Votes (also called Vod) are a people of Votia in Ingria, the part of modern day northwestern Russia that is roughly southwest of Saint Petersburg and east of the Estonian border-town of Narva. Their own ethnic name is vadjalain. The Finnic Votic language spoken by Votes is close to extinction. Votians were one of the founding people of Veliky Novgorod. The Votic language is still spoken in three villages of historical Votia and by an unknown number of fluent Votic speakers in the countryside. The villages are Krakolje, Peski, and Luuditsa (Luzhitsy). There is a desire to protect and revive the Votic language from extinction.
Votes are the oldest known ethnic group in Ingria. They are probably descended from an Iron-age population of north-eastern Estonia and western Ingria. Some scientists claim they were a tribe of Estonians, who developed a separate identity during isolation from other Estonians. It is speculated the ancient Estonian county of Vaiga got its name from Votians. The Budini, ancient people described by Herodotus, have been identified as Votes. The Kylfings, a people active in Northern Europe during the Viking Age, may have also been Votes.
Earliest literary references of Votes by their traditional name are from middle-age Russian sources, where Votes are referred to as Vod'. They were previously considered Chudes together with Estonians in Russian sources, and Lake Peipus near Votian homelands is called Chudsko ozero, meaning "Lake of Chudes" in Russian.
In 1069 Votes were mentioned taking part in an attack on the Novgorod Republic by the Principality of Polotsk. Eventually Votes became part of the Novgorod Republic and in 1149 they were mentioned taking part in an attack by Novgorod against Jems who are speculated to be peoples of Tavastia. One of the administrative divisions of Novgorod, Voch'skaa, was named after Votes. After the collapse of Novgorod, the Grand Duchy of Moscow deported many votes from their homelands and began more aggressive conversion of them. Missionary efforts started in 1534, after Novgorod's archbishop Macarius complained to Ivan IV that Votes were still practicing their pagan beliefs. Makarius was authorized to send monk Ilja to convert the Votes. Ilja destroyed many of the old holy shrines and worshiping places. Conversion was slow and the next archbishop Feodosii had to send priest Nikifor to continue Ilja's work. Slowly Votes were converted and they became devoted Christians.
Sweden controlled Ingria in the 17th century, and attempts to convert local Orthodox believers to the Lutheran faith caused some of the Orthodox population to migrate elsewhere. At the same time many Finnish peoples immigrated to Ingria. Religion separated the Lutheran Finns and Orthodox Izhorians and Votes, so intermarriage was uncommon between these groups. Votes mainly married other Votes, or Izhorians and Russians. They were mostly trilingual in Votic, Izhoran and Russian. In 1848, the number of Votes had been 5,148, (Ariste 1981: 78). but in the Russian census of 1926 there were only 705 left. From the early 20th century on, the Votic language no longer passed to following generations. Most Votes were evacuated to Finland along with Finnish Ingrians during World War II, but were returned to the Soviet Union later.
As a distinct people, Votes have become practically extinct after Stalinist dispersion to distant Soviet provinces as 'punishment' for alleged disloyalty and cowardice during World War II. Expelees allowed to return in 1956 found their old homes occupied by Russians. In 1989, there were still 62 known Votes left, with the youngest born in 1930. There were 73 self-declared Votes in the 2002 Russian census. Of them 12 lived in St. Petersburg, 12 in Leningrad Oblast and 10 in Moscow. In 2008 Votes were added to the list of Indigenous peoples of Russia, granting them some support to preserving their culture. There have been some conflicts with Votic villagers and foresters, and in 2001 the Votic museum was burned in the village of Lužitsõ. Another possible problem is a port which is being constructed to Ust-Luga. It is planned that some 35,000 people would move near historic Votic and Izhoran villages.
Most Votes were able to speak Izhorian and Russian as well as the Votic language. In fact, Izhorian was more common in every day use than Votic in some villages. Votic was commonly used with family members, while Russian and Izhorian were used with others. Russian was the only language used in Churches. Votes often referred to themselves as Izores, since this term was more commonly known among others. The term came in use when people wanted to make a difference between Lutheran and Orthodox Finnic populations in Ingria.