Russians in Ukraine
Russians in Ukraine. Prior to the 14th and 15th centuries an insignificant number of Russians (or more precisely, peoples of the principality of Moscow and other Muscovite [Russian] territories) lived in Ukraine. For the most part individual Russian governmental officials or clergymen and itinerant merchants who lived for a few months at a time in the trading districts of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Lutsk, and other larger cities constituted the only Russian presence. In time there was also a movement of boyar families and their servants between Muscovy and Ukraine (in both directions). During the reign of Ivan IV (1533–84) the princes Pronsky, Kurbsky, and others moved into the Ukrainian territories of Lithuania, where they offered their services to the grand duke and received estates in return. Others fled to Ukraine and Belarus to escape religious or other persecution. A number of figures opposed to the official dogmas of the Russian Orthodox church, including F. Kosoi and the monks Vasiian and Artemii (a former student of Maximos the Greek), were regarded as heretics and compelled to flee from Muscovy to Ukraine. Another refugee was the printer Ivan Fedorov. Persecuted by Russian scribes and religious hierarchs, he left Moscow in 1566, moved to Lithuania, and then went on to Lviv and Ostrih, where he changed his name to Ivan Fedorovych (Fedorov) and became the founder of Ukrainian printing.
The first sustained Russian presence in Ukrainian lands was in the northeastern borderland regions. In the 16th century Muscovy began developing a string of fortified frontier posts in Slobidska Ukraine as a line of defense against the Tatars. The area was then opened up to colonists, most of whom were Ukrainians, but some of whom were Russians. Muscovy’s control of the Chernihiv-Novhorod-Siverskyi region in the 16th and early 17th centuries enabled Russian landowners and other Muscovite settlers to establish themselves in the region. Most of them remained there even after those territories passed under the control of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1618–48) and then the Cossack Hetman state. After the Time of Troubles they were joined by various Muscovite émigrés (including the Klimov, Lovshin, Griaznoi, and Saltykov families), who were granted estates by the Polish kings Sigismund III Vasa and Władysław IV Vasa. Some of them kept their holdings throughout the Bohdan Khmelnytsky period and thereafter; others intermarried with the Ukrainian nobility and Cossack starshyna officers and became assimilated.
Some Muscovites, mostly refugees, lived among the Cossacks and fought in the Cossack armies in the 16th and 17th centuries. Others (writers, artists, tradesmen, and the like) lived in Ukrainian monasteries, particularly in Kyiv. Yoakim Savelov, the Patriarch of Moscow after 1674, had been a monk in the Mezhyhiria Transfiguration Monastery.
Starting in the 1640s Russians studied at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy, among them I. Ozerov and P. Zerkalnikov. Zerkalnikov was a merchant who subsequently brought Yepifanii Slavynetsky, Arsenii Koretsky-Satanovsky, and other scholars to Moscow. In the 1680s the students of the academy included K. Istomin, subsequently a printer in Moscow, and K. Zotov, a naval explorer. The children of Muscovite noblemen, such as those of Prince Grigorii Romodanovsky and the boyar P. Sheremetev, also studied in Kyiv.
Mid-17th to 18th centuries. The Russian presence in Ukraine increased dramatically following the Pereiaslav Treaty of 1654. It consisted initially of garrisons in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities and the presence of Muscovite voivodes. In Kyiv the 2,000-man infantry force was increased to 5,000 in 1661. A fortress was built in the old quarter of the city, and cavalrymen and fusiliers (with their families) were accommodated next to it. Kyiv’s Russian population also included various administrative personnel as well as tradesmen, merchants, and traders whose extensive dealings with the troops allowed them to begin competing strongly with their local Ukrainian counterparts. The Moscow Articles of 1665, drawn up during the tenure of Hetman Ivan Briukhovetsky, allowed the Muscovite force in Ukraine to increase to 11,600, with garrisons in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Pereiaslav, Nizhyn, Novhorod-Siverskyi, Pryluky, Poltava, and other cities. Under Ivan Mazepa a riflemen’s regiment was stationed in the hetman’s capital, Baturyn, ostensibly for his defense; the force was soon expanded to three regiments.
