Moscow University

The Northern Russian gene pool: Slavs? Finns? Paleo-Europeans?

Balanovska E.V. (1), Pezhemsky D.V. (2), Romanov A.G. (1), Baranova E.E. (3), Romashkina M.V. (3,4), Agdzhoyan A.T. (5), Balagansky A.G. (1), Evseeva I.V. (1,6), Villems R. (7), Balanovsky O.P. (1,3)

1) Research Centre for medical genetics RAMS, Moscow; 2) Lomonosov Moscow State University, Anuchin Research Institute and Museum of Anthropology, Mokhovaya st., 11, Moscow, 125009, Russia; 3) Vavilov Institute for general genetics RAS, Moscow; 4) Ogarev Mordovian State University, Saransk; 5) Karazin Kharkov State University, Kharkov, Ukrain; 6) Anthony Nolan blood cancer charity, London, UK; 7) Estonian Biocenter, Tartu, Estonia

Balanovskaya Elena V., D.Sc. in Biology, prof. RAS, ORCID ID: 0000-0002-3882-8300, e-mail:; Pezhemsky Denis V.; Romanov Aleksey G., e-mail:; Baranova E.E., e-mail:; Romashkina M.V., e-mail:; Balagansky A.G., e-mail:; Evseeva I.V., e-mail:; Villems R., e-mail:; Balanovsky Oleg P., D.Sc. in Biology, prof. RAS, ORCID ID: 0000-0003-4218-6889, e-mail:


This study of the North Russian gene pool is dedicated to M.V. Lomonosov who always remembered his origin from Kholmogory of Arkhangelsk province. Though we are not able to analyze the gene pool of his descendants, we undertake the study of his fellow-townsmans, the present-day population of the Archangelsk province. First, we drew the detailed genetic portrait of the Russian North populations, using DNA-systems (Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal markers) as well as surnames distribution data. Second, we performed the panoramic comparison of the North Russian gene pool with the wide set of Russian and European populations. Russian colonization of the North was one of the main stages in ethnogenesis of the Russian ethnos, and many researchers believe that North Russians were formed not only by Russian migrants but mainly by the pre-Slavonic substratum of Finno-Ugric populations. Thus, the third task of this study is to achieve better understanding of the causes of the peculiarity of the Archangelsk population. The surname data shows that North Russian populations (including Kholmogory) belong to the general set of populations from the historical Russian area. The peculiarity of the North Russian surnames is clear but not outstanding: the average difference of surnames of North-Russian region from other regions (d=1.2) is similar to the difference of surnames of East-Russian region (d=1.1) and is less that the difference of surnames of Kuban Cossacks (d=1.6). The Y chromosomal data (reflecting the most differentiated paternal lineages) indicates that all populations from Archangelsk province are included in the vast “northern” cluster, along with Vologda Russians, Baltic speakers (Latvians and Lithuanians), Finnic speakers (Komi, Finns, Estonians, pooled group of Karels, Vepsa and Izhors) and Germanic speaking Swedes. Note, that North Russians are more genetically similar to geographically distant Baltic populations rather than to Finnic speakers: the similarity with Baltic populations was revealed for each North Russian population, while degree of similarity with Finnic speakers and set of similar Finnic populations do vary. The genetic similarity among linguistically heterogeneous but geographically united (from Baltic to Pechora) populations might indicate the Paleo-European gene pool persisting in this area, which preceded the split of the Balto-Slavic and Finnic linguistic branches. The mitochondrial DNA data (reflecting the maternal lineages) demonstrates the similarity of the Russian North to the widest set of populations from northern half of Europe. Norwegians and Germans appear to be the most genetically similar to the Russian North. The cluster also includes Austrians, Swiss, Poles, Bosnians, Lithuanians, Irish, and Scottish. The neighbor cluster is formed by other Russian populations, Swedes, Estonians, Latvians, Belorussians, Ukrainians, Czech, Slovaks, Hungarians. But the main corpus of Finnic speakers (Finns, Karelians, Komi, Mordvinians, Mari) is very distant from European populations and from Russian North, which rejects the (previously supposed) strong contribution of Finno-Ugric populations into the Northern Russians. The data on the (widely studied and highly polymorphic in Europe) autosomal marker CCR5del32 confirms this conclusion: the area of the regularly high frequencies covers populations of the northern half of Europe, stressing the pronounced genetic continuum, which includes also the Russian North. Note, that Finnic speakers have less number of ethnoses with high frequency of CCR5del32 than Germanic or Slavonic speakers. To conclude, the revealed similarity of the North Russian gene pool with gene pools of Central Europe and northern part of the East Europe allows to hypothesize that these areas (including the Russian North) preserved the ancient European gene pool, probably from Mesolithic times. This Paleo-European gene pool was transmitted to both, North Russian populations and to the part of Finnic speaking populations, settled on these areas earlier. The obtained results suggest that Paleo-European population of the North of East Europe, which gave rise also to Baltic and Germanic speaking groups, survived for a long time near the White sea and in the Early Medieval times underwent the strong influence of the northern Slavonic wave. That is why molecular genetic could now answer the question, which is in the title of this paper, as follows: “The North Russian gene pool = Paleo-Europeans + Northern wave of the Slavonic colonization”. This hypothesis does not contradict with paleoanthropological data but needs further verifications by both genetic and anthropological methods.


gene pool, Lomonosov, Russian North, Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA, autosomal DNA markers, surnames

Цит.: Balanovska E.V., Pezhemsky D.V., Romanov A.G., Baranova E.E., Romashkina M.V., Agdzhoyan A.T., Balagansky A.G., Evseeva I.V., Villems R., Balanovsky O.P. The Northern Russian gene pool: Slavs? Finns? Paleo-Europeans? // Moscow University Anthropology Bulletin (Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta. Seria XXIII. Antropologia), 2011; 3/2011; с. 27-58

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