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Mitochondrial DNA Variability in Poles and Russians

” Institute of Biological Problems of the North, Russian Academy of Sciences, Portovaya str. 18,
685000 Magadan, Russia
# The Ludwik Rydygier University School of Medical Sciences, Forensic Medicine Institute,

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation was examined in Poles (from the Pomerania- Kujawy region; n?436) and Russians (from three di?erent regions of the European part of Russia; n?201), for which the two hypervariable segments (HVS I and HVS II) and haplogroup-specifc coding region sites were analyzed. The use of mtDNA coding region RFLP analysis made it possible to distinguish parallel mutations that occurred at particular sites in the HVS I and II regions during mtDNA evolution. In total, parallel mutations were identi?ed at 73 nucleotide sites in HVS I
(17±8%) and 31 sites in HVS II (7±73%). The classi?cation of mitochondrial haplotypes revealed the presence of all major European haplogroups, which were characterized by similar patterns of distribution in Poles and Russians. An analysis of the distribution of the control region haplotypes did not reveal any speci?c combinations of unique mtDNA haplotypes and their subclusters that clearly distinguish both Poles and Russians from the neighbouring European populations. The only exception is a novel subcluster U4a within subhaplogroup U4, de?ned by a diagnostic mutation at nucleotide position 310 in HVS II. This subcluster was found in common predominantly between Poles and Russians (at a frequency of 2±3% and 2±0%, respectively) and may therefore have a
central-eastern European origin.

Haplogroup Poles (436) Russians (201)
H 197 (45±18) 85 (42±29)
HV* 4 (0±92) 4 (1±99)
pre-V 21 (4±82) 11 (5±47)
pre-HV 0 1 (0±50)
J 34(7±80) 16 (7±96)
T* 41 (9±40) 18 (8±96)
T1 9 (2±06) 4 (1±99)
K 15(3±44) 6 (2±99)
U1 0 2 (1±00)
U2 4 (0±92) 3 (1±49)
U3 2 (0±46) 2 (1±00)
U4 22 (5±05) 7 (3±48)
U5 38 (8±72) 21 (10±45)
U7 1 (0±23) 1 (0±50)
U8 2 (0±46) 0
U* 1 (0±23) 0
I 8(1±83) 5 (2±49)
W 16(3±67) 4 (1±99)
X 8(1±83) 7 (3±48)
N1b 1 (0±23) 0
N1c 1 (0±23) 0
R* 2 (0±46) 1 (0±50)
L3 1 (0±23) 0
M 8(1±83) 3 (1±49)

“±” stands for “.”

We have observed members of the haplogroups C, D, E, G and M* in Poles and Russians at a frequency of 1±8% and 1±5%, respectively.

In addition, both Polish and Russian samples are characterized by the presence of the Saami-speci?c U5b-motif (16144-16189-16270) found at a frequency of 0±5% in Poles and 1±5% in Russians.

Taking into account the data presented in Tables 6 and 7, one can conclude that we were not able to ?nd any speci?c combinations of unique mtDNA haplotypes and their subclusters clearly distinguishing Poles and Russians, as
Slavonic-speaking populations, from the neighboring European populations such as Germans and Finns. This trend was also noted in a previous study on the HVS I-RFLP variation in Russians in comparison with Western and Eastern
European populations (Malyarchuk & Derenko, 2001). One possible exception is subgroup U4a. This subgroup comprises 10 (2±3%) out of 436 Poles, 4 (2±0%) out of 201 Russians, 2 (0±4%) out of 560 Germans (Parson et al. 1998; Baasner & Madea, 2000) and 1 (0±25%) out of 403 Finns (Finnila$ et al. 2001a). Given the relatively high frequency and diversity of U4a among Poles and Russians and its low frequency in the neighbouring German and Finnish populations, one can suggest a central-eastern European origin of U4a. It is possible that the subsequent dispersal of this mtDNA subgroup in Eastern European populations was due to Slavonic migrations.


