Rethinking Eastern Europe

The Lists of Settlements were published by the Central Statistical Committee of the Russian Empire in the 1860-1880s. Each issue was dedicated to a separate governorate. It contained information about the region’s geographical and natural situation and its history. A complete list of settlements in the province was submitted according to the alphabetical principle, according to the staff distribution with statistical materials about each place. The “Lists” contained information about the number of inhabitants; their distribution by social and national aspects; the number of houses; the number of churches and educational institutions; bazaars and markets; factories, plants and manufactories; post offices, etc. The illustration provided here is a collection dedicated to the Kherson Governorate. It was published in 1868 but the included materials were collected earlier, and reflect the region’s state as of 1859, i.e., before the official abolition of serfdom.
The document uses imperial terminology. A notable feature of urban statistics of the 19th century is that Russians (referred to here as “Great Russians”), Ukrainians (referred to as “Little Russians”), and Belarusians (called the same) were artificially united under one name of “Russians.” Despite the generalization, the illustrated passage describes each of these peoples, as well as other peoples in the governorate, with detailed peculiarities highlighted. According to the above data, the Kherson province was a region with an absolute prevalence of Ukrainian people throughout the territory. It was also further evidenced by detailed statistics for each district (poviat). The numerical prevalence and high mobility made Ukrainians have a great influence on other peoples in the province. The Ukrainian language penetrated into the languages of the local Russians, Moldovans and Serbs. The influence on Serbs was so strong that they eventually completely assimilated (according to the authors of the collection, it explained why the Serbs were no longer separately mentioned in the table of ethnicities in the province). Some of the highlighted peculiarities of Ukrainians included the “love of independence” and the “eternal lack of predisposition to servile state” which explained why they would often flee from serfdom. According to the description of the “Great Russians” of the Kherson province, they did not move extensively, and did not resist serfdom. Neither did they constitute a compact majority in any locality of the Kherson region. In addition to the people who fled here of their own free will, the local Russian population also consisted of people “transferred here from the Great Russian provinces along the Volga of the government or serf owners.” Despite the fact that the Belarusians made up a very small share of the population in the province, their description was also presented separately. It was likely done to reinforce the message about solely “Russians.”
Much attention in the statistical descriptions was also paid to the German colonists, Jews, and Moldovans. Germans lived in compact groups in many settlements in the province, and the described image was that of progressive businessmen, representatives of the intelligentsia, and partly of civil servants. Among the rural population of the region, they were distinct in their advance attitudes and modern approaches. One of the largest groups of the region’s population were also Jews, mostly represented as townspeople engaged in trade. Moldovans in the Kherson region lived compactly, mostly in the part of the region behind the Bug River. Like Ukrainians, they were engaged in agriculture, which enhanced their close contacts.


Excerpt from “Lists of Settlements. Kherson Governorate” of 1868

Lists of of Settlements of the Russian Empire compiled and published by the Central Statistical Committee of the Ministry of the Interior. XLVII. Kherson province. Saint Petersburg, 1868. C. LXIII - LXXII.
Original language:

The ethnic composition of the population in the Kherson province, as mentioned above, is highly diverse. According to the instructions of the parish lists, and rounding the numbers, the currently published list presents the approximate number of the population of the province by its ethnic composition in the following Tables:

Thus, Russians in the Kherson province account for 77.87% of the total population, Moldovans – 9.23%, Jews – 7.027, Germans – 4%, Bulgarians – 1.02%, and each of the other ethnic groups make up to less than 0.5%. Per each individual poviat, the shares are crucially different. Thus, with the constant prevalence of the Russian ethnicity, specifically of its Little Russian segment, in all parts districts, and with the inexorable presence of Jews in all parts of urban settlements, there is a significant presence of Moldovans in the cities of Ananievsk, Elizavetgrad, and Tiraspol – over 19% among the rural population. It is similar to how in the Odessa region, the population of the German colonies is almost 30%.

