Cheremisses - 19th Century Encyclopedia Entries

Historic Encyclopedias on the Cheremisses : Pierer 1857-1865, Anskjaer 1858-1863, Nordisk Familjebok 1890, Meyer 1885-1892, Meyer 1902-1909, Nordisk Familjebok 1915

Pierer's Universal-Lexikon 1857-1865, Article : Tscheremissen
Cheremissians, Finnic people of 200,000 to 300,000 individuals in Russian Asia, mainly in the governments Vyatka (80,000), Kazan (75,000), Perm (10,000), Nizhniy Novgorod (7,000), Kostroma (4,000), Orenburg (3,000), Simbirsk and others. They belong to the so-called Volga Finns, are dirty, poor, shy, blond, taller than the other Finns, live in villages or in isolated yurts, engage in agriculture, some livestock keeping, hunt, fishing. On their language see Cheremissian language. Religion Greek Catholic; many still are pagans. Their priests are called Mashan or Mushan, their high priest Jügtüsh; even the Christian tribes elect a soothsayer, Kat, who has an aid in the Ujö. In their language god is called Yuma pr Koyuyuma (the highest god), his wife Yumon Ava (mother of the gods) and is most worshipped after him; other gods are Purüksha or Pugursha Yuma, also Kudortsha Yuma (weather god, god of thunder), Kitsheba (sun goddess), Kaba etc. Puember Yuma is the god-sent prophet, which has been integrated in their religion because of their contact with the Tatars. The devil is called Schaitan, but is euphemistically called Yo. The holy places of their worship, which is held on Fridays, are clearings in the forest, which mostly are delineated by oaks, they are called Keremet. The Cheremisses give sacrifices, mainly in form of white animals (horses, cattle, goats, swans, geese, poultry of other kind) or beer, mead, brandy or cake. Their main festivals are Yumon Bairan, the general feats of the gods, Anga Soaren, the spring festival, Utkinde Bairan, thanksgiving. The baptized Cheremisses secretly partake in the celebration of all or most of these festivals, but when this is discovered by the Greek clergy, they suffer severe punishment. Marriage customs : the bride is purchased from her parents by payment in gold, on the day of her betrothal she sits veiled behind a locker. When the guests have assembled, in the company of her female friends (who consume bread, beer and honey) she walks around in the room with a sad face three times. hen he bridegroom takes off her veil, kisses her and puts the ring on her finger. Then she puts on the dress of a wife, and is regarded as such. On he following morning the father, with a whip in his hand, asks the husband if he is content; he repeats this question for a number of days, and he hits the woman if the answer is not positive. Burials are conducted three days after the death, the deceased is put in a coffin, is clothed in his best dress and is given a silver coin for his transit, a stick and a reed to fight off evil spirits, and a few household items. Men and women weep during the burial. When the coffin is lowered ino the grave, every person present kindles a candle and throws in a handful of soil. The priest asks the gods to have mercy with the deceased. Two days later the grave is visited, and the prayer repeated. Annually a feast for the dead is celebrated.
source in German, posted by Zeno

Anskjaer, Geografisk-Statistisk Haandbog 1858-1863, Article : Tscheremisser
Cheremisses, a Finnish people in the east of Russia, on the left bank of the Volga, and on both sides of the Kama, c. 200,000 in number, they used to be nomads, but now live of agriculture.
source in Danish, posted by Project Runeberg

Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1885-1892, Article : Tscheremissen.
Cheremisses, Finnish people at home in European Russia on the left bank of the Volga in the governments Nizhniy Novgorod, Kazan, Orenburg, Simbirsk and Vyatka. They have been given their name by the Mordvinians, they call themselves "Mara" (men). They are of average height, meek, blond or reddish people, lethargic, timid, are regarded frauds. Since they gave up their earlier nomadic life they are herdsmen, farmers, hunters, fishermen and beekeepers, but they do not live in cities or villages, but isolated, especially in the extensive primeval forests on the Volga. The women are skilled in weaving and in dying textiles of various kinds. The people, numbering 260,000, confess to the Greaco-Russian Church, but have maintained many pagan practices; so Agedarem, the god of cereals, still has great importance among them. The language of the Cheremisses belongs to the family of Finno-Ugric group of the Ural-Altaic languages. Grammars of this language were written by Castren (Elementa grammaticae tscheremissae, Kupio 1845) and Wiedemann (Reval 1847).
source in German, posted by Retro Bibliothek