Wars with Turkey (until 1700) and Sweden (1700–21) and the development of the Kyivan Cave Fortress (1706–23) as a military and administrative center increased the Russian presence in Ukraine. After the Battle of Poltava in 1709, up to 10 Russian regiments occupied the Hetman state. Officials of the military and governmental bureaucracy, particularly of the first Little Russian Collegium, intruded increasingly into internal Ukrainian affairs. Russian governors and military commanders were assigned to Kyiv, soldiers were billeted in Hlukhiv (the new capital of the Hetman state), and commandants were installed in all regimental cities and towns.
Beginning in the time of Peter I Russian landowners acquired increasingly larger holdings in the Hetman state and Slobidska Ukraine. The estates of Ivan Mazepa’s loyal Cossack starshyna and of ‘Mazepist’ émigrés were given to Russian aristocrats after the defeat at the Battle of Poltava, most notably to Peter’s favorite, Aleksandr Menshikov. The Russian nobles often brought Russian serfs along with them to work, particularly in small-scale manufacturing enterprises. The Authoritative Ordinances imposed by the Russian government on Hetman Danylo Apostol in 1728 gave Russians permission to purchase land in Ukraine. The tsarist authorities also forbade the Hetman state to trade with Western Europe as foreign commerce came to be controlled either by the government directly or by Russian merchants. The privileges thus accorded the Russians resulted in a further influx of Russian merchants or their agents into Ukraine, particularly to Kyiv and other larger centers. By 1742 there were 120 major Russian merchants in Kyiv, and Russians controlled much of the large-scale commerce in Left-Bank Ukraine.
There was a significant influx of Russian Old Believers into Ukraine. Having fled persecution at the hands of the Russian Orthodox church and the government, they established a number of settlements in Starodub regiment and in Chernihiv regiment. The movement began during the tenure of Hetman Demian Mnohohrishny and intensified under Ivan Mazepa and Ivan Skoropadsky. Despite protests from Ukrainian landowners and government officials the Russian government not only permitted the Old Believers to continue to leave Russia, but even gave them title to land on which the local Ukrainian landowners and administrators had temporarily allowed them to settle. A similarly arbitrary granting of land occurred in the northern Chernihiv region, where the ongoing settlement of Russians in the borderland reaches (in the Klintsy district) changed the region’s ethnic composition. This eventually served as the rationale for excluding those lands from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic when it was being formed. (See also Russian language in Ukraine.)
Other refugees who came to Ukraine from Russia in the 18th century included serfs and military deserters, who expected to find at least temporary shelter or freedom in the Hetman state, the territory of the Zaporozhian Sich, Slobidska Ukraine, and even Right-Bank Ukraine. Some of them were forced to return, but a substantial number remained, particularly in the south, where the Zaporozhian officials and (later) the Russian administration and landowners were keen to see the area settled. They often sheltered refugees and preferred not to return them to their places of origin. In addition a number of Russian nobles to whom Catherine II granted large estates in Southern Ukraine brought their serfs with them in order to populate the region.
The exact number of Russians living in Ukrainian territories in the 18th century is unknown, but fragmentary data suggest that it was relatively small and mostly concentrated in New Russia. In 1763–4, for instance, there were 4,273 Russians and 20,505 Ukrainians in Yelysavethrad province (subsequently Kherson gubernia); the number rose to 5,851 and 57,302 respectively in 1782. In the Bakhmut province there were 3,891 Russians and 12,177 Ukrainians in 1763–4, and 12,837 and 57,302 respectively in 1782.
19th and early 20th centuries. Russians were virtually absent from Right-Bank Ukraine (other than in or near Kyiv) prior to the second and third partitions of Poland in 1793 and 1795. Even then only a small number of civil servants and military personnel and a still smaller number of merchants, craftsmen, and itinerant workers moved into the region. Few peasants were among the migrants. That trend continued after the unsuccessful Polish Insurrection of 1830–1 and particularly after the Polish Insurrection of 1863–4, when some of the estates confiscated from Poles were given to Russian landowners. The imperial authorities sought to de-Polonize and Russify the Right-Bank regions to the greatest extent possible, but they could not manage to dislodge the substantial Polish (and Ukrainian) presence there.