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The Baltic Complex

The Baltic Complex

The Baltic complex is localized in the lower tributaries of the Neman river, the Venta river, lower tributaries of the Dvina (Daugava) River, the basin of the Gaua River, on the coast of the Bay of Finland, in the area of the Lake Chud’ and the Narva River. For this complex, high stature, light hair and eyes, large dimensions of the head and the face, brachycephaly, intermediate horizontal facial profile, a strongly projecting nose and intermediate beard growth. The complex was also extrapolated by N. N. Cheboksarov and M. V. Vitov under the label “West Baltic” in Estonia, and was classed as part of the Atlanto-Baltic group of anthropological types.

Bay of Finland

Traits that are characteristic of the Atlanto-Baltic group are widespread over a large expanse of territory. They are present in the population of almost all of Northwest Europe: Finland (Kajava, 1925) Scandinavia (Bryn, 1932; Bryn, Schreiner 1930, Lundborg, Linder, 1926), Scotland, England and Ireland (Fleure, 1923), Iceland (Ribbing, 1921) and the Faerose Islands (Iorgensen, 1902). Deniker (Denkier, 1898) finds similar types in Northern Germany, and in a few areas of France. In Eastern Europe, the Atlanto-Baltic complex is strongest among groups of Western Estonians and Latvians. Among eastern groups of Estonians and Latvians, a gracile, mesocephalic variety of this type is found, which M. V. Vitov calls the “White Sea” type, and classifies as part of the White Sea-Baltic group of types. Without disagreeing with M. V. Vitov’s classification, it should nevertheless be pointed out that the White Sea type is more similar to varieties of the Atlanto-Baltic race than the East Baltic race. The mesocpehalic variant of the Baltic morphological complex inhabits Eastern Europe, particularly its northern reaches, and is widespread among Karelians, Russians of the Northwest, Pomors, and a few groups of Northern Komi Finns.

The White Lake-Kama morphological complex is localized in the area of White Lake, in the upper tributaries of the Onega river, the Northern Dvina River and it’s tributaries, and in the basin of the Vyatka and Kama rivers. This complex is similar in pigmentation and cephalic index to the Baltic complex, but is characterized by lower stature, smaller dimensions of the head, predominance of straight and concave noses, lowered horizontal facial profile, and lowered beard growth. These traits are noted among Vepses, Ijores, Vodes, and a few groups of Northern Russians, and beyond the boundaries of Eastern Europe – in the east of Finland (Roschier, 1931). The White Lake-Kama complex, also known as the “East Baltic type” has been comprehensively described in anthropological literature, and has been categorized by N. N. Cheboksarov and M. V. Vitov as part of the White Lake-Baltic group of types.

The Valdai-Upper Dniepr complex is prevalent in the whole of the Pripyat-Dvina basin; on the banks of the Western Dvina river (especially in its middle flows), in the lower tributaries of the Neman river, on the left banks of the Peripyat’, the upper tributaries of the Dniepr, the Berezina river, the Sozh’ river and the Iput’ river. In most traits it is similar to the Baltic complex but is distinguished from it by lower absolute dimensions of the head and face, lower stature and darker hair and eye pigmentation. A similar combination of traits has been described in earlier Soviet anthropological literature and termed “Valdaic” and “Illmen-Dniepr”. It has been classified by N. N. Cheboksarov as part of the Atalnto-Black Sea group of anthropological types.

