moksha. The Moksha lived further west and south of present-day Modrovia while the Erzya resided in the regions of the territory near present-day Nizhny Novgorod.

Appearance Of The Mordvins

Despite the Mordvins largely abandoning their language, the 1911 Britannica noted that their old national dress was still maintained. Mordvin women can especially be seen in their traditional costumes which feature profusely embroidered skirts coupled with numerous necklaces and original hair-dress, and large earings. The Mordvins were described as having blue eyes, dark hair, and a small but narrow build. The Britannica described the Moksha as having darker eyes and skin compared to the Erzya who have red or brown hair.

The Mordvinian Cultures

Despite the Erzya and the Moksha sharing several similarities, there is no common Mordvin Mythology. According to the Moksha mythology, Viarde Skai is the Supreme God. According to the Moksha legend, the world was created through several stages. The Giants of 99 archinnes were the first humans to be created and could live up to 800 years. According to the mythology, Mastoratia is the ruler of the underworld. According to the Erzya mythology, the Earth was the first to be created then the Sun, Moon, humankind, and lastly the Erzya; Chipaz the Sun God is the creator of humanity. Ange Patiai is the mother of gods. The mythology also suggests that superior deities were hatched from an egg. According to the 1911 Britannica, the Mordvinians have tried to preserve a significant part of their mythologies fusing them with the Christian religion. Other cultures that are believed to have been preserved include the worship of water, the moon, trees, thunder, the sun, and frost. The practice of kidnapping brides is still practiced by the less Russified Moksha. The Mordvins are also known to be masters of apiculture.


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