A steady stream of Russians continued to settle in the sparsely populated regions of Southern Ukraine, in both its cities and its villages. The migrants included serfs, state peasants, military personnel, and free settlers. Some of them were subsequently assimilated by the Ukrainian population, which had grown in the region owing to migrations from Left-Bank Ukraine and Right-Bank Ukraine as well as from Slobidska Ukraine. In areas where they constituted a large percentage or a majority of the population Russians tended to maintain their national identity. After the abolition of serfdom this became more common as emancipated Russian peasants also settled in Southern Ukraine.
The political and administrative changes that dismantled the Hetman state and the Zaporizhia and imposed Russian imperial rule had cleared a wide path for Russian immigration to Left-Bank Ukraine. By the early 19th century Russian civil servants, military men of various rank, landowners (particularly from the regions of Russia bordering on Ukraine), merchants, peddlers, craftsmen, and laborers had established themselves in Ukraine. The cities in Left-Bank Ukraine lost their right of Magdeburg law, and their economies, community life, and municipal governments increasingly fell under the control of recently arrived Russians. Except in the larger port cities, such as Odesa, Russian merchants secured a firm hold on the commercial life of the Left Bank and Southern Ukraine. According to statistics for 1832, Russians controlled the most capital-intensive industries (44.6 percent; Ukrainians controlled 28.7 percent). In the commercial sector they enjoyed an absolute majority (52.6 percent; Ukrainians, 22.2 percent), particularly in the higher guilds. In 1832, Russians constituted 35.5 percent of the landed gentry in Ukraine (31.4 percent were Ukrainian). Except in Right-Bank Ukraine, where Poles and Jews maintained substantial economic strength, Russians dominated the capitalist development of Ukraine. As a result the major cities of Ukraine developed an increasingly Russian character.
Another wave of Russian immigration to Ukraine came in the 1880s, when the surplus population from the central chornozem gubernias (Voronezh, Kursk, Orel, and others) began flooding into the newly established industrial centers of the Donbas and the Dnipro Industrial Region as well as (to a lesser extent) Kharkiv. In 1897, Russians made up 68 percent of the workers in heavy industry of Katerynoslav gubernia. A substantial number of them were seasonal laborers.
According to the census of 1897 there were 3.8 million Russians living in Ukraine. That figure suggests that they formed 11.7 percent of the total population of 27.8 million. There were virtually no Russians in Ukrainian territories under Austria-Hungary (apart from a settlement of 3,000 Old Believers, known as Lipovany, in Bukovyna). Russians thus made up 13.1 percent of the population in Ukrainian territories in the Russian Empire. There were 2.4 million Russians in the nine Ukrainian gubernias (10.4 percent of the local total population), 2.1 million (10 percent) within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s 1938 boundaries, and 2.8 million (10.5 percent) within Ukraine’s current boundaries.
A high proportion (42.3 percent) of the Russians in Ukraine lived in cities, particularly in comparison to the proportion (5.4 percent) of Ukrainians who lived in cities. The urban population of Ukraine made up 12.6 percent of the total population of the country (within the 1938 borders of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). Of the urban population, Russians constituted 33.7 percent (Ukrainians, 32.5 percent). In cities of over 100,000 inhabitants they represented 53.4 percent (Ukrainians, 12.6 percent). Only 6.7 percent of the rural population in Ukraine was Russian (83 percent, Ukrainian). The largest urban concentrations of Russians in Ukraine (1897) were in Odesa, 198,200 (48.2 percent of the city’s total population); Kyiv, 134,300 (54.4 percent); Kharkiv, 109,000 (63 percent); Mykolaiv, 61,000 (66.3 percent); Katerynoslav, 47,100 (41.8 percent); and Kherson, 27,900 (47.9 percent).