It should be noted that the Atlanto-Black Sea anthropological group, as it is proposed by the above-mentioned authors is flawed in that it is far too inclusive. In this group are included Lithuanians and Belarussians, Ukrainians, Great Russians, Mordvins, Moldavians, and even a few groups of Bulgarians, Yugoslavs, Hungarians, Austrians, Swiss, and Italians. The fact that a combination of brachycephaly, light eyes, and medium brown hair appears in both groups does not warrant including Lithuanians and Italians or Russians and Frenchmen into the same anthropological complex. In all likelihood, the authors themselves are well-aware of the artificiality of such a classification, and point out repeatedly that the Valdaic and Illmen-Dnepr times are on the extreme Northeastern periphery of the Atlanto-Black Sea anthropological group. It makes more sense to include the Illmen-Dniepr and Vladaic types into the sphere of the Northern Europids, as was done in one of N. N. Cheboksarov’s earlier works (1947). The most typical representative of the Valdai-Upper Dniepr complex are are Lithuanians, Belarussians, and Western Great Russians.

The Central East European complex is prevalent along the banks of the Oka river, the Upper tributaries of the Don, the Klyazma river, the middle and upper banks of the Volga, the Tsna river, the Vorksel’ river, the Khoper river and the Medveditsa river. In its morphology, it is quite similar to the gracile, mesocephalic, variant of the Baltic complex, but is distinguished from it by darker hair and eye coloration. It has long been known in anthropological science under the name “Eastern European type.” Even Deniker identified it as a population element in the east of Europe (Deniker, 1898). M. Hesch identified it as a population element in the population of the Baltic region (Hesch, 1933), N. N. Cheboksarov, M. V. Vitov, (Vitov, Mark, Cheboksarov, 1959), R. J. Denisova (1958) and V. V. Bunak – among Polessje Belorussians, and among Mordva (Bunak, 1956), I – among Russians of the Volga-Oka region (Alekseeva 1956), and P. I. Zienkewicz – among Russians of the Vetluga region, , and to a certain extent, Maris and Udmurts (Zienkewicz, 1934, 1941a, 1941b). Along with the traits we have already described, a certain degree of “Lappinoidity” it often ascribed to this type. Among “Lappinoid” specialties one can count such features as decreased tretiarry hair cover, slight flatness of the face, and limited nasal protrusion. However, it should be noted that “Lappinoid” traits are not found in all groups belonging to this complex. For example, among Russians, who are the most typical representatives of this complex, facial flattening and decreased nasal protrusion are found only in peripheral Northern and Eastern areas. However, one of the traits of the “lappinoid complex”, decreased tretirarry hair cover is typical, almost witout exception, of all Russian groups.

A few words should be said regard the term “Lappinoid’ itself. The majority of researchers studying the anthropological compostion of Finno-Ugric peoples identify two main types among them – Suburalic and Sublappinoid. However, according to the valid conclusion of V. P. Alekseev, there is no need to identify two types, since their distinctions are based solely on differing amounts of Monoloid and Europid components in their ethnogensis, and only one type should be identified – Suburalic, as a variant of the Uralic race in which strong Europid admixture manifests itself clearly.

The Central-East European complex was categorized by N. N. Cheboksarov and M. V. Vitov as part of the Eastern European group of anthropological types. In pigmentation, it takes an intermediate position between members of the Atlanto-Baltic group of anthropological types and the Atlanto-Black Sea group of anthropological types, and in terms of tretiarry hair cover, it is similar to Uralic types.

The Dniepr complex (or “Central Dniepr” complex after V. D. Dyachenko) is prevalent in the middle flows of the Dniepr as well as its tributaries – the Desna, Susla, Psel, Vorksel, Teterev, Ros’ rivers, as well as the Seima river and the upper tributaries of the Northern Donetz River, The most characteristic representatives of this complex are Ukrainians. This complex has such characteristics as high stature, brachycephaly, limited depigmentation, a relatively broad face, a medium tretirarry hair cover, and a predominantly straight nasal form. A similar combination of traits is known by the label “Alpine race” (Deniker, 1898), Beyond the boundaries of Eastern Europe, this race is found in the north of the Balkans, in Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, in the South of Germany, and Northern Italy. (Coon, 1935; Popov, 1939). The so-called ‘Alpine race’ is distinguished by its widespread distribution and high variability. V. V. Bunak (Bunak, 1932a) suggests the creation of a separate “East Alpine” or “Carpathid” taxon to accommodate the relativelt dark brachycephals of Eastern Europe. N. N. Cheboksarov (Vitov, Mark, Cheboksarov, 1959) also suggest a special ‘Alpine-Carpathid’ sub-group within the confines of the Atlanto-Black Sea group of anthropological types. By and large, Ukrainians can be included into this taxon.

