(also ethnos; Russian, etnicheskaia obshchnost’ and etnos), a stable grouping of people that has developed historically, such as a tribe, a nationality, or a nation.
The principal conditions for the emergence of an ethnic community—a common territory and language—are at the same time the community’s main characteristics. Ethnic communities frequently are formed from elements that speak different languages; many nations of America are examples. Factors that may play a secondary role in the formation of an ethnic community are a common religion, the racial similarity of the people who make up the community, and the presence of considerable numbers of mestizo groups. The features of material and nonmaterial culture, everyday life, and group psychology that are characteristic of ethnic communities take shape in the course of ethnic group formation and are influenced by such factors as the specific nature of economic activity in particular natural conditions.
The members of an ethnic community share a common sense of identity, in which the notion of a common origin plays an important role. A common self-designation constitutes an outward manifestation of this sense of identity. A completely formed ethnic community is a social organism that reproduces itself primarily through ethnically homogeneous marriages and the transmission of, for example, language, culture, traditions, and ethnic orientation from generation to generation.
Ethnic communities, which are subject to change in the course of such ethnic processes as consolidation and assimilation, strive to establish their own social and territorial organization in order to achieve a more stable existence; in class society this entity is the state.
V. I. KOZLOV