The term Chudes was first applied by the Russians to the Estonians as mentioned by a monk Nestor in the earliest Russian chronicles. According to Nestor in 1030 Yaroslav I the Wise invaded the country of the Chuds and laid the foundations of Yuriev, (the historical Russian name of Tartu, Estonia). Then it was used for other Baltic Finns which is thought to refer to the Karelians.
According to Old East Slavic chronicles the Chudes were one of the founders of the Rus' state.
The Russian Primary Chronicle describes Chudes as cofounders of the Kievan Rus state along with Slavs and Vikings. In other ancient East Slavic chronicles, the term "Chudes" refers to several Finnic tribes, proto-Estonian groups in particular. In 1030 Prince Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev won a military campaign against the Chuds and established a fort in Yuryev (present day Tartu, in southeastern Estonia). Kievan rulers then collected tribute from the Chudes of the surrounding ancient Estonian county of Ugaunia, possibly until 1061, when, according to chronicles, Yuryev was burned down by another tribe of Chudes (Sosols). Most of the raids against Chudes described in ancient Russian chronicles occur in present day Estonia. The border lake between Estonia and Russia is still called Chudskoye (Chud Lake) in Russian. However, many ancient references to Chudes talk of peoples very far from Estonia, like Zavoloshka Chudes between Mordovians and Komis.
Folk etymology derives the word from Old East Slavic language (chuzhoi, 'foreign'; or chudnyi 'odd'; or chud 'weird').
Later, the word "Chudes" was more often used for more eastern Finnic peoples, Veps and Votes in particular, while some derivatives of "chud" like chukhna or chukhonets were applied to more western Finns and Estonians. Following the Russian conquests of Finland 1714–1809, and increasing contacts between Finns and Saint Petersburg, Finns perceived the word Chud to be disparaging and hinting at the serfdom that the Russians were believed to find fit for the Finns. However, as a disparaging word, it was rather "chukhna" that was applied also to Finns (and likewise to Estonians) as late as during the Winter War, 1939–1940, between the Soviet Union and Finland.
In present day Russian vernacular the word chukhna is often used to denote Veps. The name Chudes (or Northern Chudes) has been used for Veps people also by some anthropologists.
The mytho-poetical tradition of the Komi the word chud' can also designate (1) Komi heroes and heathens; (2) Old Believers; (3) another people different from the Komi; (4) robbers -- the latter two are the typical legends in Sámi folklore. In fact, the legends about Chudes cover a large area in northern Europe from Scandinavia to the Urals, bounded by Lake Ladoga in the south, the northern and eastern districts of the Vologda province, and passing by the Kirov region, further into Komi-Permyak Okrug. It has from this area spread to Trans-Ural region through mediation of migrants from European North.