Belgorod oblast. An oblast in the southern part of the central chornozem region of the Russian Federation bordering on Ukraine. In the past most of the oblast was a part of Slobidska Ukraine. Belgorod oblast was formed on 6 January 1954. Its area is 27,100 sq km, and its 2002 population was 1,500,500. The oblast has 21 raions, 10 cities, and 1592 rural soviets.
According to the Soviet census of 1979, Russians constituted 94 percent of the population, and Ukrainians accounted for 4.8 percent. These statistics were doctored, however, for the purpose of demonstrating that the political border between Ukraine and Russia coincides with the ethnic border. According to the generally reliable census of 1926, the territory of present-day Belgorod oblast was then inhabited by 642,000 Ukrainians (40.2 percent) and 948,000 Russians (59.4 percent) out of a total population of 1,596,000. Ukrainians were in the majority in 7 out of the 18 raions, Russians in 6, and the numbers were about equal in 5. The southwest and the southeast parts of Belgorod oblast are in Ukrainian ethnic territory. In the past these two parts belonged to the Slobidska Ukraine regiments, while the central part of the oblast, including Belgorod, was colonized mostly by Russians. The Ukrainian part of Belgorod oblast covers 14,500 sq km and in 1926 had a population of 770,000, of which 460,000 (59.7 percent) was Ukrainian and 307,000 (39.9 percent) was Russian. In 1926, 182,000 Ukrainians lived in the rest of the oblast. According to the Russian census of 2002 (wich followed the trend set by the earlier Soviet census), Russians constitute 92.9 percent of the population, and Ukrainians account for 5.5 percent.
The territory of present-day Belgorod oblast was colonized in the 17th–18th century. After the Slobidska Ukraine regiments were abolished by Catherine II in 1765, the present territory of the oblast was incorporated into Slobidska Ukraine gubernia, which was divided in 1835 among Kharkiv gubernia, Kursk gubernia, and Voronezh gubernia. After the Soviet occupation of Ukraine Kharkiv gubernia became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, while Kursk and Voronezh gubernias became part of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. In 1934 these gubernias were turned into oblasts. Belgorod oblast was formed out of the southern part of Kursk oblast and the outlying regions of Voronezh oblast.
(For the Ukrainian history, population, and economy of Belgorod oblast see Slobidska Ukraine.)
[This article was updated in 2005.]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine