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Ethnic and ReligiousBackgrounds in the USSR

By Jennifer Kruczek

Prior to the October Revolution in 1917, Russia was a unitary state and a constitutional monarchy. Before the Revolution the States surrounding Russia had been within the Russian Empire, but had their political autonomy. Through several different means the Russian Empire was gradually built up. Partly as a result of voluntary unification, partly due to conquest, and partly due to disturbing influence with other powerful States (Dmitrieva 10.)

Before the Revolution, there were strong linkages between some of the different States. For example, there were mixed marriages between the upper classes. Cultural links were broad and diverse, and among the intellectual integration was high. Though, as the Soviets took over, national identity and national distinction tended to be created and took shape within boundaries (Dmitrieva 11.)

The Eastern Europeans lacked, for most of modern history, a national state, so they drew on a variety of sources for inspiration, including religion, language, history, and race. The unification with Russia by the different nationalities is shown to be for many of them a voluntary choice. There was a higher level of political and economic development with Russia than with the States competing against them. There were better opportunities for these nationalities in areas with Russia influence. A lot of these nationalities were at a primitive stage, without national statehood or identity. By the unification process with Russia, they established national homelands and in some cases written languages. Perhaps, without these forms of national statehood, these nationalities would not have developed into the level of national identity that we now know (Dmitrieva 12-13.)

This brief historical overview would not be complete without discussing religious backgrounds. It appears that religion was a key factor in influencing the formation of nations in Eastern Europe. The religious backgrounds of nationalities predestined their cultural outlook and traditions. To a great extent, religion or religious backgrounds create some features of national character and the tradition of social behavior. Religious backgrounds can be considered a major component of the social framework for economic development. Religious and historical backgrounds also have a strong impact on the political orientation of nationalities. This means that the religious and historical backgrounds will be among factors affecting choices of economic and political models with different nations. Although, political states eventually emerged as the framework of nations, the basis for the order was and is religion (Dunn 11.)

Religious and historical backgrounds are among the factors that effect choices of economic and political models in the USSR. For example, within the USSR all world religions are represented: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam (Dmitrieva 13.) The distribution of different religions gives at least an impression of the diversity of ethnic and cultural backgrounds existing in the USSR.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Dmitrieva, Oksana. Regional Development: The USSR and After New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

  • Dunn, Dennis J. ed. Religion & Nationalism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1987.

 

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