Ethnic Intermarriage Declining in Non-Russian Republics of Russian Federation

June 6, 2015
Wedding Lezginka regional dance performed at festival in Dagestan, 2014. Photo by RIA Novosti

Staunton, June 6 – Approximately one in four marriages in the Russian Federation involves people of different nationalities, but the number of ethnically mixed marriages varies widely among the country’s ethnic communities and between those living in their ethnic homelands and those living elsewhere.

That pattern is not surprising given that the number of ethnically mixed marriages depends not only on cultural, religious and behavioral differences among these groups but also on the ethnic mix of the surrounding population. In general, where the latter is greatest, the number of inter-ethnic marriages is as well; and conversely, when the population becomes more mono-ethnic, the number of inter-ethnic marriages falls.

And where that happens, the possibilities for inter-ethnic concord tend to decline as well, something that has the effect of pushing down still further the number of inter-ethnic marriages and leading members of the titular nationalities to view other groups as increasingly distant socially and ultimately politically as well.

A new study, based on the 2002 and 2010 Russian cities, prepared by Yevgeny Soroko of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, reports that “Chechens, Ingush, Yakuts and Kalmyks as a rule are in mono-ethnic marriages while for the Komi and Mordvins, the share of mixed families is very high, above 40 percent.” (The study is available at here and is summarized today here.)

At the present time, “only 14 percent” of marriages among Russia’s major non-Russian nationalities are ethnically mixed, “half as many as for the country as a whole,” Soroko says, a pattern that he says reflects the fact that “in the national republics, the population is more mono-ethnic.”

In some of the non-Russian republics, the number of such ethnically mixed marriages is very small. In Chechnya, for instance, “only one of every 91 men is married to a woman of another nationality,” and in Ingushetia, Sakha, and Kalmykia, the percentage of such marriages is “below 10 percent.”

At the other end of the scale, Soroko says, are the Komi, a Finno-Ugric group of the Russian North. Among its members, “more than a third” are in ethnically mixed marriages. In between are groups like the Tatars, many of whom live outside their republic and thus have more inter-ethnic marriages, and the Yakut, most of whom live within it and thus have fewer.

Soroko devotes particular attention to the frequency of ethnically mixed marriages among members of non-Russian nationalities who live outside their titular republics, in what he identifies as “’the rest of Russia.’” That is because differences observed there speak to the issue of the existence of “cultural barriers between ethnoses or their absence.”

For the 2002-2010 census period, he continues, those living outside their home republics not surprisingly tended to marry members of other ethnic groups significantly more often, with the members of five of them – the Kalmyks, Udmurts, Mordvins, Yakuts and Komis – doing so in more than 50 percent of all marriages.