Leiu Heapost: How to Identify an Estonian?

Leiu Heapost, senior research fellow at the TU Institute of History explains the difference between Estonians and other Finno-Ugric people, website of Tallinn University reports.

“Physical Anthropology of Finno-Ugric peoples” (“Soome-ugri rahvaste füüsiline antropoloogia”), a book originally written by Karin Mark and edited by Leiu Heapost, has recently been published.

The author, Karin Mark, was an Estonian anthropologist, who became the student  and assistant of Estonia’s first Anthropologist, Juhan Aul, while she was studying Zoology at Tartu University. While Aul focused on the somatology of Estonians, Mark started researching the ethnic history of Estonians and later all Finno-Ugric people. With the goal of researching all the peoples included in the Finno-Ugric language family, she organized many research trips during her 25 year research.

From 1955 to 1976 she measured all the Finno-Ugric people, as well as the Turkic and Indo-Europeans neighbouring them. During these expeditions, 22 ethnicities and 133 ethnic groups were researched on the seemingly endless Eurasian continent. 14 measurable and 32 descriptive parameters were written up about 12,652 people. All measurements were conducted by Karin Mark herself, using a single code and methodology, which makes this research very unique.

Of the Finno-Ugric people, Estonians, Izhorians, Ingrian Finns, Finns, Karelians, Vepsians, Sami, Erzya and Moksha Mordvins, Teryukhans, Karatai, Mari, Zyrian and Permic Komis, Udmurts, Bessermen, Khants, Mansis and Carpathian Hungarians (altogether 112 groups) were measured, and for comparison, neighbouring Indo-European (Finnish Swedes and Russians, altogether 9 groups) and Turkic peoples (Tatars, Chuvashes, Bashkirs, altogether 12 groups) were also measured.

Every people is slightly different in their looks. Recently published long-term studies help us describe the exact differences between Finno-Ugric peoples and Estonians.

Estonians have feeble pigmentation, light eyes and the brightest hair of Finno-Ugric people. The hair is soft and wavy. Men have strong beards like most people around the Baltic Sea.

Estonians are among the tallest people in the world, like Finns. Only Finland-Swedes are taller. The measurements of the heads are large as well. The head is mesocephalic in shape. The sum of the length and width of their heads makes Estonians the people with the biggest heads in the Finno-Ugric group, which exceeds that even of Finnish Swedes.

The height of the nose is long to very long, the width is average. Estonians have the most leptorrhine (high and narrow) noses of all Baltic Sea Finno-Ugric people, as do some Finnish people. Hungarians and Finnish Swedes are even more leptorrhine.

Estonians resemble most Nordic people, Baltic Sea Finns as well as other Finno-Ugric people.

In most Finno-Ugric groups there are very little or no red-haired people at all. There are less than 1% of them among Estonians, 1,4% among Finland-Swedes, 1,6% among Bessermen and 1,8% among Permic Komis. A peculiar exception are the Udmurts with more than 4% of red-haired people.

Among the peoples researched by Karin Mark, the characteristics of the Caucasian race are best seen in Finnish Swedes, specially in Åland, Finland. They have strong beards, a strong horizontal face profile, weak cheekbones, horizontal eye slits, very rare occurrence of the epicanthus or a small skinfold in the inner corner of the eye, as well as a high prominent nose bridge and a very low percentage of procheilia in the upper lip profile. People with similar characteristics are Russians from near Volga, as well as some Erzya Mordvins, people from west Finland and west Estonia.