Russian Demographics

While we often hear about the Russian monarchy not having that much Russian blood, that is also associated with the mass of the Russian Empire. Many of the people living within the borders of the Empire have a different ethnic identity than simply Russian. Many of them are “Little Russians”, this can mean either Belorussian or Ukrainian. However, they were counted as Russian, in the Census of 1897. Actually, over half of the people living within the borders were not ethnically Russian. While there was no group bigger than the Russians, the massive empire was bound to include numerous ethnic groups and identities from all over. This not only includes ethnic identity but all the cultural aspects that comes with that such as religion and tradition. With the expansion of the Russian Empire, it brought on these new religions and traditions that were previously not as dominant in Russia. Despite this, it seems that the Russians did not fare considerably better than their counterparts most of the time. Excluding the nobility, most Russians were in worse shape than the other ethnic groups at the time the census was taken. Even the nobility was mostly a different ethnic group. With many of the Russians tied down to serfdom for centuries, their rise to the higher social standings was difficult to come by.

Another interesting aspect of the census was the effect industrialization had on society. Some groups were much more concentrated in urban areas, notably the Jews, more than fifty percent reported to live in the cities. The development of industrialization was led by the Russians however. “Yet the majority of entrepreneurs were Russians and foreigners, and the majority of the workers Russians.” ((Kappeler 304)) As I mentioned earlier, the fact that many of the Russians were serfs and then freed allowed them to move into the cities to help participate in this industrialization. This industrialization also involved a few key ethnic groups which linked them to the cities. Their involvement from all ends of the empire led to the rapid development of train tracks which was massive for development in Russia.

The census not only helps show that Russians were not as dominant an ethnic force as they would like you to believe, but also helps us understand how industrialization went the way it did.

What prevented other ethnic groups from getting involved in industrialization?

Works Cited

Kappeler, Andreas. (Translated by Alfred Clayton) “The Late Tsarist Multi-Ethnic Empire between Modernization and Tradition.” Longman, 2001. Chapter 8

Ethnic Diversity of the Russian Empire

While reading Kappeller’s article regarding what he called the “Multi-Ethnic Empire”, I began to realize how culturally and ethnically diverse Russia actually is compared to many other countries. Being so large, Russia encompasses many different regions and through the course of history has been invaded and controlled by several different cultures, adding to the already rich diversity in the country. By the 1800’s this led to Russia being populated by not only Russians, but also Poles, Tatars, Jews, Fins, Latvians, etc.

In Kappeller’s article we see evidence of a significant level of separation of the different ethnic groups in Russia; in a geographic sense, as well as a political and economical sense. Kappeller shows that for the most part, we see ethnic Russians holding positions of high class, power, and wealth where as many of the other groups were primarily lower class peasants and merchants. As I read all of this I was wondering how a country as large and diverse as Russia was able to govern itself effectively with all of these different cultures and how these different cultures affected the development of the country as a whole.

Clearly the answer to this question is far to complex to be answered in a few paragraphs, or even in an article like Kappeller’s, but I think that we can begin to see the answer just by looking back through some of the historical events that we have studied in class. Many of the ideas that changed Russia’s development were ideas that were adopted from the new cultures that were entering Russia, either by invasion, immigration, or cultural borrowing. For instance, one of the most powerful institutions in Russia would be the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, much of the churches power began during the rule of the Golden Horde, who granted the church enormous power in controlling the state, something that allowed Orthodoxy to become a defining aspect of Russian culture long after the Mongols were gone. Many more examples could be added yet the basic point remains the same: Russia’s development and progression could easily be argued as a result of the vast diversity that the country had from its beginning stages.