The Russian ethnicity, as can be seen from the above table, has three main representatives in the Kherson province. However, given the lack of precision in parish lists, especially in relation to the urban population, we could not separately determine the figures for all Great Russians, Little Russinas, and Belorussians living in the province. Therefore, we can only limit our conclusions to the rural population. Based on the above Table, the rural population composed of the Great Russians is 64.600 persons; Little Russians make 597.180 persons, and Belorussians are 7.470 persons. Thus, the share of Great Russians is 9.5%, Little Russians are 89.2%, and Belorussians are 1.1% of the total number of Russian residents in the districts, with no account for cities.

Therefore, presently, Little Russians make up the main population of the Kherson governorate. They live both in cities and in villages, alike, more or less in large solid groups, or mixed with Great Russians and Moldovans. In ethnographic terms, they certainly have a dominant role: living together with them, the Great Russians incorporated a lot of Little Russian words and peculiarities of the dialect. Moldovans, although they did not forget their language, but almost all of them learned the Little Russian. Finally, the Serbs, both the original settlers from the second half of the past century and the latest settlers, have completely merged with the Little Russians into one ethnicity. Little Russians ate mostly farmers and work hard in agriculture. However, due to local environmental conditions, and other specificities, such as the lack of workers and, therefore, high wages, Kherson-based Little Russians are not so exceptionally devoted to settled life, as in the ethnic lands of Little Russia. We can still observe the traces of recent settlement in the households of Little Russians in the Kherson province. For example, the settlers of the southern districts, especially the inhabitants of the so-called free fractions, often live in small dugouts resembling temporary rather than permanent dwellings. Nevertheless, we cannot definitively state that local Little Russians are engaged in seasonal work. On the other hand, it is noticeable that their life is highly mobile. They are quite willing to travel for seasonal work to other places, to harvest other people’s fields, and make other people’s hay. Under those conditions, the living conditions of Little Russians show multiple signs of nomadic style. Although there were serfdom relations, there were multiple escapes. There were even cases when the serf peasants would escape their previous owner, and transferred to another land-owner with their entire family. Or, they could leave to stay at remote fractions of colonists or urban dwellers, where they could not be reached by the province police. In 1856, there was even a case when rather numerous groups of landowner’s peasants in Alexandria set out with all their possessions, cheaply sold the belongings they could not carry along, and relocated with all their staff to the Crimea and Bessarabia because, according to the circulating rumours, they could be liberated from their slave dependence. At that time, it was only the strict measures of authorities that could stop them. (see: Materials on Geography and Statistics of the Russian Empire collected by the General Staff officers. Kherson Governorate; comp. by A. Schmidt, vol. I, pp. 494—495.). This case shows that one of the reasons that supported the propensity of Little Russians to relocate used to be the primordial lack of predisposition to slavery. Moreover, before the abolition of serfdom, there had been cases that the Little Russian peasant would abandon his life in the landowner’s village to indulge in robbery. There were even wandering gangs that acted against the landowners and the Jews. They allegedly reflected the old days of Haydamaky glory. The tendency towards mobility, closely associated with the love for independence, is also found in some industries mostly engaging Little Russians in Kherson. In particular, it is fishing, shipping, travelling traders such as “chumaks,”and generally cargo transportation. Fishery and shipping crews are mainly joined by the residents of the province’s coastal areas. Peasants of Kherson and Elisavetgrad areas are engaged in travelling trade who transport salt from the Crimea to the Kryukov settlement. The real “chumaks” are no longer engaged in farming and, with all the slow travel speed with the oxen, they manage to take three or four rounds during a summertime. Peasants temporarily carrying cargos, engage in this business during the free time from field work. They bring the products of various industries to small markets in the province, in the steppe towns and villages, from where larger companies of carriers deliver the cargos to seaports. Finally, the trades that Little Russians willingly engage in should include “shepherding”, or sheep herding.

