Historically Ingria (Swedish Ingermanland, Finnish Inkeri, Russian Izhora) comprises the area along the basin of the river Neva, between the Gulf of Finland, the Narva River, Lake Peipsi in South-West, and Lake Ladoga in North-East. The traditional border to Karelia followed the Sestra (Rajajoki /Systerbäck) rivulet in North-West.
Ingria never came to form a state, the Ingrians can hardly be said to have been a nation, although their "nationality" was recognized in the Soviet Union, and as an ethnos the Ingrians are about to perish together with their language. But still many people recognize their own belonging to an Ingrian heritage.
In the Viking age/late Iron Age, from the 750s and on, Ingria was a bridgehead on the Varangian trade route to Eastern Europe. A Varangian aristocracy developed, that ultimately would advance to rulers in Novgorod and Kievan Rus'; allegedly bringing peace between the warring Finnic and Slavic tribes.
The ancient Novgorodian land Vod was called Ingermanland by the Swedes, Latinized to "Ingria". It is said to be named after Ingigerd, the daughter of the Swedish king Olof Skötkonung (995-1022). Upon her marriage to Yaroslav I the Wise in 1019, she was given the lands around Ladoga as a marriage gift. They were administered by Swedish jarls under sovereignty of the Novgorod republic .
In the 12th century, Western Ingria was also joined to Novgorod. There followed centuries of frequent wars, chiefly between Russians and Swedes, but also Danes and Teutonic Knights were often involved. The latter established a stronghold in Narva, followed by the Russian castle Ivangorod on the opposite side of River Narva in 1492.
Ingria fell to Sweden in the 1580s, was returned to Russia by the Treaty of Teusina (1595), and again ceded to Sweden in the Treaty of Stolbova (1617). Sweden's interest of the territory was strategical: as a buffer zone against Russian attacks on the Karelian Isthmus and present-day Finland; and Russian trade was to pass through Swedish territory. In addition, Ingria became the destination for Swedish deportees.
Ingria remained sparsely populated. In 1664 the population was counted to 15,000. Swedish attempts to introduce Lutheranism were met with repugnance by the Orthodox peasantry obliged to attend Lutheran services; converts were promised grants and tax reductions, but Lutheran gains were most of all due to voluntary resettlements from Savolax and Finnish Karelia. Ingermanland was enfeoffed to noble militaries and state officials, bringing their own Lutheran servants and workmen.
In the early 1700s the area was reconquered by Russia in the Great Northern War after about 100 years in Swedish possession. On the place of the Swedish town Nyen close to the Neva river's estuary at the Gulf of Finland, the new Russian capital Saint Petersburg was founded in 1703.
Peter the Great raised Ingria to the status of duchy with Prince Menshikov as its first (and last) duke. Later, in 1710, it was designated the Province of Saint Petersburg. In 1927 the name was changed to the Leningrad Province, and although Leningrad changed name again, in 1991, back to Saint Petersburg, the region is still called Leningrad oblast.
The Votes, along with the Izhorians (Ingrians proper), are the indigenous people of historical Ingria (Inkeri in Finnish). Another people of the area are the "Ingrian Finns", descendants from Lutheran emigrants from present-day Finland of the 17th century. The term Ingrian is mainly used for the Izhorians, but sometimes confusingly also for Ingrian Finns.
These populations were all wiped out of Ingria during the Soviet period. 63,000 fled to Finland during World War II, and were required back by Stalin after the war. Most were executed as unreliables or became victims of population transfers; and the remainder, including some post-Stalin returnees, was in any case outnumbered by a numerous Russian immigration. After the fall of Communism in 1991, surviving Ingrian Finns have been allowed to emmigrate to Finland.