The Russian inhabitants of Ukraine were not evenly distributed geographically. There were few of them (approximately 600,000, or 3 percent of the local total) in the long-settled forested steppe regions (with the exception of Slobidska Ukraine) and northern Ukraine, and of that number 134,000 were residents of Kyiv. A larger number (1.2 million) lived in Southern Ukraine and Slobidska Ukraine (approximately 1 million). Another 340,000 lived in the Kuban (not including the eastern section), where they constituted about 34 percent of the population.
The Russian element in rural Ukraine tended to live either in separate villages or in separate sections of villages and only rarely with Ukrainians. Russian villages commonly differed from Ukrainian ones in appearance. They had fewer garden plots, and the structure of the farm buildings and houses was different. Their inhabitants tended to go about their daily affairs apart from Ukrainians, and there was infrequent contact between the two groups. Relations were restrained, and mixed marriages were uncommon. Russian Old Believers made up one-third of the Russian peasant population in Ukraine, but they lived completely apart from everyone else (even other Russians).
In general Russians in Ukraine considered Ukraine and Ukrainians to be an organically constituent element of the Russian state, and they assisted the imperial government in effecting its policies of centralization and Russification. They believed that Ukrainians were a Russian tribe, that their language was merely a dialect of Russian, and that their culture was a lesser variant of Russian culture, although some expressed their liking for Ukrainian nature, folklore, literature, and language and respected Ukraine’s (Cossack) past.
Even those Russians in Ukraine who espoused revolutionary and internationalist ideas sought to have them realized on an ‘all-Russian’ scale, and believed that Ukrainian strivings for the preservation of national identity and the development of the Ukrainian language were narrow concerns that detracted from the universality of their own cause. Russian participants in the Decembrist movement in Ukraine supported the view that all nationalities within the Russian Empire should fuse into a single (Russian) nation. The majority of the supporters of Narodnaia Volia and liberal constitutional movements in Ukraine were either indifferent or hostile to the local national movement. The members of Russian parties active in Ukraine—the Constitutional Democratic (kadet) party, the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party, and the Russian Party of Socialist Revolutionaries—supported centralist policies. Russian right-wing elements, such as the Union of the Russian People and the Kyiv Club of Russian Nationalists, were openly hostile to Ukraine and Ukrainians.
The general tendency of Russians in Ukraine to subsume all features of Ukrainian identity into an overriding imperial Russian one was buttressed by Russian state policies, a thoroughly Russified educational system, the Russian Orthodox church, and the Russian press (both official and private).
As the number of Russians in Ukraine grew, so did their influence, not only in the political, administrative, and socioeconomic spheres but also in the development of Ukrainian scholarship and culture, particularly academic life. Russian professors occupied leading positions in Ukraine’s institutions of higher education, and many of them contributed significantly to the field of Ukrainian studies. Among them were the historians Vladimir Ikonnikov and Stepan Golubev, the literary historians Mykola I. Petrov and Volodymyr Peretts, the philosopher A. Giliarov, the archeologist Mikhail Rostovtsev, the chemist Sergei Reformatorsky, the physicist Yosyf Kosonohov, the mathematician Mykola Krylov, the botanists Oleksander Fomin and S. Navashin, the zoologist Aleksei Severtsov, the surgeon Oleksii Krymov, and the ophthalmologist Vladimir Filatov.
The following Russian writers wrote about and/or lived in Ukraine: M. Artsybashev, I. Bunin, Anton Chekhov, V. Garshin, Nikolai Leskov, S. Nadson, N. Nekrasov, Kondratii Ryleev, A. Tolstoi, K. Trenev, and A. Zhemchuzhnikov. Russian artists active in Ukraine included G. Miasoedov, M. Nesterov, V. Vasnetsov, Mikhail Vrubel, Ilia Repin, Ivan Kramskoi, and Lev Zhemchuzhnikov.
1917–20. The general Russian population and the revolutionary parties they supported during the period (the Kadets, the Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries [SRS], and the Bolsheviks) were largely hostile to the organization of Ukrainian national forces following the February Revolution of 1917 and to Ukrainian strivings for autonomy. They also pressured the Provisional Government in Saint Petersburg to institute measures inimical to Ukrainian autonomy. Shortly before the Ukrainian National Congress of April 1917 the head of the Kyiv Soviet of Russian Deputies declared that demands for an autonomous Ukraine were ‘a stab in the back of the revolution,’ and that ‘democratic forces’ would reply to such demands ‘with bayonets.’ The Russian intelligentsia, civil servants, and influential publications, such as the newspaper Kievlianin and Kievskaia mysl’, were also hostile.