Great Russians live in the Kherson province in the cities, where they mainly make up the merchant class. They also live in the villages. As mentioned above, the original Great Russian settlers in the region were the escapees: separatists and landlord owned peasants. The toponyms of some Great Russian settlements in the Alexandria region, such as Zybka and Klintsy (Nos. 502, 659), directly indicate that their founders came from Chernigov separatist settlements of the same name. After some time, those Great Russian settlements grew due to peasants transferred here from the Great Russian provinces by government or landlord will. There are many more Great Russians in the eastern parts of the province than in the west. In particular, their number in the eastern areas is 80.6% of the total rural Great Russian population, whereas in the western regions there are 19.4% of them. […] There are no areas in Kherson Governorate with total Great Russian population. The most densely grouped Great Russian villages are found near Cherny Les, where the oldest dwellings of fleeing separatists are located. There are also some near Nikolaev, in the former Admiralty settlements, where huge numbers of serfs were brought from the inner Great Russian provinces. Having settled in the Kherson region, the Great Russians largely lost the external signs of their ethnicity, partly due to the influence of Little Russians, partly due to the environmental conditions, such as the language (as mentioned above, it assimilated the Little Russian elements), the house building patterns (for the most part, they had to reject the typical Great Russian houses and replace them with buildings from hay, clay and reeds), etc. Similar features of ethnic peculiarities are mostly noticed in the former villages of the military settlement where the residents were brought deliberately. Thus, influencing each other in a shared life, they offset their ethnic distinctive features. The Great Russian old customs were better preserved among the separatists. In fact, their fanaticism and distinctive social position kept them away from others for a long time. In general, the Great Russians, although making concessions in the external part of their lifestyles, have preserved the mental and moral type of their ethnicity intact. The same as in the homelands of Great Russia, the Great Russians in the Kherson province are active industrialists. They are the same diligent engaging in farming, gardening, transportation, fishing and hunting. The Great Russians are also actively involved in trade in the region, since they best know its industrial advantages. They themselves bring their commercial products to local bazaars. Moreover, moving from one city to another, they are engaged in the retail and resale of various goods. Thanks to such an industrial spirit, the Great Russians hold this industry in their hands. Among other things, they purchase most of the fruit and wine produce, and are leading in the wood harvesting industry in the Kherson, Odessa, and Mayaki region.

Representatives of the third part of the Russian people, Belarussians, are few in the Kherson province. Their main settlement is in the Kherson district. It is mostly populated by people originating from the Klimovichi region of the Mogilev province. Their settlement is located in the following areas: Tsarev Dar, Elenovka, Snegirevka, Kiselevka, Zpgelje, Iovo-Pavlovka, Aleksandrov Dar, Yavkino, Tatyanovka, Maliejevka, Ivanovka, Staroselje (Nos. 20, 31, 39, 67, 78, 222, 230, 257, 264, 265, 347, 377). Besides, the Belarussians live in the village of Zarudnye Bueraky 629), of Aleksandria district; in the towns of Tricraty, Sukhinovka, Petro-Pavlovka, Pondik, and Mikhailovka (No. 1658, 1705—1707, 1853) of Elisavetgrad district. Despite the close vicinity of related ethnicities, the Belarusians have largely preserved their nationality. Their typical trades are land farming and cargo carrying.


Among the foreigners in the Kherson province, Moldovans are the most numerous. They are found throughout the province but mostly stay in the towns of Zabuzhzhia and Elisavetgrad, where they began to settle since the second half of the past century. In these four towns they make up from 18 to 20% of the entire population. On the Dniester River bank, the Romanian population can be considered dominant and, moreover, old, since other settlers appeared here later than Moldovans. […] A mix of Romanian and Slavic origin, Moldovans form an ethnicity with rather distinctive features. Some even observe that these people are generally so stable in their ethnic features that they extend to other ethnicities. It is hard to say to what extent this observation applies to Moldovans in the Kherson province but they undoubtedly fully preserve their language and customs, despite the close relationship and constant interaction with the Little Russians. Moldovans are engaged in arable farming but it is weakly developed. However, gardening, horticulture and peasant winemaking are strongly developed with them, also due to fertile soil of the Dniester valley, Moldovans are engaged in these crafts with love and diligence, and achieve significant success.


