Before the World War II, in St. Petersburg, subsequently Leningrad, as well as in the wide territory around, Finnish peoples lived along with the Russians. Ingermanland Finns lived closer to the city, Karelians and Vepsians to the north and east of it, Izhora and Vod — to the west, towards the Estonian border. In some suburbs, like Toksovo, the Finnish population was up to 80%, according to eyewitnesses.
However, after the Stalinist repressions, which were first associated with the participation of Ingermanlanders in the White movement, and then with the Winter War of the USSR against Finland, almost the entire indigenous population was deported, thousands of people died in the GULAGs. And the rest, due to the blockade of Leningrad, found themselves on a different front line. Some of them were able to stay and survive, others fled and reached Finland, but many met death from illness in the Nazi concentration camps.
After the death of Stalin, the repressed Ingermanlanders received freedom. At first, they weren’t allowed to settle in the Leningrad Region, but many were able to find housing in neighboring regions and the Baltic republics of the USSR. Then the loosing of laws came, and the remnants of the repressed began returning to their historical homeland. Most of them gradually «Russified», others massively left for Finland in the 1990s, when the Finnish government gave Ingermanland this opportunity. Many live in Estonia.
But some families remained. They explain this by the fact that their historical homeland is one and only, and yet it’s located in Russia. However, the patrimonial memory of those who remained has been gradually dissolving in the stream of visitors. In 2009, Izhora was included in the Atlas of Endangered Languages of the World by UNESCO. The census in 2010 totaled 276 Izhoras, 64 Vods and 49 Ingermanland Finns in Russia. (As for the Vepsians and Karelians, war and deportations affected them less, since their lands were further from the front line, and their assimilation by the time of those events was much deeper yet). Of course, the real numbers are larger, since many people prefered to sign up as Russians — «it's easier to live that way» — or don’t identify with the indigenous population at all.
For a Finn, an Izhora and a Vod, the main thing is home. And the home of Finno-Ugric peoples is nature. In the 1990s, a wave of people’s interest for their roots and culture rose. People began to realize again that they have a tradition and their own territory. They began to study history books and family archives. The tribal memory lives on.