Image - Dutch Immigrants in Volhynia (early 20th century). Image - German Mennonite family in Southern Ukraine (19th century).

Immigration. During the Princely era, immigrants in Rus’-Ukraine were few; they were mostly Armenian, Greek, Polish, and Jewish merchants who settled in the larger towns. In the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia, the immigrants were mostly Poles and German artisans. Other immigrants included prisoners of war who were occasionally freed and allowed to settle in Ukraine (ie, Pechenegs, Torks, Cumans, and Yatvingians). During the periods of Lithuanian and Polish rule in the 14th and 15th centuries, in Western Ukraine immigration of Armenians and Germans increased, and Italian and Greek merchants began settling in the larger towns. In the 15th and 16th centuries a large immigration of Jews occurred. It was not as massive or as significant as that of the Poles, however, who colonized Galicia and, after the Union of Lublin in 1569, the fertile lands of Podilia, Right-Bank Ukraine, and, in the first half of the 17th century, Left-Bank Ukraine. Thereafter the Jews and the Poles were the principal national minorities in Ukraine until the early 19th century.

During the period of the Cossack-Polish War and the Hetman state of the mid-17th to the mid-18th century, immigration in Ukraine was minimal because of political turmoil. As the domination of Ukraine by Muscovy and its successor the Russian Empire grew from the late 17th century, so did the immigration of Russians. From the mid-18th century the tsarist government promoted the colonization of Southern Ukraine by Serbs (in so-called New Serbia and Sloviano-Serbia), Germans, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Moldavians. After Ukraine was partitioned between the Russian Empire and the Austrian Empire in the late 18th century, the immigration of Poles and Jews into its central and eastern lands ceased. The influx of Russians increased constantly throughout the 19th century, particularly in the cities and in the industrial centers of the Donets Basin. In the latter half of the 19th century, some 200,000 German, Czech, and Polish farmers settled on the parceled lands of the former Polish latifundia in Volhynia. In central and eastern Ukraine during the period 1890–1930, some two million immigrants, mostly Russians, arrived. According to the 1926 census, 23 percent of the population of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic consisted of immigrants, most of them Russians; 941,000 other foreigners were in Ukraine at the time of the census (70 percent of them were residing in urban centers).

In Western Ukraine under Austro-Hungarian rule, small numbers of Germans arrived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Throughout the 19th century large numbers of Poles settled in Galicia and Bukovyna, mainly in the cities, in the Drohobych-Boryslav Industrial Region, and on the lands of the former Polish latifundia. This influx coincided with the mass emigration of Western Ukrainians, who were forced to leave because of rural overpopulation. More Poles (some 300,000) immigrated to Western Ukraine under interwar Polish rule. In the interwar period, some 30,000 Czechs settled in Transcarpathia, and a sizable number of Romanians moved to northern Bukovyna and northern Bessarabia.

From the 1930s, the mass immigration of Russians to the urban centers and industrial regions of the Ukrainian SSR intensified. It was encouraged by the Soviet authorities, who pursued a policy of Russification while destroying millions of Ukrainians during the Famine-Genocide of 1932–3, political repression, and deportations of the Stalinist terror. After the Second World War the number of immigrants other than Russians in Ukraine declined considerably. The number of Russians who immigrated to Ukraine in the second half of the 20th century has been estimated at eight million.

(For details about Ukraine’s national minorities, see Armenians, Belarusians in Ukraine, Bulgarians in Ukraine, Czechs, Germans, Greeks, Gypsies, Hungarians, Jews, Moldavians, Poles in Ukraine, Romanians, Russians in Ukraine, Serbia, Slovaks, and Tatars.)

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Volodymyr Kubijovyč

  [This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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