The Germans live in the Kherson province, in the cities and towns. In cities, they are merchants, breeders, artisans, teachers, clerks, etc. In towns, they live mainly in the 43 colonies they founded, and mostly do farming. These colonies are: in Kherson region — Novo-Dantsig, Shlangendorf, Mühlhausendorf, and Klosterdorif (No. 92, 312 — 315); in Ananjevskiy region – Rastat, Munkhev (Nos. 1334 and 1335); in Elisavetgrad region – Old Danzig (No. 2174); in Odessa region — Mannheim, Strasbourg, Freudenthal, Baden, Alsace, Georgiensthal, Peterstal, Gross-Liebenthal, Josefstahl, Marienthal, Nayburgh, Alexandergilf, Klein-Liebenthal, Justdorf, Zelts, Kandel, Franzfeld, Gildendorf, Helenenenstahl, Eeyore-Freudenthal, Neisatz, Nikolaustal, Karlruhe, Landau, Rohrbach, Worms, Katerinental, Speer, Waterlo, Zults, Ioganestal (№№ 2224— 2226, 2233, 2234, 2236, 2242—2247, 2252, 2253, 2255, 2256, 2260, 2334, 2359, 2366, 2416, 2439, 2491-2494 , 2509—2511, 2513, 2517), in Tiraspol region — Kassel, Gofnungsveld, Glvokstal, Neidorf, Bergdorf (No. 2690, 2752, 2794, 2795, 2797). In terms of administrative structure, these colonies form districts, of which three, the Lybentalsky, Kuchuguransky, and Berezansky are in the Odessa region, and one, the Gluckstalsky, is in the Tiraspol region. Colonies in the Ananyevsky and Elisavetgradsky regions are under separate administration, and the colonies in Kherson region are the combination of Germans and Old Swedish colonies, making the Old Swedish district. In addition to colonies, German landowners also have separate steppe farms or hamlets in Little Russian villages and settlements, either privately owned or as tenants. Such settlements are located mainly in Odessa and Tiraspol regions. Finally, a significant number of German colonists live in Jewish agricultural colonies in Kherson and Elisavetgrad regions. In fact, the principal part of the rural German population of the Kherson governorate, almost 3/4 of them, stay in the area closest to Odessa. Presently, the German colonists constitute the part of the rural population in the province that has achieved the greatest prosperity. First of all, they owe to the extensive preferences granted by the Russian government to facilitate the settlement. Secondly, the nature of their self-government played a role, too. They were granted tax relaxation for the first years of their settlement, and the permanent release from military recruitment. Moreover, under the supervision of a completely independent higher administration, the colonists had the opportunity to fully focus on agricultural crafts. The internal organization of their communities is characterized by the fact that each individual colonist is accountable to public control in their economic activity. However, initially, the colonists did not favour that supervision because they had to engage in the activities prompted by the environmental conditions. Therefore, no colonist could abandon the land farming and refuse from the public field work. The colonists sell the products they make by themselves rather than by resellers, and bring them to the nearest trade centers. Those who require significant capital join into cooperation. At the same time, less wealthy people have advantage over more wealthy colonists in receiving support. Such practical conditions of community economy could not but have a useful effect on the well-being of the colonists. Having bought more lands, they greatly increased the territories that had been initially allocated to them. In addition, many settlers bought private property. Therefore, they do not need to work themselves but hire the workers, while offering to them rather high payment as for the region. Finally, they do not limit themselves to trading in their own produce but also become dealers, buy the products of the surrounding landowners and settlers. They trade in those goods in local markets, becoming prominent merchants and thus contributing to the region’s trade. Since the German colonists play a critical role in agriculture and trade in the province, they, naturally, cherish the advantages that brought them so many benefits. As a result, they do not assimilate with the local population in the province, and preserve their language, customs, and other ethnographic features fully intact. It is also supported by the big religious differences between the colonists and other inhabitants in the province. The Russian language is spoken only to the extent they need it to interact with locals, otherwise some do not speak it at all. In terms of religion, German colonists include both Catholics and Reformists. The latter are said to have better education and economic well-being.


