What to Mate of Multi-Ethnic Late Tsarist Russia?

When Russia grew in its empire, they also grew in the number of ethnicities within its empire. Since Russia grew in the number of ethnicities it had within its empire, Kappeler’s chapter on ethnicity in late tsarist Russia felt like a whirlwind. But, as much as a whirlwind as the chapter may have felt, one takeaway I did get was that a great number of nationalities, if not all nationalities, were treated relatively equally.

I believe this because of the high number of non-Russians who were in the upper echelon of Russian Empire society. Regardless of the russification that non-Russians may have gone through/did go through, it is still impossible to ignore the fact that, for example, “the Muslims of Aderbaidzhan (3 per cent) and the Germans (1.4 per cent) had a considerably higher proportion of hereditary nobles than the Russians.”[1] There is also the fact that the most literate groups were not Russians, but Estonians, Latvians, and Germans.[2] If the Russian goal was to thoroughly subordinate non-Russians, then the high number of literate and noble non-Russians demonstrate that they were either doing a poor job of that…or not doing the job at all.

But at the opposite end of the spectrum-peasants and how long the average person lived-Russians were still worse off than many other ethnic groups. With peasantry, our class has talked about how peasantry was abolished in certain ethnic areas of the empire, but not in Russia itself. Furthermore, Russian peasants faced poor conditions, even compared to many non-Russian counterparts.[3] Even more damning for anyone who argued that there was a “Russian master race” was the fact that Russians also had lower life expectancy (and therefore probably a lower quality of life) than those of many other ethnicities, including the Jews (who many would think would be particularly oppressed.[4]

Is it possible that there is evidence which shows oppression instead of equality? Probably, but the statistics presented by Kappeler gives me more of a rhetoric of ethnic equality than one of ethnic inequality.


How did the treatment of non-Russian ethnicities change over time in the Russian Empire? Is it a narrative of progress, or not?

[1] Andreas Kappeler, The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History. Trans. Alfred Clayton. Pearson Education: 289.

[2] Ibid., 310.

[3] Ibid., 322.

[4] Ibid., 323.


Kappeler, Andreas. The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History. Trans. Alfred Clayton. Pearson Education.

Blut und Boden — Primordialism in Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals

Primordialism is an ancient form of nationalism that is rooted in mono-ethnic relations. As opposed to modernists who promote an imagined, mental conception of nationalism that is possible between multiple ethnic groups, primordialists assert that nationality is based on a common gene pool which creates physical attachments in a singular people. Beyond imagined community asserted by modernists, primordialists believe blood relations tie individuals together through the bonds of kinship, clanship, and tribalism founded on communal inheritance. Do you believe primordialism (mono-ethnic groups connected through blood ties) or modernism (multi-ethnic groups that feel an affinity for each other through created traditions, e.g. The Pledge of Allegiance) is a more cohesive form of nationalism?

As Schivelbusch discusses in his 4th chapter, “Back to the Land”, ((Wolfgang Schivelbusch, “Back to the Land,” in Three New Deals – Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939) (New York: Picador, 2006), 104)) primordial nationalism played a large part in the rise of authoritarian regimes of the 20th century. After liberal politics and laissez-faire capitalist economies seemed to lead to the crash of 1929, rejection of industrial and international mechanisms that went along with them was the norm thereafter. To Schivelbusch, loss of public trust in democracies because of the Great Depression was essential for charismatic leaders like Mussolini and Hitler to establish rule through authoritarianism in the 1930s. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 106)) Nations turned inward instead of outward during national revivals in place of imperialist expansions. The quest for Lebensraum and Fascist colonization would only seem possible after domestic rebuilding and communal reconnection.

In an attempt to imitate the past successes of simpler, pre-modern times regionalism, decentralization, reagriculturalization, and the “organic citizen and society” were all promoted as a return to primordial ties of the homeland in the ‘back-to-the-land’ movement. The Nazi ideology “Blut und Boden” (blood and soil) epitomized this ideology — eugenic authenticity of a naturally superior Volk living on collectively-worked territory. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 112)) Handicrafts and labor tied to the land were promoted as the basis of an autarkic economy. Mechanical and artificial constructions of industrialization were deemed part of a ‘pseudo-community’ that must be reversed for a return to a more elemental, natural national life. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 120)) After a complete return to pre-industrial ways of life was eventually rejected as industrialization was increasingly seen as an irreversible mass movement, “a Utopian vision of a new, crisis-resistant synthesis of town and country, industry and idyll” ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 126)) was promoted, espoused particularly by the concept of a non-specified laborer (farmer-factory worker) and Roosevelt’s term ‘rural-urban industry’ which he believed “would be crisis-proof and crisis-resistant”. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 127)) Do you agree with Roosevelt’s assertion that the most stable, balanced, self-sufficient industry would effectively maintain a bureaucratically controlled equilibrium of natural and artificial products?