When the twentieth century came to an end, curious mankind started to sum it up. This is what always happens when round figures show up on the historical calendar. Let us also ponder over the quite natural question of the last centuries’ demographic effects on us, Ukrainians. The fact that our planet’s population is constantly growing is quite obvious: a living organism is supposed to grow and multiply. In 1960s, when I was at secondary school, they used to tell us at geography lessons that China’s population was soon to reach one billion. Today there art 1.3 billion Chinese. Other countries’ population statistics are less impressive, nevertheless being evidence of an active growth.
However, the number of Ukrainians in the territory of the former Russian empire as well as the collapsed not so long ago Soviet Union has also grown during the last century. However, comparison is the mother of research. Data of the official censuses in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union can give us some idea of the rates of the demographic changes. We will compare data on Ukrainians and our Russian neighbors (See the diagram).
The diagram was compiled basing on the officially published results of the Russian Empire and USSR’s censuses. All figures are rounded off to hundreds of thousands.
Let’s start with the year 1897, last census in the Russian Empire. At that time 24.3 million considered themselves Ukrainians and 55.5 million — Russians.
The Soviet power first became interested in statistics in 1926. The Russo-Japanese and First World Wars were over, as well as the atrocious civil war inspired by Bolsheviks (recall Lenin’s slogan, Let’s turn the imperialistic war into a civiwar!), and the 1921-1922 famine. The New Economic Policy was soon to be replaced with Stalin’s “great turn.” Now there were 35.8 million Ukrainians and 79.7 million Russians. The growth of the Ukrainian population is still considerable, in spite of the changes in the state borders: in 1917 Finland and Poland became independent, with the latter’s east part inhabited mostly by Ukrainians.
Another census took place in 1939, but its data were never published. Perhaps, the picture drawn by these figures was too dreadful.
The next census was carried out in USSR only in 1959. Here we have an astonishing picture: the number of Ukrainians has grown only by 1.5 million in 33 years (with 27 of them belonging to the Stalin epoch). Now they were 37.3 million of them, while the Russians’ population in USSR increased to 114.1 million. Thus, the growth rate is, correspondingly, 4.1% and 56.9%. What a tragic correlation between this rate and 47.3% in 1926! Moreover, in the late 1930s — early 1940s Ukraine has received a considerable “injection” of population after annexing Halychyna, Zakarpattia, and Bukovyna — around six million.
No doubt, a national catastrophe occurred between 1926 and 1959. Even the sly Soviet statistics demonstrate that the diagram depicting the Ukrainian population growth almost ceased its upward movement. One can easily name the major reasons for this tragic phenomenon: the 1932-1933 Holodomor Manmade Famine, Stalin’s repressions, whose scope among Ukrainians is especially impressive, the war, post-war famine, and the “demographic death” phenomenon (millions of young Ukrainians died in the famine and war without leaving posterity). We also shouldnot disregard such factors as assimilation and the fear: many Ukrainians became Russians in those obscure times...
Now let’s look at the year 1970, when the Soviet authorities proclaimed that developed Socialism has been established. By that time there were 40,7 million Ukrainians and 129 million Russians in USSR. The tendency is quite clear: while before 1926 the growth rates of the Ukrainian and Russian populations were almost proportionate, even with Ukrainians in the lead, by 1970 the picture has changed dramatically. What is 3,4 million compared to 14.9 or 9.1% to 13.1% (speaking about the 1959-1970 dynamics)?
By 1989 the number of Ukrainians decreased for the first time in the whole twentieth century, according to the official data. Meanwhile, though the Russian population’s growth has slowed down, still its number increased by 11 million. Why was the Ukrainian nation missing 2.7 million in the years of the Brezhnev-Andropov-Chernenko-Gorbachev’s government? What was the major reason — economic factors, the tendency for declining birth rate characteristic for many European countries, or assimilation? Let’s leave this question for the professional sociologists, stating an obvious fact: in course of the twentieth century the number of Ukrainians in the former Russian Empire’s and USSR’s territories has grown by 38%, while the Russian population increased by 180%! This process can hardly be treated as natural. These are tragic results of a certain policy resulting in repressions, famines, deportations, artificial population interfusions under the excuse of implementing various military and economic projects. In this sense, the Soviet regime inherited the brutality applied to Ukrainians by staunch champions of the “one and indixisild Mother Russia.”