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Article : Tjeremisserna (1892)
Cheremisses, an Eastern Finnish people living in Russia (Volga Finns), who both in geographic and linguistic respect form a transition between the Mordvinian group and the Permian group (see the articles on these two in regard to the ethnologic position of the Cheremisses). The Cheremisses are divided in two groups, the wesern and the easern ones. The former are made up by the so-called Forest (Meadow) Cherenmisses in the northwestern corner of the government of Kazan and in the southwestern corner of the government of Vyatka between the rivers Volga in the west and Vyatka in the east, and the lines Kazan-Malmish in the south and Rutka-Yaransk-Urzhum in the north. Together with the mountain Cheremisses on the other (right) bank of the Volga between the mouth of the Suras and the city of Cheboksary they form the bulk of the people. The eastern, much less important group, separated from the former by the Votyaks, lives in the northern part of the government Ufa between the rivers Kama and Byelaya in the west and south and the Ufa in the east and 56 degrees northern latitude in the north. Cheremisses (Jokers) is a name which was given to the people by their neighbours; they call themselves Mari (men). They are mostly farmers, with livestock keeping, hunting and fishery as additional sources of revenue. They live in small, miserable villages and are distinguished from others as dark-skinned, dark-haired and of small growth - but the Mountain Cheremisses are lighter and stronger - and also somewhat lazy, dirty and superstitious. They confess to the Graeco-Russian religion, but maintained a large number of pagan tradition, which in the matters of marriage and burial show many similarities with those of the Muslims. In the eastern group, still real pagans are found, who sacrifice white deer in oak groves to numerous gods and goddesses. The total number of Cheremisses is given at 260,000.
(language, references) ...

source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg

Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1902-1909, Article : Tscheremissen
Cheremisses, a Finnish people in European Russia, mainly in he governments Vyatka (District of Urshum) and Kazan, in smaller number also in Kostroma, Nizhniy Novgorod, Perm and Ufa, in 1897 it numbered 375,479 heads. In the governments of Ufa and Samara they are usually regarded belonging to the Teplyares, and with these to the Bashkirs. They have been given the name Cheremisses by the Mordvinians, they refer to themselves as Mara (man). They are of average height, blond or reddish, once they were a very warlike people, as proven by their many rebellions in the 16th and 17th century. They have abandoned their earlier nomadic lifestyle, but they do not live in villages, but in isolated farms. On the right bank of the Volga live the Mountain Cheremisses, engaging in agriculture, on the left bank the less civilized Meadow Cheremisses, living of hunting, treefelling and beekeeping. The women are skilled in weaving and dying of various textiles. Despite confessing to Greek Orthodox faith, and being partially Russified (especially the Mountain Cheremisses), in the way they dress and in which they construct their houses they have maintained some of their traditions, and Christianity has not been able to completely expel the worship of their pagan gods Yuma and Keremet. The language of the Cheremisses belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of the Ural-Altaic family of languages. Grammars have been written by Castren (Elementa grammaticae tscheremissae, Kupio 1845) and Wiedemann (Reval 1847). Further contributions to the knowledge of the language of the Cheremisses are found in Journal de la societe Finno-Ougrienne, Helsingfors (since 1883).
source in German, posted by Retro Bibliothek

Nordisk Familjebok 1904-1926, Article : Tjeremisserna (1919)
Cheremisses, a Finno-Ugric people living in eastern Russia, especially in the governments Vyatka, Kazan, Ufa and Perm, which in 1897 numbered 375,439 persons. The larger part of them lives on the northern bank of the Volga just west of Kazan, in an area which toward the north stretches to river Vyatka, and in several smaller enclaves on both sides of the Byelaya, a tributary of the Kama, to the north, northwest and west of the city of Ufa. From the Meadow Cheremisses on the northern bank of the Volga are distinguished the Mountain Cheremisses on the Volga's southern bank, few in number, who live in the governments Nizhniy Novgorod and Kostroma. In ancient times the territory of the Cheremisses in the west has extended to the stretch around Nizhniy-Novgorod, and perhaps even south of the Volga has extended a little further to the southeast, than it does now. Those living east of the Volga have emigrated there at a later time, from the 17th century onward. The imniscaris or remnicans mentioned by Jordanes as subjects of Ostrogothic king Ermanaric perhaps refer to the Cheremisses. Even the merens mentioned in the same source, the merya of the Russian chronicles, should belong here, and judged by the name they apply to themselves, Mari, perhaps describes a part of them (see Merier). At the side of the Tatars, the Cheremisses for three centuries courageously resisted the pressing Russians, but in the 17th century they gradually had to give way to their overwhelming power. Their Christianization began in the 16th century, but is still long from completion. More than a quarter of them still today are pagans, and their interesting pagan religion, which has been accurately studied by Russian and Finnish scholars, has in tradition and rite remained a national matter, and maintained as a shield against Russification by the Russian schools and he many Russian immigrants. The Cheremisses are all farmers. They engage busily in beekeeping, livestock keeping and fishery. They are a rather energetic and forward- striving folk with remarkable desire to learn. In the fall of 1917 the issuance of a newspaper in their language began in Kazan.
For references see under the Mordvinians. See also J. Wichmann, Beiträge zur Ethnographie der Tscheremissen (in : Travaux ethnographiques publies par la Societe Finno-Ougrienne V 1913), A.O. Heikel, Die Stickmuster der Tscheremissen, 1915, H. Paasonen, Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Religion und des Kultus der Tscheremissen, in : Keleti Szemle, or : Revue orientale pour les etudes ouralo-altaiques II 1901, and U. Holmberg, Tscheremissien uskonto 1914

source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg


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First posted on May 3rd 2009

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