General information


The Veps are a Balto-Finnic people living between the three largest northern lakes: Lake Ladoga, Lake Onego, and Lake Beloye. Currently, this area is divided between three large adjacent regions: the Republic of Karelia, the Leningrad region, and the Vologda region. The 2010 census puts the number of the Veps at 5.936 persons. Most of them live in Karelia (3.423 persons), while 1.380 Veps live in the Leningrad region, and 412 Veps live in the Vologda region ( Peoples of Karelia 2019: 275).

The total number of Vepsians, according to the 2020 All-Russian Population Census, is 4,687 people (2,066 men and 2,621 women).

Scholars use several endonyms to identify the Veps, for example, vepsä , vepsläižed , bepsä , bepsaažed , lüdinikad , lüdilaižed tägalaižed . Before 1917, the Veps were officially termed chude while the ethnonym “Veps” came into use in the 1920s. Each dialectal group has its own endonym that to some degree reflects the specifics of the Veps ethnic history. The Onego Veps call themselves ludinik, ludilaine “people.” The middle Veps settled in the middle reaches of the river Oayt call themselves vepslaized (sing. vepslaine), and the southern Veps call themselves bepslaized (sing. beps). The southern Veps also call themselves cuhar’ cuharid ( chukhar - chukhars ); this ethnonym came from their Russian neighbors (Vinokurova 2015: 12).

Currently, Veps do not reside on a single well-defined territory. Rather, they are settled in several isolated groups that can be categorized in accordance with their language dialects or geographical landmarks.

The Northern (Onego) Veps live on the narrow coastal strip of southwest Lake Onego stretching northward from the village of Gimreka (30 km off the riverhead of the Svir) to the village of Shoksha (60 km south of Petrozavodsk). The largest settlements there are Shoksha, Sheltozero, and Rybreka. There are many Veps villages (Vinnitsy, Ozera, Ladva, Yaroslavichi, Nadporozhye, etc.) in the upper and middle reaches of the Oyat that form the so-called Middle Oyat group (Podporozhye and Lodeynoye Pole districts in the Leningrad region).

Southern Veps villages (Sidorovo, Belaya, Prokushevo, Chaigino, Pozharishche, Bobrozero, Radogoshch) are located in the Boksitogorsk districts of the Leningrad region, at the riverhead of the Lid, on the southern slopes of the Veps plateau.

The Shugozero, or Kapsha group lives on the coasts of the rivers Kapsha and Pasha in the Tikhvin district of the Leningrad region (in the villages of Ust-Kapsha, Ozrovichi, Korbinichi, Kharagenichi, Korvala) serving as a sort of a bridge between the middle and southern Veps.

The Middle Shimozero Veps used to live in the villages of Shimozero, Krivozero, Nazhmozero, Torozero, Klenozero, Pelkaska along the border of the Leningrad and Vologda regions. In 1958–1959, the entire population of the Shimozero area was forced to move away from their traditional residences to the southern Onego area, the villages of Volodarskaya, Gimreka, Shota, Megra, Voznesenie; to the villages of Nemzha, Ladva, Kurba in the upper reaches of the Oyat, to the villages of Pyazhelka and Kolamsha in the upper reaches of Suda, and to the cities of Lodeynoye Pole, Podporozhye, Petrozavodsk, and Leningrad (today’s St. Petersburg).

A small cluster of Veps villages (Pondala, Voylakhta, Kuya) is located in the upper reaches of the Ivoda in the Babayevo district of the Vologda region; their residents are usually called the Belozero Veps (their abode is 70 km away from Lake Beloye).

In the past, the Veps were dispersed over a vast territory. Back in the 19 th century, the Veps (later Russified) used to live in the Isaevo volost (district) of the Vytegra uezd (district) of the Olonets province ( Peoples of Karelia 2019: 275).