The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the nation (natsiia, nation in the historical sense) that makes up the indigenous population of the Mordovian ASSR. Significant groups of Mordovians also live in Saratov, Penza, Ul’ianovsk, Gorky, Orenburg, and Kuibyshev oblasts; in the Tatar, Chuvash, and Bashkir autonomous Soviet socialist republics; and in Siberia, Middle Asia, and the Far East. According to the 1970 census, there were 1,263,000 Mordovians.

The Mordovians are divided into two main groups, the Erzia and the Moksha, each of which preserves its own self-designation and certain specific features of material culture (national costume and dwellings) and folklore. The Erzia and Moksha languages constitute a separate group of the Finno-Ugric languages. They are literary languages in which scientific and artistic literature, newspapers, and magazines are published. (A system of writing was developed during the Soviet period.) Almost all Mordovians also speak Russian. The Mordovians also include two smaller ethnic groups, the Teriukhans and the Karatai. The Teriukhans adopted the Russian language as early as the 19th century and are now completely assimilated with the Russian population. The Karatai live in three villages on the right bank of the Volga in the Tatar ASSR and speak both the Russian and Tatar languages. The religious Mordovians are members of the Orthodox Church.

The Mordovians were first referred to as mordens by the Gothic historian Jordanes in the sixth century A.D. Linguistic and archaeological information indicates that the homeland of the Mordovians was located between the Oka and Middle Volga rivers. The study of ancient Mordovian settlements and burial grounds has established ancestral links between the Mordovians and the more ancient local tribes of the Gorodetsk culture (seventh century B.C. through fifth century A.D.). Evidence for these links includes implements, type of dwelling, pottery-making technique, and ornaments. Between the seventh and 12th centuries the Mordovian clan community declined. With the development of plow farming, it was replaced by the village community. Vestiges of the patriarchal clan, however, survived until a later period.

The gradual consolidation of the Mordovian tribes into a nationality began with the development of feudal relations. The Slavic tribes, and later the ancient Russian nation, influenced the formation of the Mordovian nation. The Mordovian people were granted autonomy during the Soviet period (1930), and a Mordovian socialist nation was formed. A national intelligentsia has emerged, and a great deal of progress has been made in the national theater, literature, various traditional folk arts (embroidery and wood carving, for example), and folklore (historical songs and lyric poetry).


Ocherki istorii Mordovskoi ASSR, vol. 1. Saransk, 1955.
Voprosy etnicheskoi istorii mordovskogo naroda. (Tr. in-ta etnografii im. N. N. Miklukho-Maklaia, vol. 63.) Moscow, 1960.
Issledovaniia po materiaVnoi kuVture mordovskogo naroda. (Ibid., vol. 86.) Moscow, 1963.
Narody Evropeiskoi chasti SSSR, vol. 2. Moscow, 1964.
Etnogenez mordovskogo naroda. Saransk, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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