Pies with snow and goodies for the forest: How the Leningrad Veps keep the old traditions of the 21st century

The Vepsians, although few in number, are far ahead of Vod and Izhora.

A photograph: From a personal file

In Russia, there are less than six thousand of them, in the Leningrad region and in St. Petersburg – about a thousand. But in the villages their wonderful language is heard and the bread is baked according to a recipe of centuries. We are talking about the Veps – the natives of Northern Russia.

This Finno-Ugric people, called Chud, whole and tsukhar, acquired the alphabet and script less than a hundred years ago, and today they try not to disappear and have time to pass on their language and traditions to their descendants.

The ancestral chips are carved on looms and the bread is baked with a mixture of leaven left over from the time of the great-grandmother.

The ancestral chips are carved on looms and the bread is baked with a mixture of leaven left over from the time of the great-grandmother.

A photograph: From a personal file


The language of the wolves is taught in the Podporozhsky district of the Leningrad region from kindergarten. Optional classes are held in schools in the village of Vinnitsa, in the villages of Yaroslavichi and Martemyanovskaya. The most famous community of Vepsiana, which numbers 120 people and has the status of a public organization, has twice won the competitions of the regional authorities. Started a Veps literary language course for older speakers to teach teens new words. He opened summer workshops where he would study the language while traveling.

“We do a lot of work in small steps to keep the language from dying,” said Olga Newman, head of the Vepsian community. – We organize classes, there is a school of Vepsian language in Karelia, there are courses at Herzen University. Both young people and multilinguals have a desire to learn.

The community diligently popularizes the culture of Vepsia. Noisy folk festivals are held in the area, the collection of the museum of Vepsian life is replenished, language courses are held in St. Petersburg and they give to those who wish to try daily Vepsian lessons. Traditional grass production, fishing and sheep grazing even come from Germany and Finland! And unique Veps gastronomic recipes are collected in books.

By the way, passionate literature flourishes in all genres: they publish poems, fairy tales, legends, textbooks, ethnographic memoirs. Philologists compile and update Vepsian-Russian dictionaries. The shelves with translations have already been filled with the Bible, the “Little Prince” and the myths of ancient Greece, in the approach of “Kalevala”. They are even trying to release movies and cartoons on Vepsian.


In what kitchen today can you find a pair of tweezers, an oven shovel or a hand grinder? And among the Vepsians, such sets live in every home and coexist quietly with food processors. Bored traditions are woven harmoniously into people’s lives and sweep through the centuries.

– Traditions are an individual matter. We honor them. My grandparents had twelve children, they managed to raise them during the war years with work and respect for adults. All this is passed on to the descendants. Our family has a tradition of cleaning the house on Saturdays, then going to the bathroom and then having dinner – a whole ritual. From sacred traditions – treats for the forest owner: we always leave an egg or a piece of bread on the ground to ask permission to enter the forest and get its gifts.

Veps also respect the spirit of the house, which, according to legend, lives in the oven. When they return home, they always put their hand on the stove – they say hello. And before lighting a fire, they ask for permission from the owner of the stove.

Olga’s family has a tradition of baking special bread from a mixture … of the past and the present. In the clay vessel, inherited by the great-grandmother, the rest of the leaven flour has been sitting for centuries – it is not usual to wash the utensil. Each time, fresh flour and water are added to the yeast of the beginning of the century and then the dough is sent to the adobe oven.

Ethno-festivals, cartoons and special lessons in schools help to preserve the invaluable life of the people.

Ethno-festivals, cartoons and special lessons in schools help to preserve the invaluable life of the people.

A photograph: From a personal file

Food is generally a treasure trove of traditions. Historically, a simple rich menu of flour, cereals, butter, berries and fish laid the foundation for unique dishes that Veps cook to this day (see “It’s interesting”).

– During the proxy it is customary to cook an omelette of one hundred eggs for the groom, munarich. All this huge pan must be eaten by a young person. But consuls can help him. And he must also make sure that the agile sisters of the bride do not drag the pan. “Now this is a tradition of jokes, but it used to be that if you do not eat enough, you are a bad worker,” said Olga Nyuman.

If the gathering was successful, a mournful song about the bride’s previous life will surely be heard at the wedding.


Almost all Veps adhere to Orthodoxy, but, like their pagan ancestors many centuries ago, they continue to sew faceless shore dolls. The amulets are placed in the baby crib and transported on the street. Each Veps also has an amulet close to the body – a shirt with tribal embroidery.

– We all have linen ancestral shirts, embroidery is passed down from generation to generation. We do not wear them every day, only for the holidays. There are recreated jewelry, various beads. We use them in costumes and sometimes we wear them with modern looks, they say in the community.

By the way, the traditional Veps women’s costume includes not only an embroidered jacket or stanushka (long shirt), a skirt, a protective belt (it was woven by hand), beads, but also … a knife. Not for self-defense – for economy! And cut the mushroom in the forest and cook something at home.


Veps kitchen recipes

To make such weird cheesecakes in the morning, you need to knead the dough in the evening.

To make such weird cheesecakes in the morning, you need to knead the dough in the evening.

A photograph: From a personal file

Kalitki – rye pies with mashed potatoes, porridge, cottage cheese or oatmeal as a filling.

Lumminicad – gates of pea flour and snow or icy spring water.

Powder – rye flour porridge with sour milk, sour cream or butter.

Black milk is a sweet drink made from rye flour and berries, cooked in the oven and passed through a sieve.

Koloba – buns-balls of white bread, kefir, yeast and rye flour stuffed with milk, eggs and sour cream.


How will the authorities support small nations in 2022:

– Foreign language courses (vod, izhora, veps) -1.6 million rubles

– Festival of spring holidays of the peoples of the Leningrad region “Etnovesna” – 100 thousand rubles

– Youth scientific and practical online conference “Leningrad Multinational District” – 99 thousand rubles

– Holidays Peledysh, Payrem, Akatuy, Sabantuy, Chuseok and others – 600 thousand rubles

– Festival of Vepsian villages – 230 thousand rubles

– Competition for works of representatives of indigenous peoples – 750 thousand rubles

– Ethno-cultural festival “Russia – synonyms of cultures” – 6 million rubles

According to the Committee on Local Government, Interethnic and Interreligious Relations of the Leningrad Region.


Indigenous peoples of the Leningrad region:

– Veps – 1380 people

– Water – 33 people

– Izhora – 169 people

According to the 2010 Pan-Russian Census.

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