“Local Russians are… hostile to Russia”

Sergei Belyakov reminding the reader of the more or less obvious:

Minor Russians dominated in the Kherson governorate as well. In the second half of the 1870s they made up more than 70%, followed by Moldovans (17.9%) and Greater Russians (8.2%). Those were – in the Kherson governorate of the time – mostly Russian Old Believers. They were not afraid of distant journeys or of lands more exotic that Novorossiya.

It was far easier for Ukrainians than for Russians to resettle in Novorossia. The journey from the Sloboda Ukraine to the “Bakhmut province,” from the Hetmanate to the Yekaterinoslav governorate, from the right-bank Ukraine to the Kherson governorate is brief and relatively light. In addition, a Poltava native be better accustomed to the climate of the Kherson region than a Russian from Torzhok or Tver.

A prominent Slavophile discovered that new world for himself while travelling across the southern steppes to the front line in Crimea:

Unsurprisingly, Ivan Aksakov, who found himself in the Kherson governorate with a unit of Moscow militia at the height of the Crimean War, felt he was in a foreign land. He admitted bitterly that locals lacked Russian patriotism: “no attachment to Russia.” Indeed, from whom could one expect Russian patriotism in a land populated by Ukrainians, Germans, Moldovans, and Jews? Even the bureaucracy mostly consisted of Polish noblemen. Most of the Russians living in those parts were “very wicked” Old Believers, who were extremely displeased with the governance of Nicholas I: “The local Russians are a generation of fugitives, hostile to Russia. To them, Russia is a monster, a land of cold, of bondage, military draft, rule by police, and red tape,” Aksakov wrote to his father in the fall of 1855.

Ivan’s father was Sergey T. Aksakov, the author of Childhood Years of Bagrov Grandson (including The Little Red Flower), and a friend and admirer of Gogol.

However, this was only the beginning of Novorossiya’s history. After the reforms of Alexander II cities would start growing again, settled by workers and peasants from other regions, looking for work away from home… In the countryside, Ukrainians would remain the largest ethnic group while in the cities of Novorossiya, Ukrainians were less populous than Russians and Jews. In the cities, the Russian language and Russian culture dominated, which is why Ukrainians themselves were assimilated by the Russians so fast. But… early in the 19th century Novorossiya was a land of villages and farms.

More to follow.

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