Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ukrainians in Russian Far East Aging, Using Russian but Retaining Identity, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 27 – Because of tsarist-era resettlement policies, ethnic Ukrainians formed significant parts of the population in many parts of what is now the Russian Federation. The largest and most important, known as “the Green Wedge,” existed in what is now the Russian Far East.

            At the time of the first Soviet census in 1926, ethnic Ukrainians formed more than a third of the population there, and well over 40 percent in rural areas.  They retained their language and many of their distinctive cultural institutions, but in recent years, the community has declined (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/06/window-on-eurasia-zelenyi-klin-isnt.html).

            The period since the end of the Soviet Union has seen the decline in the numbers of the community and its attachment to language accelerate, with the share of ethnic Ukrainians in Primorsky kray falling from 8.2 percent in the 1989 census to 2.5 percent in the 2010 enumeration and with fewer of them speaking their language than ever before.

            But few have been able to investigate this group in any detail.  Now, a Kazan Tatar scholar, Renat Temirgaleyev, has remedied that with an important new article tracing the recent history of the Zelenyi klin Ukrainians  in the Moscow journal Demograficheskoye obozreniye (demreview.hse.ru/data/2018/02/12/1162049018/DemRev_4_4_2017_150-169.pdf).

            His basic conclusions about the fate of the ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Far East since 1991 are as follows:

·         The decline in the number of people in the Russian Far East identifying as Ukrainian is not the result of Ukrainian flight to independent Ukraine. Rather it reflects the passing of the older generation there and the assimilation, at least linguistically, of younger age groups, something almost inevitable given the absence of new immigrants from Ukraine.

·         Over the last century, the share of ethnic Ukrainians has declined more sharply in the Russian Far East than in the Russian Federation as a whole, a reflection of the absence of contacts with the core Ukrainian community in Ukraine.

·         The Ukrainians in the region have always been more rural than the ethnic Russians: they reached the 50 percent level of urbanization only in the 1960s, decades after the ethnic Russians there did; and they remain less urbanized. That may be why even with the loss of language, some continue to identify as Ukrainians because of ties with particular villages.

·         The Ukrainians of the Russian Far East have an average age almost 20 years greater than that of ethnic Russians there, an indication that the once thriving “Green Wedge” is likely to disappear in the coming decades unless the Russian or Ukrainian governments adopt radically different policies. 

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