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Finno-Ugric.com

Internet Project: Finno-Ugric Peoples and Languages

Setos (Seto: setokõsõ, Estonian: setud) are an autochthonous ethnic and linguistic minority in south-eastern Estonia and north-western Russia. Setos are mostly Seto-speaking Orthodox Christians of Estonian nationality. Their dialect, that some consider an independent language - the Seto language (like Finnish and Estonian) belongs to the Finnic group of the Uralic languages. The Setos seek greater recognition, rather than having their language considered a dialect of Estonian. Along with Orthodox Christianity, vernacular traditional folk religion is widely practiced and supported by Setos.

There are approximately 10,000 Setos all around the world. The bulk of Setos, however, are found in the Seto region (Seto: Setomaa), which is divided between south-eastern Estonia (Põlva and Võro counties) and north-western Russian Federation (Pskov Oblast). Setos are an officially protected ethnic minority of Pskov Oblast.

Flag of Setomaa
The culture of Setos blossomed in early 20th century when many national societies of Setos were organized. In 1905 the number of Setos reached its maximum. After the proclamation of independence of Estonia its authorities adopted a policy of Estonification of its population which eventually led to virtual disappearance of Setos as distinct linguistic entity of Estonia. In Russia, due to influence of Estonian language schools, high rates of mixed marriages, and emigration to Estonia, the number of Setos drastically decreased as well.

Seto or Setu language (Seto: seto kiil; Estonian: setu keel) is a dialect of the South Estonian or Võro language (or a separate language, which is a disputed claim), spoken by 12,549 people. Seto is also the name denoting speakers of Seto language, Seto people, who mostly inhabit the area near Estonia's southeastern border with Russia, in the county of Setomaa.