Steppe Complex. Unfortunately, the population of the Steppe zone has been rather poorly studied by anthropologists. Therefore, the description of the Steppe complex is based only on scanty data regarding some Russian groups inhabiting the midflows of the Dona and Khoper rivers, and a few Turkic-speaking groups dwelling on the right banks of the Volga, most importantly the Mishars. The populations which form this complex are distinguished by mesocephaly, relatively small absolute dimensions of the head and face, partial depigmentation, intermediate development of tretiarry hair cover, intermediate horizontal facial profile and relatively strong nasal protrusion.

The combination of anthropological cgaracteristics which is typical for the Steppe complex has been described in anthropological literature before under the label of “Pontic” and “Black Sea” types (Bunak, 1932a). N. N. Cheboksarov and M. V.. Vitov suggest including this complex into the Atlanto-Black Sea group of types (Vitov, Mark, Cheboksarov, 1959). We find this suggestion to be reasonable.

Volga-Kama and Uralic complexes. The first of these is localized in the area between the Vetluga and Vyatka rivers, the upper flows of the Kama, on the banks of the Belaya river and in part, along the banks of the Volga; the second complex is found mainly beyond the Ural mountains; in Eastern Europe it is found along the banks of the Tavda and Kondinsk rivers. These complexes are characterized by low sture, weak development of tretiarry hair cover, relatively dark pigmentation, a low, flattish face, and a weakly protruding nose with a concave bridge. The characteristics can be combined with meso- and brachycephaly. In the Uralic complex, all the above-mentioned traits are considerably stronger. In their morphological characteristics, both complexes take an intermediate position between the Europid and Mongoloid greater race. Their intermediate character was noted by Deniker (Deniker, 1898) and S. I. Rudenko (1914). Various forms of this race have been described by V. V> Bunak under such labels as “Ob”, “Middle-Volga”, “West-Arctic”, “Vyatka-Kama” and were classified by him as part of the “greater Northern Paleo-Asiatic race” (Bunak, 1932a). In N. N. Cheboksarov’s and M. V. Vitov’s classification scheme these groups are considered part of the Uralic conglomerate of types (Vitov, Mark, Cheboksarov, 1959). Their traits are widespread among the ethnic groups of the Ural and Volga regions – Chuvashis, Maris, Udmurts, Komi-Permyaks and southern Komy Zyrians, a few groups of Volga Tatars, Khanty and Mansi (Alekseeva 1955; Zienkewicz 1941a, 1941b; Cheboksarov, 1946; Trofimova, 1949; Debetz 1947) as well as Saami of the Kol peninsula (Zolotarev, 1927, 1928), and the Saami of Finland, Sweden and Norway (Kajava, 1925; Schreiner 1939).


Table 1. Characteristics of anthropological complexes

  Baltic Valdai – Upper Dniepr Dniepr East – European or North Pontid White Lake – Kama Volga – Kama Uralic Steppe
Bizyg. breadth
Face length
Eye color***
% of light eyes
Beard growth****
Chest hair growth*****
% concave noses
% convex noses
Estonians and Latvians
Belarussians, Lithuanians and Russians of Western regions
Vepses, Komis, Western and Northern
Maris, Udmurts, Chuvashis


Excerpted and translated from Tatiana Ivanovna Alekseeva’s Etnogenez Vostochnykh Slavjan po Dannym Antropologii ( Ethnogenesis of the Eastern Slavs According to Anthropological Data), p. 230 – 232, Moscow 1972

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