Ethnic Diversity and the Centralization of Power in Early 20th Century Russia

Tipy Dagestana

Russia was and still is a land of incredible ethnic diversity. I find it amazing that imperial Russia was able to assert dominance and control over such a large expanse of land and the multitudes of different cultures it contained. I chose this picture to illustrate this diversity. The description of the picture states that pictures is a Sunni Muslim man of undetermined nationality wearing traditional dress and headgear, with a sheathed dagger at his side. He also wears a what appears to be a military medal on his chest. He presents himself as a warrior. For the Tsars to assert and keep power over such a diverse and possibly warlike populace had to require incredible influence that could not last forever. Freeze talks about how the minorities throughout the Russian controlled lands were already becoming restless as early as 1863 (256). Coerced assimilation by Alexander III was partially to blame. By undermining the ethnic minorities imperial Russia was slowly destabilizing its power structure and maybe leaving it vulnerable to the revolutions of the early 20th century.

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5 Responses to Ethnic Diversity and the Centralization of Power in Early 20th Century Russia

  1. sean5221 says:

    I believe this is a valid pint you are making. Russia continuing to undermine ethnic minorities, I believe, led to revolutions. This can be seen with the country of Georgia who was under Russian rule however in the late 1800’s revolted and fought against Russian to try and achieve independence. Though they may have lost their strive for independence was not forgotten and I believe this occurred due to the suppression of ethnic minorities.

  2. Schnaitman says:

    This picture is very interesting, I was immediately drawn to the dagger and Russian military medal. I am curious to know what that medal is and how it may have been earned. While searching for any clues as to what this medal may be, through the endless paths of the great and powerful google I stumbled upon this paragraph from RussianLife blog.

    “The native people of Dagestan endorsed the Bolsheviks during the Revolution of the early 1900s. Lenin had promised them ethnic autonomy and this was far more important than nationalism offered by the White Army. After the fall of the Romanovs and the ensuing civil war, Dagestan, in particular the Avars, supported an anti-Bolshevik revolt which ended in a bloody defeat (1921). In the same year, the Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (DASSR) was established. It was made up of Tsarist Dagestan and the Kumyk district. The region came to include the Cossack lands to the north and parts of the Astrakhan Province (1922). The area west of Kizlar district, which once belonged to the Cossacks, was attached to Dagestan in 1923.”

    As you mentioned about dominance and control, I would agree that manipulation of situations filled with bright and sunny promises are a strong way to keep a tight leash over any populace in need.

    I am still curious as to what the medal is, if anyone knows please enlighten me.

    Link to article quoted:

  3. carastombock says:

    I also blogged about ethnic diversity this week, but focused in on the discrimination of those groups. It is amazing that Russia was able to assert power over these people for so long, but I also question how much power they really had over some of these ethnic groups. I read about the nomadic peoples of Central Asia and I wonder how the imperialist government could possibly regulate their lives when they have no home base, so to speak. It reminds me of gypsies today. Sure, they technically live and wander in a state’s territory, but how much is the government truly able to govern their lives?

    I agree with you though, the assimilation and oppression put on the ethnic minorities by the imperialist government definitely caused backlash and restlessness leading up to the revolution period.

  4. seeingred says:

    This picture of the Sunni Muslim warrior indicates such an incredibly complex relationship between the Russian and Muslim people. Initially when Catherine the Great began to make contacts with the Muslim people of the Central Asian world she promoted a view of extreme tolerance. Although she and the rest of the Russian nation were predominantly Eastern Orthodox, Islam was largely accepted. Such a tolerant view, not just with religion but with almost every other facet of the Muslim way of life, was thrown out when the Bolsheviks rose. In this picture you see a man who wears his medals and wields his weapons with pride, however, the ethnic Russians who began to take over Muslim territories most likely would not have allowed him to wear such medals of distinction or carry weapons in fear of a revolt.

  5. court18 says:

    Hey there! I think that you make an excellent point by bringing up Russia’s ethnic diversity in both the past and the present. It reminded me of my time in Moscow in a way. When I was there, I saw maybe five black people during an entire two and a half weeks in the city. In general, probably twenty people out of every single person I saw during my stay there were non-white. This really struck me as unusual because I wasn’t used to being in a population that was so overwhelmingly white. Another thing that struck a chord with me was something that one of the Russian students said to us when we met them for dinner and a night out. He said, “This. Moscow. This isn’t really Russia. You want to see Russia? You have to go out of this city to the villages. That is real Russia. Moscow is a country of its own”. This is particularly interesting when applied to the issue of ethnic diversity. In Moscow, from what I saw, the population was abundantly white. But, as you’ve said in your blog post, Russia has and is still full of many different ethnicities and backgrounds. This issue highlights how different Moscow is from the rest of the country, and how this could potentially be problematic in a political sense if the rest of Russia feels as if their interests are not being adequately represented in the capital.

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