Ukrainian ‘wedge’ regions in Russia east of the Urals declining in size but still numerous

The regional distribution of self-identified ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation, as percentage of population (Source: 2010 Russian Federation census)

The regional distribution of self-identified ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation, as percentage of population (Source: 2010 Russian Federation census) 

Opinion, Russia

Edited by: A. N.

Russian historian acknowledge that ethnic Ukrainians played a key role in the conquest and development of Siberia and the Far East, and Russian officials in recent years have been outraged whenever Kyiv officials have talked about the need for Ukraine to devote more attention to them.

Today, Russian writers argue that “in the post-Soviet period, the number of Ukrainians in the population of Siberia has contracted in all regions and significantly,” especially in the north but also in the Far East more generally, the result of deaths, departures, and assimilation.

Ukrainians in Russia’s Far East carrying the portrait of national poet Taras Shevchenko. The original caption reads, “Khabarovsk City, 1 May 1917, International Workers’ Day, Demonstration of Ukrainians.” Source: my-krai.ru

Ukrainians in Russia’s Far East carrying the portrait of national poet Taras Shevchenko. The original caption reads, “Khabarovsk City, 1 May 1917, International Workers’ Day, Demonstration of Ukrainians.” Source: my-krai.ru

There are only about a third as many Ukrainians in Russia’s Chita Oblast now than there were in 1989, only about half as many in Irkutsk, Buryatia, Sakha, Krasnoyarsk Kray, and Kemerovo Oblast. For the Russian Far East as a whole, statistics show, the number of Russians across the Far East has fallen by 50 percent.

But in reporting these declines, Russian outlets unintentionally call attention to just how important a role ethnic Ukrainians played east of the Urals in the past and to the ways in which they play a role to this day. A new discussion of the Ukrainian wedges on the Russian7 portal is typical in that regard.

Number and share of Ukrainians in the population of the regions of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, according to the 1926 Soviet census. Graph by Olegzima, Wikimedia Commons.

Number and share of Ukrainians in the population of the regions of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, according to the 1926 Soviet census. Graph by Olegzima, Wikimedia Commons.

It not only describes the five “waves” of Ukrainian movement to Russia east of the Urals but also describes the features of the smaller but still important Ukrainian “wedges” at present:

  • The first wave consisted of Ukrainian nationalists who were exiled there after Russia annexed Ukraine.
  • The second, which numbers more than 1.5 million by the middle of the 19th century, was driven by shortage of agricultural land in Ukraine for the growing population.
  • And so was the third, under Stolypin at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.
  • The fourth consisted of those sent to the region as a result of Stalin’s policies of dekulakization and collectivization, as well as by the annexation of Western Ukraine.
  • And the fifth, which took place in the final decades of Soviet power, involved the transfer of “no fewer than five million” Ukrainians to help industrialize the region. They were sent there on orders of the state following graduation from universities and industrial training schools.

According to Russian7, at the time of the 1989 Soviet census, about a third of the population of Russia’s Tyumen Oblast – more than 600,000 people – consisted of ethnic Ukrainians. After 1991, Kyiv opened a consulate general there, and the community itself set up a national cultural autonomy.

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Edited by: A. N.
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