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Title: Pomors  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Slavs, Koch (boat), Icebreaker, Arctic exploration, Arkhangelsk
Collection: Pomors, Regions of Russia, Russian Population Groups, Slavic Ethnic Groups, White Sea
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Pomors in a pre-revolutionary photograph

Pomors or Pomory (Russian: Помо́ры; IPA: , Seasiders) are Russian settlers, primarily from Novgorod, and their descendants living on the White Sea coasts and the territory whose southern border lies on a watershed which separates the White Sea river basin from the basins of rivers that flow south.


As early as the 12th century, explorers from Novgorod entered the White Sea through the Northern Dvina and Onega estuaries and founded settlements along the sea coasts of Bjarmaland. Kholmogory served as their chief town until the rise of Arkhangelsk in the late 16th century. From their base at Kola, they explored the Barents Region and the Kola peninsula, Spitsbergen, and Novaya Zemlya.

Later the Pomor discovered and maintained the Northern Sea Route between Arkhangelsk and Siberia. With their ships (koches), the Pomors penetrated to the trans-Ural areas of Northern Siberia, where they founded the settlement of Mangazeya east of the Yamal Peninsula in the early 16th century. Tatyana Bratkova has reported that some historians speculate that in the early 17th century, Pomors settled the isolated village of Russkoye Ustye in the delta of the Indigirka, in north-eastern Yakutia.[1]

Malye Korely, a 17th-century Pomor village, 28 km east of Arkhangelsk

The name of the Pomors derives from the Pomorsky (literally, "maritime") coast of the White Sea (between Onega and Kem), having the root of more (море, meaning "sea"; derived from an Indo-European root). The same root appears in the toponym Pomerania (Polish: Pomorze, German: Pommern).

The term Pomor, which in the 10th-12th centuries meant "a person who lived near sea", gradually was extended into one to apply to this population living relatively far away from the sea. Finally in the 15th century, the people became disconnected from the sea. The sea was not a major part of economy of this region. At the same time, people began using the term Pomor'e to refer to a territory of practically the whole European Russian North, including the Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Vologda regions; and Karelia and Komi republics.[2]

The traditional livelihoods of the Pomor based on the sea included animal hunting, whaling and fishing; in tundra regions they practiced reindeer herding. The Pomor traded by sea in corn and fish with Northern Norway, which became important to both sides. This trade was so intensive that a kind of Russian-Norwegian pidgin language Moja på tvoja (or Russenorsk) developed on the North Norwegian coast that was used from 1750–1920.

Pomor village, early 20th century
In the 12-15th centuries, Pomor'e was considered an extensive colony of the state of Great Novgorod. By the early 16th century the annexation of Pomor'e by Moscow was completed. In the 17th century, in 22 Pomor'e districts the great bulk of the population consisted of free peasants. A portion of the land belonged to monasteries and to the Stroganov merchants. There were no landlords in Pomor'e. The population of Pomor'e districts was engaged in fishing, mica and salt production (Sol'-Kamskay, Sol'- Vychegodskay, Tot'ma, etc.) and other enterprises.
A 17th-century Pomor church near Kholmogory

Although in the 21st century, some people identify as "Pomor" or of "Pomor origin", this is a new phenomenon. The Russian Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, in its 1890-1907 edition, classified Pomors as Great Russians or referred to them as Russian traders and trappers of the North. To date, no encyclopedia or encyclopedic dictionary refers to the Pomor as a separate ethnic group.

In the 2002 census, respondents had the option to identify as "Pomors", this group being tabulated by the census as a subgroup of the Russian ethnicity. However, only 6,571 persons did so, almost all of them in Arkhangelsk Oblast (6,295) and Murmansk Oblast (127).

Like most other Russians, Pomors have traditionally been Orthodox Christians in faith. Prior to the Revolution of 1917 a large percentage of Russians from Pomorje (or Pomors) were practicing Old Believers.

Notable Pomor

An early (1773) map of Chukotka, showing the route of the Dezhnyov expedition of 1648

Present day use of the name

One of the three universities of Arkhangelsk was named the Pomor State University (now merged into Northern (Arctic) Federal University). In line with the current Russian trend towards amalgamating the least populated or poorest federal subjects into larger entities, a merger of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk Oblasts, the Komi Republic, and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug has been proposed, one of the possible names of this new territory being the Pomor Krai.

The Pomortsy

The Pomors should not be confused with the Pomortsy: members of an Old Believer group which arose in the late 17th century in northern Russia, and have since been represented by small communities throughout Russia and adjacent countries.

See also

External links

  • Pomorje, Pomorskii Krai, land of the Pomors, Pomor Land - Russian, German, English
  • Pomors, definition, Efremova Academic Dictionary, Russian
  • Pomors, definition, Большой Энциклопедический Словарь, Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, Russian
  • Pomors, definition, Ushakov's Encyclopedic Dictionary, Russian
  • Brockhaus & Efron, Encyclopedia, 1890-1907, Russian
  • Pomor State University at Archangel / Arkhangelsk, Russian
  • Pomor Patriot - a Pomorje information portal, Russian
  • Tatiana Shrader Across the Borders: the Pomor Trade, English
  • Pomormuseet i Vardø -Pomor Museum in Vardø, Norwegian and Russian
  • Pomorje and Pomors, different types within Russian nation, the origins, in Russian


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