Komi

   Ethnic group. The Komi are a Finno-Ugrian people who reside in the extreme northeastern European Plain. While they consider themselves to comprise a single nationality, they are divided into Komi-Zyrians (or Komi proper), Komi-Izhems, and Komi-Permyaks. Collectively known simply as Komi, the first two groups are the titular minority (25 percent) of the Komi Republic, while the latter—sometimes called simply Permyaks—are the titular majority (59 percent) of the formerly autonomous okrug of Permyakiya. Komi are also found in Nenetsiya, Khantiya-Mansiya, Kirov, Murmansk, and Perm Krai. In all, there are some 434,000 Komi in the Russian Federation: 68 percent are Komi-Zyrians, 29 percent are Komi-Permyaks, and 3.6 percent are Komi-Izhems (who live around the Izhma River and are ethnically and culturally linked to the Nenets).
   The Komi languages (Komi-Zyrian and Komi-Permyak) are mutually intelligible; along with Udmurt, they are the only living members of the Permic group of Finno-Ugric languages, part of the Uralic language family. Forcibly converted to Russian Orthodoxy in the 14th century, many Komi retain strong vestiges of pre-Russian shamanism and animism. While Russification significantly weakened Komi national identity during the Soviet period, the last years of perestroika saw the introduction of greater cultural rights for the indigenous population and the rise of political organizations dedicated to fostering national identity among the Komi. The first of these organizations was Komi Kotyr (“Komi Community”); however, the party soon dissolved into competing factions, including the Committee for the Revival of the Komi People and the more radical Doriam Asnõmös (“Let’s Defend Ourselves”). Another organization, the Komi Stav (Association for the Defense of the Komi People) advocated for union with Permyakiya, an outcome that looks ever more remote given the subsumption of the oblast into Perm Krai. After the power-sharing agreement of 1996, new measures were introduced protecting indigenous ecosystems for fishing, hunting, and reindeer herding. The status of the Komi language has also been greatly improved among Komi since Russian independence, gaining official status in 1991, the first Finno-Ugric tongue in the Russian Federation to receive such a designation. Demographically, the ratio of Komi to non-Komi is rising due to a steady exodus of nonindigenous inhabitants after 1991. Symbolic violence against the Russian flag (and its replacement with the republican tricolor) is a central manifestation of Komi nationalism, a phenomenon known as the “War of the Flags.” While Komi identify strongly with their locality and republic, Komi national identity remains quite low compared to other ethnic minorities of the Russian Federation.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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