Y chromosomal polymorphisms were studied in 502 males from 16 Eurasian ethnic groups including the Finns, Saami (Inari Lake area and Skolt Saami), Karelians, Mari, Mokshas, Erzas, Hungarians (Budapest area and Csángós), Khanty, Mansi, Yakuts, Koryaks, Nivkhs, Mongolians, and Latvians. The samples were analysed for polymorphisms in the Y chromosome specific Alu insertion (YAP) and six microsatellites (DYS19, DYS389-I and II, DYS390, DYS392, DYS393). The populations were also screened for the recently described Tat polymorphism. The incidence of YAP+ type was highest in the Csángós and in other Hungarians (37.5% and 17.5%, respectively). In the Karelians and the Latvians it was present at approximately the same level as commonly found in other European populations, whilst absent in our further samples of Eurasian populations, including the Finns and the Saami. Aside from the Hungarians, the C allele of the Tat polymorphism was common in all the Finno-Ugric speaking populations (from 8.2% to 63.2%), with highest incidence in the Ob-Ugrian Khanty. The C allele was also found in the Latvians (29.4%). The haplotypes found associated with the Tat C allele showed consistently lower density than those associated with the T allele, indicating that the T allele is the original form. The computation of the age of the Tat C suggested that the mutation might be a relatively recent event giving a maximum likelihood estimate of 4440 years (95% confidence interval about 3140–6200 years). The distribution patterns of the 222 haplotypes found varied considerably among the populations. In the Finns a majority of the haplotypes could be assigned to two distinct groups, one of which harboured the C allele of the Tat polymorphism, indicating dichotomous primary source of genetic variation among Finnish males. The presence of a bottleneck or founding effect in the male lineages of some of the populations, namely in the Finns and the Saami, would appear to be one likely interpretation for these findings.