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Perspective
Volume II, No 1 (September 1991)

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The Soviet Ethnic Mosaic
By URI RA'ANAN
Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology & Policy

Current events have highlighted the discrepancy between the administrative frontiers within the (former) USSR and the ethnic borders delimiting the various nationalities. It was assumed that mere extension of the powers granted to the union and autonomous republics would satisfy national aspirations. However, analysis of census returns demonstrates the size of ethnic minorities living outside their titular "homelands" (i.e., the union republics, ASSRs, autonomous regions and districts) or having no such "homeland."

Moreover, in many cases, nationalities do not enjoy a majority or even a plurality within those titular "homelands," largely because of gerrymandering or deliberate colonization. The tables below illustrate the more important effects of such practices. The statistics reflect the Soviet censuses of 1970 and 1989. In Table 2, the category of Russians living in the RSFSR, but outside their "homeland," refers to those ASSRs and autonomous areas within the Russian Republic in which the titular (non-Russian) nationality outnumbers Russian residents.

The contrast between the natural increase of the Turkic/Moslem nationalities and the rest of the population speaks for itself. All of these aspects are discussed at greater length in my chapter on "The End of the Soviet Multinational Empire?" in the forthcoming book State and Nation in Multi-Ethnic Societies: The Breakup of Multinational States (eds., U. Ra'anan, M. Mesner, K. Armes, and K. Martin, Manchester University Press, 1991).

 

 

 Table 1. Distribution of population
(1989, in thousands)

 

 USSR

 Russians

 Total Population  285,689  145,072
 Within "homeland"  218,388  117,403
 Outside "homeland"  53,677  27,669
 Without "homeland"  13,624   ---------

 

 

 Table 2. Distribution of Russian "Diaspora" Within USSR
(1989, in thousands)
 Outside Russian
"Homeland"
(Total)
 Within RSFSR
(in non-Russian
autonomous areas)
 Within "Non-Moslem" Republics  Within
"Moslem" Republics
 27,669  2,404  15,357  9,908

 

 Table 3. Demographic Trends, 1970-1989 (population in thousands)

 

 USSR

Turkic/Moslem
Nationalities

 Other Nationalities

1970

 241,720

 38,046

 203,674

1989

 285,689

 58,927

 226,762

 % increase

 18.2

 54.9

 11.3

 


Copyright ISCIP 1991
Unless otherwise indicated, all articles appearing in this journal have been commissioned especially for
Perspective.




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