The western Bryansk region in south-western Russia was highly contaminated with 137Cs and 134Cs due to the Chernobyl accident in 1986. In 1990, a joint Nordic-Russian project was initiated in order to make measurements and estimates of the absorbed doses to selected groups of inhabitants in this area. The participating individuals were living in small villages with contamination levels between 0.9 and 2.7 MBq m(-2). Only some villages had been decontaminated. Both school-children and adults participated in the study and the number of persons was between 100 and 130 each year, residing in 5 villages. Every year in September-October, from 1990 to 1998. we performed individual measurements of external absorbed doses, assessed with thermoluminescent (TL) dosemeters (LiF). The mean effective dose per year from external irradiation due to the Chernobyl accident of the inhabitants in the villages ranged between 0.8 and 2.9 mSv during the study period and decreased with an apparent half-time of 3.7-8.2 years, depending on village and group. The highest individual doses within one village were, on average higher by a factor of 3 than the mean value for that village. Under the conservative assumption of a decrease rate in the external effective dose of 2% per year after 1998, individuals in the most highly exposed village are assumed to receive a life-time effective dose of about 75 mSv (between 1986 and 2056) from external exposure to caesium radionuclides. The mean value for the villages under study was estimated to be around 65 mSv using the assumed rate of decrease.