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MESHCHERYAKS, or MESHCHERS, a people inhabiting eastern Russia. Nestor regarded them as Finns, and even now part of the Mordvinians (of Finnish origin) call themselves Meshchers. Klaproth, on the other hand, supposed they were a mixture of Finns and Turks, and the Hungarian traveller Reguli discovered that the tatarized Meshchers of the Obi closely resembled Hungarians. They formerly occupied the basin of the Oka (where the town Meshchersk, now Meshchovsk, has maintained their name) and of the Sura, extending north-east' to the Volga. After the conquest of the Kazan Empire by Russia, part of them migrated north-eastwards to the basins of the Kama and Byelaya, and thus the Meshchers divided into two branches. The western branch became russified, so that the Meshcheryaks of the governments of Penza, Saratov, Ryazan and Vladimir have adopted the customs, language and religion of the conquering race; but their ethnographical characteristics can be easily distinguished in the Russian population of the governments of Penza and Tambov. The eastern branch has taken on the customs, language and religion of Bashkirs, with whom their fusion is still more complete.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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