UDMURTS or Votyaks

The self-appellation of this people is udmurt, vudmurt, odmort, udmort, ukmort (in plural, -joz is added, e.g. udmurtjoz). The name for the Udmurts propagated by the use in the Russian language and now outdated is Votyak, which the Udmurts consider disparaging and offensive.


The Udmurts live in an area between the rivers Vyatka and Kama in the Republic of Udmurtia (capital city Izhkar, in Russian Izhevsk). About 2/3 of the Udmurts live in their Republic (42,100 sq. km.). The rest live mainly in the Perm Province, Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, in the provinces of Kirov and Yekaterinburg of the Russian Federation, and in the Mari Republic. Occasional Udmurt settlements are also in Siberia, Kazakhstan and the Far East.


Year Population in Udmurtia Population in Udmurtia Knowledge of the
native language
Total in the
Russian Federation
Knowledge of the
native language in the
Russian Federation
1926 404,800     514,000  
1939 479,700     599,900  
1959 475,900   89.1% 615,600  
1970 484,200   82.6% 678,400  
1979 479,700   76.4% 685,700  
1989 496,500 30,9% 70.0% 714,800  
2002 460,600 29,3% 72.0% (330,800) 636,900 67.5% (429,400)


About 72,3% of the Udmurts live in their ethnic Republic, forming 29,3% of the population of the Republic (2002). 92.5% of the Udmurts lived in rural areas in 1939. In the rural areas Udmurts are in the majority and their proportion has increased in recent years, as other people are leaving the countryside at a greater rate than the Udmurts are. The increase in their relative numbers has not, however, meant an increase in their total population, as the demographic structure of the Udmurts has constantly deteriorated.


Turning Points in the History of the Udmurts

II half of the 16th c Udmurts become subjects of the Grand Duchy of Moscow;

18th c Udmurts are converted to Orthodoxy, but retain their old nature religion;

1920 formation of the Udmurt (Votyak) Autonomous Province;

1921 famine breaks out as a result of the civil war in Russia, many Udmurts flee to Siberia;

1930s forced collectivisation and relocation, by 1937 tens of thousands of Udmurts have been deported, almost the total Udmurt intelligentsia has been annihilated;

II World War large production facilities together with their employees are evacuated to the Udmurt territory, which increases the proportion of immigrants, mainly Russians, in the population;

1950-60s great numbers of Udmurts move to work on the big construction projects in Volgograd, Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg) and Siberia, or migrate to Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. Between 1971 and 1988 more than a thousand Udmurt villages were closed down as non-viable and the inhabitants were forced to move elsewhere.

Danger Signs

The sphere of usage of the Udmurt language is narrow and its status is low. Two newspapers and four magazines are currently published in the Udmurt language. About 2.5 hours of radio broadcasts and 1.5 hours of television programmes are delivered daily in Udmurtian. Of 99,000 Udmurt schoolchildren only 29,000 are learning the native language, whereas Udmurtian as the language of instruction is used only in the primary schools of the rural areas, where it is a preparation to the instruction in Russian. There do not seem to be any obvious administrative obstacles to the expanded use of the Udmurtian language in schools, but there is the lack of teachers trained in Udmurtian, and of books and teaching aids. The Parliament of the Republic of Udmurtia has declared the Udmurtian language the official language in the Republic parallelly with Russian, but the language law has met with strong opposition.


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