MiIkul Pahmov: “The Ludics are an ancient ethnicity”

Media center FINUGOR presents an article about the Ludic nation written by founder and board member Miikul Pahmov. Russian ethnology considers the Ludics a subgroup of the Karelians and their language a dialect of the Karelian language. Authorities in Karelia and leaders of Karelian national organizations uphold this concept to this day. In their view, any statements about the separate nature of the Ludics and the Ludic language are an attempt to divide a single Karelian ethnic group. 

At the same time, linguists and ethnologists from Finland and other Western countries consider the Ludics a separate Balto-Finnic nation, closely related to the Karelians proper, Livvi-Karelians, and Vepsians. There are currently 4-5 thousand Ludics, but only 300 of them are native speakers of the Ludic language (or dialect). The reason for this situation is the lack of teaching of the Ludic language, and official support for its preservation and development. In schools in the Ludic populated region, Karelian proper and the Livvi dialect are taught, though only in the school in the village of Kuyar’v [the village of Mikhailovskoye in the Olonets district of Karelia – ed. note] young Ludics can only learn the language of their ancestors in small clubs, outside of school hours.

Ludic activists have posed a question to the government of Karelia on the necessity of teaching the Ludic language, and recognizing its alphabet, which is different than Karelian’s. At the VI Worldwide Congress of Finno-Ugric Nations, which was held in September 2012 in Hungary, Ludic delegates have demanded the recognition of the Ludics as a separate nation, and the Ludic language as separate from Karelian.

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The origin of the Ludics has nothing in common with the medieval Korel tribe, linguistic descendants of which are Karelians proper, Izhorians, and speakers of eastern dialects of Finnish. The land occupied by the ancient Korelians is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ladoga. Nonetheless, the Ludic is a no less ancient language or ethnicity than Karelian proper, or Vepsian. The history of the Ludics is linked with the Kurgan culture of the Southwestern Ladoga region, which existed from the 9th to the 13th centuries. The kurgan style of burial was almost certainly adopted by the ancient Ludics from their neighbors, the Vikings, who settled in the 9th century in the Volkhovsky district at Aldeigjuborg, known today as Staraya Ladoga.

Some researchers, simplifying the progress of ethnic processes at the turn of the 1st and 2nd millennium, are inclined to consider the kurgans of the Southwestern Ladoga region Vepsian, which downplays the role the Ludics played in history. All the same, the origin of the Vepsians is not connected with these kurgans, but with another culture, that was prevalent at the same time between the White Sea and the southern tip of Lake Onega. Ancient Russian chronicles calling the residents of the Lake Beloye region Ves’, i.e. Vepsians, from the 9th century, as well as the fact that this corresponds to the present distribution of Vepsian dialects, testify to this. It is precisely in the Lake Beloye region that archeologist Vladislav Ravdonikas, linguist Ruben Erik Nirvi, and other scholars place the ancient Vepsians.

From a territory bordered by the Volkhov and Svir rivers, the ancient Ludic kurgan culture spread into the western part of the Olonets isthmus. There, the Ludic language picked up a strong Karelian influence, which gradually led to the emergence of the Livvi, or Olonets dialect of the Karelian language. The fact that modern Livvi Karelian comes from Ludic is attested to not only be comparative linguistic data, but for example, also the fact that the self-designation of the Livvis and their language, Livvi harken back to a more ancient form, Lüüdi. This is indicated by the geographic location of Livvi dialects, which directly border the Ludic dialects in the east.

The eastern part of the Olonets isthmus, where Ludic dialects are still preserved today, aleady began to be settled by Ludic people from the Southwest Ladoga region during the Kurgan culture period. In the 13th century, they had completely left the Ladoga region and settled in their present area, which is connected with the beginning of Novgorodian missionary activity in the Ladoga region to convert pagans to Christianity. The land of the Ludics in the eastern part of the Olonets isthmus contains the cities of Petrozavodsk and Kondopoga, the museum island of Kizhi, the Kivach waterfall, the first Russian health resort, Martsialnye vody, and other important sights in Karelia.

The toponymy of Petrozavodsk and its outskirts still preserves some traces of Ludic. For example, the name of a district of the city, Kukovka (earlier- Kukkovka, Kukonmäki) comes from the Ludic word kukoi, meaning “rooster,” making the district name mean “Rooster hill,” and the suburb Solomennoye got its name from the Ludic “Salmen(külä), i.e. “Village in the strait.” Ludic was still present in the outskirts of the capital of Karelia in the 19th century in places. The linguist Aleksandr Barantsev believes that the earliest known Ludic texts, Ludic folk charms, where written in the 17th century by Ludic people from Yalguba.