Photo: Harriet Gillett


The Komi Republic is situated in the east of the European part of the Russian Federation, near the Ural mountain range. The Zyryan Komis or simply Zyryans live in the Republic of Komi (415,900 sq. km., capital city Syktyvkar) and in the surrounding regions, on the Kola Peninsula, in the Nenets Autonomous District of the Archangelsk Province and in many different places in Siberia. In the upper reaches of the Kama river live the Kirov Permyaks of Zyuzdin Komis.

Approximately 1,250,8470 people live in the Komi Republic, representing more than 70 different ethnic groups. Russian immigrants comprise the largest population group - 58%, followed by the indigenous Komi people - 23%. Other groups include Ukrainians (8%), Belarussians (2%) and Tatars (2%). The Komi population increased steadily until the 1970s; after that there has been a considerable decrease in their knowledge of the native language.

There are two official languages in the Republic - Komi, which belongs to the Finnic group of languages, and Russian. 74,3% of Komi people speak their mother tongue.

The Komi are represented in the UNPO by the Komi National Revival Committee.

The Komi Republic is rich in natural resources as coal, oil, gas, forest, minerals and metals.

The historical Perm formed a much wider entity than, for instance, the modern Perm region, situated to the west of the Ural mountains. The legendary Perm (or Biarmia as Scandinavian Vikings called it) covered a considerable part of eastern Europe, which Russians mentioned in the 12-14th century as Perm the Great. The term "perm" comes from Russian chronicles where it sounded originally like "perem". Continuing traditions of their Viking forefathers, the Novgorod merchants and river pirates were seeking for lands rich with fur and silver, as well as for new tax sources. The name "perm" was adopted from the Veps tribes living in the basin of the gateway river of Suhona. On the way eastwards the Novgorod boats met the locals who talked about some "perämaa" laying far there, what means in western Finnish dialects "back country" or "lands far away". Nowadays the ancient Perm is represented mostly by archeological excavations and legends, but the descendants of the Perm still exist as Komis, Permyaks and Udmurts, together forming a population of about 1.5 million in Russia and representing the eastern branch (or Perm group) of the nations speaking Finnish languages. Also there are many modern Russians around the Kama river and in the Ural region (Kirov, Perm and Ekaterinburg administrative regions) who descend from the same people and call themselves Permians but do not identify themselves as Finnish people any more. The Permian nations, known today as Komi (including Permyaks) and Udmurts, descend from ancient Finnic peoples of the Kama basin and Ugrians.

Current situation
The Komi Republic started to recover from the severe environmental damage caused by oil spills and fires. The recognition of the Komi national movement within the political framework of the Komi Republic has benefited the Komi people’s efforts to maintain and develop their own national identity. Komi representatives continue to effectively participate in the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, as well as the Inter-sessional Working Group developing a declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Source: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs [NUPI] - Centre for Russian Studies
Links to external websites about the Komi people, their land, history, and culture (pages will open in new window):

Endangered Uralic Peoples: Komis | Permyak Komis

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO): Komi

Wikipedia: Komi

Photos: M. Pellinen, H. Gillett, A. Heikkinen, I. Georgievsky, L. Rautiajnen, M. Kashtanov, N. Korpoussenko, V. Grigoriev, Y. Protasov, A. Krasnikov

North Urals-West Siberia Map | TURAN Main Map