The proclamation of the First Universal of the Central Rada on 23 June 1917 and the creation of the General Secretariat of the Central Rada were considered by most Russians in Ukraine a wrongful seizure of power. When the Ukrainian government began to exercise its legal authority, they changed their minds and urged the Provisional Government to arrive at an agreement with the Central Rada. The two governments did agree in July. After the Second Universal (16 July 1917) and the opening of the Central Rada and General Secretariat to representatives of national minorities, 54 Russian deputies (20 Socialist Revolutionaries, 20 Mensheviks, 10 Kadets, and 4 Popular Socialists) joined the two bodies. There were 8 deputies from Russian parties in the Little Rada: 3 Mensheviks (M. Balabanov and 2 Ukrainians, Konstantyn Kononenko and Dmytro Chyzhevsky), 4 Socialist Revolutionaries (S. Saradzhiev, I. Sklovsky, K. Sukhovykh, and Aleksandr Zarubin), and 1 Kadet (S. Krupnov). Bolshevik representatives (Georgii Piatakov and Volodymyr Zatonsky) also sat briefly in the Central Rada, but they walked out on 8 November 1917. There were two representatives of Russian parties in the General Secretariat, A. Zarubin (postal and telegraph services) and D. Odinets (secretary of Russian affairs).
Those who remained to vote on the Third Universal (20 November 1917) and the declaration of the establishment of the Ukrainian National Republic in the Little Rada included one Menshevik and two Socialist Revolutionaries, but the lone remaining Kadet walked out. The Mensheviks opposed the Fourth Universal of the Central Rada (22 January 1918), but the Socialist Revolutionaries supported it. Odinets continued to serve as secretary of Russian affairs in the new cabinet.
The Hetman government (April–December 1918) enjoyed the support of the majority of Russians, particularly right-wing and centrist elements. They were included in Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky’s cabinets (they formed the majority in the administration led by Serhii Gerbel) and had considerable influence in the state apparatus and the army. Right-wing and extremist Russian organizations became active once again. In May 1918 the Russian Union was established, ostensibly to unite all Russians in Ukraine in order to further Russian culture and education in the country, but in fact as an anti-Ukrainian grouping. The number of Russian refugees in Ukraine increased after the Bolshevik consolidation of power in Russia, and Russian officers used Ukraine as a base in establishing Anton Denikin’s loyalist Volunteer Army. Those elements left Ukraine after the seizure of power by the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic, which included no Russians in its administration.
During the course of Ukraine’s struggle for independence (1917–20) most Russians sided either with Anton Denikin’s forces (the majority of the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia) or with the Bolsheviks (primarily the Russian proletariat). The Russian peasantry remained largely neutral.
1920–33. The establishment of Soviet power in Ukraine initially brought no change in the relations between nationalities in the country. Most Russians who held posts in the Ukrainian state, administrative, and Party apparatus believed that only the form of political system had changed, and that the ‘country’ (the Russian Empire and now the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) should remain undivided and largely under central (Russian) control. The ruling party, the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine (CP[B]U), was Ukrainian in name only. Its membership consisted primarily of Russians (53.6 percent in 1922) and other non-Ukrainian peoples (such as the Jews and Balts, and others) and was either indifferent or hostile to Ukrainian national concerns. Russian elements in the CP(B)U even attempted to separate the Donbas and the Kryvyi Rih region to form the Donets–Kryvyi Rih Soviet Republic within the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. They largely ignored the development of a separate state structure for the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic; they considered it and the party they belonged to as inconsequential short-term arrangements.
