Moscow and the Ukraine, 1918-1953: A Study of Russian Bolshevik Nationality Policy

Moscow and the Ukraine, 1918-1953: A Study of Russian Bolshevik Nationality Policy

Moscow and the Ukraine, 1918-1953: A Study of Russian Bolshevik Nationality Policy

Moscow and the Ukraine, 1918-1953: A Study of Russian Bolshevik Nationality Policy

Excerpt

The overwhelming majority of Westerners think of the Soviet Union as one economic, political, and cultural entity. Comparatively few know that this "monolith" consists of sixteen union republics, several autonomous republics, a number of autonomous regions, and various other political units. Still fewer realize that each of these units is inhabited by people who differ in language, custom, tradition, history, etc. Viewed from this standpoint, the Soviet Union represents not a monolith, but a polyglot state welded together and maintained by force. Of the over 200,000,000 population of the Soviet Union, the Russians comprise over half, the Ukrainians about a fifth, and the remainder is divided among more than a hundred other nationalities.

In this, what is doubtless one of the most variegated nationality patchworks of the world, the Ukrainians occupy a vital place. In addition to being the second largest ethnic group, they inhabit a territory which, although comprising only about 2% of the entire Soviet Union, has been of paramount importance both economically and strategically. The Ukraine's fertile soil and abundance of natural resources (coal, iron, manganese, etc.) have played a significant part in the industrialization of the Soviet Union, while its geographic location has been quite instrumental in Moscow's acquisition of a firmer hold on the Balkans. Furthermore, the Ukraine has been used as a laboratory for many national, social, and economic experiments. Aware of its strong potential role, the Ukraine has tended to act as one of the most powerful centrifugal forces within the Soviet Union. That role, however, has been obscured by works which have attempted either to minimize or to exaggerate its importance.

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