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Demographic Sources of the Changing Ethnic Composition of the Soviet Union

Barbara A. Anderson and Brian D. Silver
Population and Development Review
Vol. 15, No. 4 (Dec., 1989), pp. 609-656
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/1972593
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1972593
Page Count: 48
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Demographic Sources of the Changing Ethnic Composition of the Soviet Union
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Abstract

The Soviet Union is a multi-ethnic country, and ethnic loyalties are an enduring aspect of Soviet society. This article discusses the changing ethnic composition of the Soviet population as a whole and by region, using census data for 1959, 1970, 1979, and 1989. It examines the proximate demographic sources of ethnic change for various regions of the country, with special emphasis on fertility and migration. Differences in population growth rates during the last 30 years have led to marked changes in the ethnic composition of the USSR, and such changes will continue in the future. The impending decline of ethnic Russians to a minority within the Soviet Union will have greater political and symbolic significance than demographic significance. Nevertheless, differential growth rates of Russians, Slavs, other non-Muslims, and Muslims portend more dramatic changes in the ethnic composition of the USSR over the longer term. The patterns of ethnic composition of Soviet regions are not only changing but are also highly diverse. While the non-European republics are becoming more homogeneous, the European republics are becoming more Russianized. In contrast to the Baltic republics have experienced increasing ethnic indigenization for many years. The movement toward greater dispersal of governmental autonomy within the federal system, accompanied by the growth of local popular movements and parties, is likely to mean that the trend toward indigenization of these non-Russian republics will not be reversed in the near future.

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