Change in the number of Russians in Ukraine during the first years of Soviet rule cannot be measured accurately. A substantial number of (Russian or Russified) nobles and functionaries of the tsarist regime fled from Ukraine (in fact from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics altogether). In Ukraine they were replaced to a certain extent by an influx of Bolsheviks from Russia. The decline of cities and industries, where Russians constituted a high percentage of the inhabitants or workers, during the revolutionary period probably caused an out-migration to other parts of the former empire. Nevertheless the influx of Russians into the Donets Basin continued (16,000 in 1921–3, 64,000 in 1924–5).
A more detailed picture of the Russian presence in Ukraine is provided by the Soviet census of 1926. Its figures show that there were 4.2 million Russians living in Ukrainian ethnographic territories within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (12.1 percent of the total population of those regions), 2.7 million of them in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (9.2 percent). A smaller number of Russians lived in Western Ukraine (approximately 60,000) and Bessarabia (also 60,000).
A high proportion (50.4 percent) of the Russians who lived in the Ukrainian SSR lived in cities, although the figures drop if all Ukrainian ethnographic territory within the USSR (40.5 percent) is included. Russians made up 25.1 percent of the urban population of the Ukrainian SSR (Ukrainians, 47.4 percent) and 5.6 percent of its rural population (Ukrainians, 87.6 percent). Relative to the 1897 census the percentage of Russians in the Ukrainian SSR seemed to drop from 10 to 9.2, although the actual decline was probably much smaller since the earlier census contained somewhat inflated figures.
As in 1897 the major concentrations of Russians in Ukraine (1926) were in Odesa (162,000, or 38.7 percent of the total population), Kharkiv (154,400, or 37 percent), Kyiv (125,500, or 24.4 percent), Dnipropetrovsk (73,400, or 31.5 percent), Donetsk (59,900, or 56.3 percent), Mykolaiv (46,700, or 37 percent), Luhansk (31,300, or 43.5 percent), and Krasnodar in the Kuban (83,400, or 51.3 percent). In general the proportion of Russians in a city increased with its size: they constituted approximately 33.3 percent of the population in cities with over 100,000 inhabitants, 20.1 percent in those with between 50,000 and 100,000, and 12.2 percent in smaller cities.
The geographical distribution of Russians in Ukraine was practically the same as in 1897. There were very few in Western Ukraine (overall, 2 percent; in isolated areas, 5 percent of the local total). The larger concentrations were in four areas: Slobidska Ukraine, with an overall percentage of about 25 percent, concentrated in the Ukrainian sections of Kursk (46 percent) and Voronezh (30 percent) gubernias; Southern Ukraine, where Russians clustered in and around seaside cities (their largest rural concentration [24 percent] was in Melitopol okruha); the Donets Basin, particularly Luhansk okruha (42.7 percent) and the Ukrainian sections of the Shakhty-Donets district (37 percent); and the Kuban (33.5 percent, particularly in the eastern areas).
Russian as a native tongue was claimed (1926) by 98.1 percent (2,627,000) of the Russians in Ukraine as well as by 5.5 percent (1,289,000) of Ukrainians, 22.6 percent (356,000) of Jews, and 154,000 others. Linguistic Russification was particularly marked among the Ukrainian population in the cities, where 24.4 percent listed Russian as their native tongue. Of their rural counterparts only 3.2 percent did so. In contrast, barely 1.4 percent of Russians gave the Ukrainian language as their mother tongue (1.8 percent in rural areas).
The age and gender profiles of the Russian and Ukrainian inhabitants of Ukraine in 1926 were fairly different. The ratio of men to women among Ukrainians was 100:106.1, among Russians, 100:100.2. A greater proportion of Russians (51.2 percent) than Ukrainians (43.1 percent) were aged 20 to 59 (that age-group formed 45.3 percent of the total population). Likewise there were fewer teenagers or young children among Russians (43.4 percent) than among Ukrainians (50.6 percent; that age-group represented 49 percent of the total population) and fewer old people (5.4 percent of Russians and 6.3 percent of Ukrainians; that age-group was 5.7 percent of the total).
