Russia and the Former Soviet Republics by Thomas R. McCray

By Thomas R. McCray

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Extra resources for Russia and the Former Soviet Republics

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When the USSR collapsed, religion seemed to enjoy a spurt of growth in the early 1990s. The number of operating Orthodox churches in Russia grew from 3,000 in the 1980s to more than 11,000 in 1995. Everywhere in Russia, while the industrial economy was failing and the government struggled to attract foreign investment, church domes were being regilded. People with little to give nonetheless gave generously to restore Russian Orthodoxy to a leading position in society. Still, religion plays a puzzling role.

It was the minorities who suffered the loss of control and esteem that came with the end of the USSR, so it is hard for Russians to deny that their spot was first among equals in the Soviet Union. The Russians hardly lived like greedy colonists, however. From the time of Lenin on, they were encouraged to bury their nationalism and even their ethnicity beneath Soviet pride. This was not a successful policy for two reasons. First, everyone’s personal identification document listed the individual’s ethnicity.

As with great cultures around the world, however, idealized Russian history reaches back far beyond what is known to a legendary past that bolsters its national identity. Prehistoric humans are known to have migrated over the region of today’s 24 Historical Geography European Russia before the Mediterranean Bronze- and IronAge civilizations left them competitively disadvantaged. About 2,800 years ago, Asian tribes entered the area from China, Mongolia, and Southern Siberia, trapping, hunting and farming parts of these new lands.

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