Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Russians are an East Slavic people centered in European Russia. First coalescing politically in the Middle Ages as the Rus' and adopting the Eastern Orthodox religion, feudal Russia became a tsarist state, expanded into an empire stretching from Eastern Europe and the Caucuses through Central and North Asia, which converted in a 1917 communist revolution to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that in 1991 collapsed and was replaced by a parliamentary federation with a market economy. A traditionally agrarian society, the abolition of serfdom in the mid-nineteenth century and aggressive government promotion of industrial development—continued into the mid-twentieth century under the soviet system of state-owned enterprises and collective farms—rapidly turned Russia into a world power. Alongside their prominent role in the vanguard of the modern, Russians remarkably have retained Orthodox Christian and rural collectivist sentiments, reflected in a celebrated tradition of folklore, arts, music, and literature.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Europe --Eastern Europe



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

Most documents apply to the entirety of Russia and/or of the Soviet Union, depending on time coverage. Some concentrate on Central Russia (Bernshtam 1992; S. Dunn and E. Dunn 1988; Glickman 1990; Pushkareva 1992) and the broader European Russia (S. Dunn 1971; Lineva 1893; Sokolov 1950), or on Siberia (Bolonev 1992; Minenko 1992). A few focus on specific locations in Central Russia: Engel (1990) on the Soligalichsky and Chukhlomsky districts, Kostroma Oblast; Benet, ed. (1970) and S. Dunn and E. Dunn (1963) on the village of Viryatino (Viriatino), Tambov Oblast; and Ries (1997) on the city of Moscow.

Ries (2001) provides an overview of Russia and Russian culture from the forming of a Rus’ national identity in the tenth century to the end of the twentieth century. This is complemented by Curtis and Leighton (1996 “Ethnic, religious…”), who cover the history of ethnic groups and religious denominations, as well as the development of Russian literature and the arts.

Works on pre-revolutionary Russia cover a variety of themes, including: a historical overview (Kohut and Goldfrank 1996); folklore (Sokolov 1950); the Russian Orthodox Church (Bernshtam 1992); the lives of women in medieval times (Pushkareva 1992); peasant weddings and folk songs of Tsarist/Imperial Russia (Lineva 1893); and, for Imperial Russia, holidays and rest days (Minenko1992), and the effects of male labor migration to urban centers during industrialization (Engel 1990) supplemented by a study of the roles of the women left behind (Glickman 1990).

While many documents covering the Soviet period refer to pre-revolutionary precedents, a few pointedly examine changes and continuities from late Imperial times. Discussion of the impact of collectivization, secularization, and the modernization of agricultural production on peasant life is found in S. Dunn (1971) and Benet, ed. (1970). Listova (1992) considers the role of midwives in peasant communities. Bolonev (1992) examines the symbolism and uses of magico-religious charms.

For the Soviet period, Skallerup and Nichol (1996) provide a useful historical overview of communist rule and significant events.

Studies spanning the pre- to early post-Stalin phases of Soviet rule include: Mace and Mace (1963) on family life in the Soviet Union; E. Dunn (1971) on the role and influence of the Russian Orthodox Church; and S. Dunn and E. Dunn (1988), who compare peasant life in two communities, one during the early 1920s and the other during the mid-1950s.

Other documents pertaining to the Soviet period focus mainly on internal economic changes under Stalin. Vucinich (1952) provides an overview of state and cooperative enterprises, Volin (1951) assembles a survey of the agricultural sector, and Schwartz (1954) discusses the effectiveness of national economic plans. Works examining the social and cultural impact of state-imposed modernization and collectivization include a national overview by Fitzsimmons et al. (1957) and a community study by S. Dunn and E. Dunn (1963). Gorer (1949) and Mead (1951) layer on social psychology studies of the Russian people.

For the late Soviet into early post-Soviet periods, Khazanov (1995 “The collapse…”) analyzes forces at play during Gorbachev’s leadership that contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Works covering Russia during the years both immediately preceding and following the dissolution of the Soviet Union include: Curtis and McClave (1996) on the environmental setting and demographics; Curtis (1996) on government institutions and policies; and Curtis and Leighton (1996 “The society…”) on the effects of new policies on the lives of citizens. Nichol (1996 “Foreign relations”) examines post-Soviet foreign policy in light of post-World War II developments.

Works focusing on the early post-Soviet era include: Nichol (1996 “Government and politics”) on the establishment of the Russian Federation and Yeltsin’s leadership; Khazanov (1995 “The verse and prose…”) on the failure to form a functional liberal democracy; Cooper (1996) on the uneven transition to a market economy; Baxter (1996) on efforts to modernize the military; and Knight (1996) on restructuring if not reforming the internal security apparatus. In an echo social psychologies for the Stalin era, Ries (1997) examines how conversation among Muscovites serve to reproduce a national character and spirit.

Khazanov (1996 “References”) contains the bibliography for two works by Khazanov (1995 “The collapse…”; 1995 “The verse and prose…”).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Leon G. Doyon

Bolshak – family head

Five-year plan – Soviet plan that sets middle-range economic goals – use "ECONOMIC PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT (179)" or "CULTURAL GOALS (185)"

Glasnost – late Soviet policy of opening public access to government

Izba- dwelling, peasant hut – use "DWELLINGS (342)".

Kolkhoz – pl. kolkhozy – agricultural collective – use "COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)"

Komsomol – Young Communist League – use "POLITICAL PARTIES (665)"

Kulak- wealthy peasant

Mir – traditional peasant communes – use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" with/or "COMMUNITY COUNCILS (623)"

Narod – Russian people; Russian national character

Nomenklatura – Soviet system for assignment of party members to key government and industry positions; persons so assigned

Nuclear weapons – use "ORDNANCE (713)"

Oblast – administrative province

Otkhodnichestvo – seasonal migrant labor – use "LABOR SUPPLY AND EMPLOYMENT (464)".

Perestroika – late Soviet policy of economic reforms and decentralization

Sovkhoz, pl. sovkhozy – state farm – use "STATE ENTERPRISE (475)" or "GOVERNMENT ENTERPRISES (655)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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