The social/professional profile of Russians also differed from that of Ukrainians. The Ukrainians were a largely undifferentiated peasant mass, in marked contrast to the Russian community. Agriculture employed 50.6 percent of the Russians, compared to 90.7 percent of the Ukrainians. The Russians were represented more in industry (20 percent, compared to 3.8 percent for Ukrainians), the civil service (12.2 percent, compared to 2.6 percent), trade (3.3 percent, compared to 0.8 percent), and other professions (12.7 percent, compared to 2.1 percent). Russians in Ukraine were better educated than Ukrainians. In 1926, 76.5 percent of males and 51.2 percent of females over the age of five were literate, compared to figures of 66.5 percent and 32.5 percent for Ukrainians. Russian pupils made up 14.1 percent of all those enrolled in elementary schools in Ukraine, although Russian children in that age-group made up only 8.4 percent of the country’s total. Russian enrollment in Ukrainian vocational schools stood at 16 percent, in technical schools, at 14.7 percent, and in workers' faculties, at 21.5 percent. That trend continued through 1936, when Russians constituted 15.4 percent of the students in postsecondary institutions, 10.3 percent of those in technical schools, and 16.2 percent of those in workers' faculties.
A substantial number of Russians in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1926 had been born outside of its borders; 779,200 originated from the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (not including the Kazakh ASSR and Kirghiz ASSR), and 112,500, from other republics. Seventy percent of the new arrivals settled in cities. Immigrants made up about one-quarter of the Russian population in Ukraine (one-third of the urban Russian population and approximately 15 percent of the rural). Some 271,000 Russians had settled in the Donbas, where they constituted about one-third of the population. The constant influx of Russians into Ukraine and an emigration of Ukrainians (particularly to Siberia) account for the growing proportion of Russians in the country. That growth was not offset by the higher natural growth rate among Ukrainians.
The policy of Ukrainization instituted in 1923–32 diminished the influence of Russians in Ukraine significantly. Some Russians returned to their country of origin, some assimilated with the Ukrainian surroundings, and some Russified Ukrainians reverted to a Ukrainian identity. The number of Russians in leading administrative and political posts was reduced as they were replaced by Ukrainians. The proportion of Russians in Ukraine’s administrative apparatus in 1928–9 (given in percentages, with figures for Ukrainians in parentheses) was as follows: in rural soviets, 5.1 percent (87.9 percent); town soviets, 20.9 percent (50.9 percent); city soviets, 23.9 percent (50.4 percent); raion party conferences, 7.9 percent (82.9 percent); and okruha soviets, 14.5 percent (68.6 percent). They constituted 27.5 percent of the membership of the CP(B)U (compared to 52 percent for Ukrainians) and 17.1 percent of that of the Komsomol (compared to 64.1 percent).
After 1933. Ukrainization came to a full stop in 1933 with the tenure of Pavel Postyshev. The 17th Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik), held from 26 January to 10 February 1934, at which Joseph Stalin declared that Ukrainian nationalism was ‘a principal threat,’ marked the formal end of the Ukrainization period. The Ukrainian position was also eroded by the Famine-Genocide of 1932–3 (which killed millions of Ukrainian peasants), the wholesale destruction of the Ukrainian intellectual elite and religious structure in 1929–33, and the execution or deportation of between one and two million people. But the gains within the state apparatus made by Ukrainians relative to Russians during the 1920s held until the Second World War.
After 1945 the national composition of Ukraine changed dramatically as the proportion of Russians living there more than doubled. Such a fundamental change in the population of Ukraine did not occur spontaneously, but as part of an overall Soviet policy of Russification. The formula used for implementing the policy was systematic and straightforward. Ukrainians were moved out of their republic as often as possible on the pretext of an ‘organized distribution of labor’ to other parts of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (particularly northern regions of the Union), where they would be bereft of Ukrainian cultural amenities and presumably assimilate with the surrounding Russian or Russian-speaking majority. Russians were brought into Ukraine on a continual basis and afforded a privileged socioeconomic status and a wide range of cultural amenities.
