Komi (Komi/Russian: Коми), officially known as the Komi Republic, is a republic of the Soviet Union which is located in Northeastern Europe (just south of the Arctic Ocean). The republic was established in the 1930s as an autonomous homeland for the native Komi people, but it wouldn't be until the 1990s that it became an equal and sovereign republic within the USSR. The word Komi comes from the Udmurt word for "large river" (in reference to the River Kama). The word is used both as the name of the people and the colloquial name of the republic, making it linguistically similar Suomi (the native name for Finland).
Komi is one of the northernmost republics of the Soviet Union, bordered by the Ural Mountains to the east, the Volga regions to the south, and proximity to the Arctic Ocean to the north. The majority of the republic's territory is covered in forests, lakes, and swamps. Komi's climate is comparable to that of northern Scandinavia, with long and cold Winters and cool Summers.
The region had been dominated by the Finno-Ugric peoples since the first millennium BCE. Russian contact began under the Novgorod Republic, which expanded into the area in the 12th Century. Beginning under Catherine the Great and being expanded under Joseph Stalin, Komi had developed as a penal colony. Most of the major cities in Komi (including the capital Syktyvkar) were planned and built by prisoners and other forced laborers of the Gulags. Among these include the northernmost city of Vorkuta, which began as a mining settlement north of the Arctic Circle. Much of Komi's economy focuses on oil production, timber, natural gas, and electric power production.
As of the 2009 census, over a million live within the republic. The majority of those living in Komi are ethnic Russians, many of which moved into the republic since the 1980s. The native Komi people currently make up over a quarter of the population. Other minorities living within the republic include Belarusians, Nenets, Tatars, and Ukrainians. The two official languages of republic are Komi and Russian. While Russian remains the lingua franca and most spoken language within the republic, understanding of the native Komi language has been increasing since the 1990s. The majority of those living in Komi have declared themselves either Atheist or Irreligious. Those adhering to the Eastern Orthodox Church make up the largest religious group within the republic.