Maps and charts

How the USSR counted its nationalities, 1970

Source: based on the Presidium of the Council of Ministers for Geodesics and Cartography, Atlas of the USSR. Formation and development of the Union of SSR, Moscow, USSR Academy of Sciences, 1972.


Despite the initial Soviet plan to build a vast Socialist political community (the “Soviet people”), USSR censuses from the 1920s were based on categorizations by ethnologists (48 categories here), as was the construction of territorialized “nationalities” during the following decade. This paradoxical tension formed the crucible for independence demands and the subsequent break-up of the USSR. Even now, it continues to stir up endless violence. The map and graph show both the great diversity and the largely dominant role of Russians, in number and in territorial spread.


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