By 1989 the Russian population of Ukraine had grown to 11,356,000 and constituted 22.1 percent of the total population of 51,452,000. It was most concentrated in the southeastern industrial regions, in Luhansk oblast (44.8 percent of the total oblast population), Donetsk oblast (43.6 percent), Kharkiv oblast (33.2 percent), and Zaporizhia oblast (32 percent). In Crimea oblast Russians formed 67 percent of the population. They were least numerous in the western (particularly Ternopil oblast, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, and Transcarpathia oblast) and northwestern (Volhynia oblast and Rivne oblast) regions of Ukraine. The table gives their proportional increase in the population of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
The influence of the Russians in Ukraine during the period increased even more than their increase in number would suggest, largely as a result of a concerted campaign of Russification. Under the Russian Empire the efforts to Russify Ukraine were aimed largely at the cities and the middle and upper classes. In Soviet times they were extended to the countryside and to all levels of society. Consequently a Russian assigned to a rural posting in Ukraine would commonly be not only a state functionary but also an agent of cultural assimilation. Also contributing to the trend of broad Russification was the urbanization characteristic of the 20th century, whereby millions of Ukrainians were brought to cities that had been centers of Russian (and Jewish) cultural life for over a hundred years.
The Russians in Ukraine acted as a dominant minority group by virtue of the fact that their nationality group was the controlling force in Soviet society. Their increased numbers provided them with the demographic mass to make an impact at all levels of Ukrainian society.
Socially and economically the Russians occupied a privileged position within Ukraine. They constituted a disproportionately high proportion of skilled blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, and the intelligentsia. They could obtain a full range of services in the Russian language and felt no compulsion to learn Ukrainian. Their children could be educated in Russian-language schools in every region of the republic, and the entrance requirements for institutions of higher education in Ukraine strongly favored Russians. The majority of public signs and postings on public buildings in most districts of Ukraine were unilingually Russian, as were most labels on consumer products. Official business was usually transacted in Russian. So with cultural amenities: Ukrainian publishing houses produced a disproportionately high number of Russian-language titles; translations of foreign-language literature were far more likely to be available in Russian than in Ukrainian; the theater and cinema were dominated (in quantity and often in quality) by Russian-language works; and museum and gallery services were commonly provided in Russian rather than Ukrainian.
With social pressures to adhere to Russian norms and economic mobility often linked to fluency in the Russian language, many Ukrainians became Russophones. Their number included a substantial group who became totally Russified, or who retained only a minimal ability in Ukrainian (4.5 percent in 1926, 6.5 percent in 1959, 8.5 percent in 1970, and 10.9 percent in 1979). Another linguistic phenomenon was the rise of a Ukrainian-Russian patois known as surzhyk. One sign of the increased Russian influence in Ukraine was a substantial rise in the number of mixed Ukrainian-Russian marriages, particularly among white-collar workers and the intelligentsia. Subtly encouraged by Soviet officials, such matches were sometimes viewed as a means of advancing one’s career.
Some Russians in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic supported the Ukrainian people and defended their interests. In the 1920s Mykhailo Volobuiev demanded that Ukraine’s economy be permitted to develop autonomously. In the 1960s and early 1970s the writer Viktor Nekrasov came out in defense of Ukrainian dissidents. The majority of Russian academics and writers in Ukraine, however, were simply purveyors of Russification who considered Ukrainian scholarship and culture to be elements within a Russian context. The Ukrainian dissident movement of the 1960s and 1970s gained some support among Russian circles in Ukraine, but their expressions of support for Ukrainian aspirations were sporadic and not very clear.
The sizable Russian minority in Ukraine became a significant factor in the campaign for independence in 1990–1. Some Russians were among the most vocal opponents of Ukraine’s political aspirations for separation from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Likewise, many Soviet and Russian political figures cited the need to ‘protect’ the Russian minority as an excuse for Moscow’s potential intervention in Ukrainian affairs. Ultimately a substantial majority of Ukraine’s Russians chose to vote for Ukrainian independence in the referendum of 1 December 1991. Observers noted that the result reflected the Russians’ belief that the Ukrainian SSR was being treated unfairly (economically and politically) within the USSR, and that they and the country would benefit by independence. At the same time the result reflected the degree to which the Russians were satisfied with the assurances of respect for minority rights that had been given by Ukrainian political leaders.
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]