Jews, as can be seen from the above table, make up a significant share of the population in the Kherson province. They are residents of both urban settlements and in villages. According to the list, the Kherson province has 26 Jewish agricultural colonies, public and private. Specifically, they are: in the Kherson region – Big and Small Nagartav, Big and Small Rolanovka, Donraia, Efingar, Novo-Poltavka, Lvova, Novy-Berislav, Ingulets, Big and Small Seidemenukha, Bobrovy Kut, Novo-Zhytomyr, Novo-Vitebsk, Novo-Podolsk, Novo-Kovno, Kamenka, Izluchastaia (No. 213, 214 , 250, 272, 273, 281, 305, 311, 365, 385—387, 398—4.01, 403, 404); in Aleisandriyskiy region – Pisarevka (No. 601); in Elisavetgrad region — Sagaidak, Israilevka, Maryanovka, Martynovichovo, Verina, Morgunovka (No. 1600, 1610, 1779, 1809, 2088, 2089); in Tiraspol region – Balashevka (No. 2817). Out of those settlements, all colonies of Kherson region and the two first colonies listed above for Elisavetgrad region had been established by the government on the public lands. Others were established in privately owned lands. They are different from each other in the fact that in the first type, the Jews themselves engage in the cultivation of land, whereas in the second type of settlements, they farm their land with the help of hired workers and act as managers of their businesses. The public Jewish colony shows little economic success. It may be partially explained by the unfavorable conditions for the settled colonists. On the other hand, Jews have a peculiar attitude to agricultural labor. Because of their historical experiences, when Jews were mostly without fixed settlements or places, they were not able to properly settle down and do well on the public lands. Besides, the immigrants were recruited in the cities and towns of the western region, from the poorest, most disadvantaged part of the local Jewish population who wanted to become land farmers because it granted them the exemption from military recruitment. Therefore, the agricultural activities of Jews turned out to be little success since they were totally unprepared. That is why the settlers began to engage in other crafts and trades, and tried to leave the colony. Despite the later transformation of some of them, such an unsatisfactory situation continues in the colonies. That is why these settlements do not achieve their objectives in terms of agricultural activities. The are accustomed to a diversity of trade and are extremely skilled in it. Jews certainly prefer it to the low-income and tedious land farming which requires the consistent labor and the application of physical effort. At the earliest opportunity, they try to leave the land farming, or, at least, leave the settlement where agriculture is dominant. It can also be supported by the fact that in public colonies, about one seventh of the entire Jewish population annually asks for passports to leave the area, while the number of people leaving without their IDs is even higher. To confirm the significant number of Jews in the urban areas of the Kherson province, please, refer below to the data regarding the main cities in the province based on statistical tables on the distribution of the inhabitants of the province by territory, as of 1865: in Kherson, Jews make up 31.9% of the entire population, in Elisavetgrad – 29.5%, in Odessa – 26.7%, in Nikolaev – 6.3%. It should be mentioned that in Nikolaev the Jewish population was formed only in 1859, when after the thirty-year ban the Jews received a permit to settle here. In general, according to the same data, the number of Jews in the cities of the province is up to 19% of the total urban population. The key occupation of the urban Jews is almost exclusively commerce. However, some Jews engage in handicrafts but lack the skill and love for the job. Usually, the merchant Jew begins his activity with some small enterprise, such as selling alcohol in a tavern. In fact, it puts him in a close relationship with the village population as he becomes an indispensable person for them. Then, the Jew shifts to larger transactions, such as buying and reselling grain at village markets, thus growing the capital and becoming a merchant. The commerce of the Jews is strongly supported by the unity of action, by the friendly help, the speed of interaction and by circulation of news they have among themselves. Thanks to these favourable conditions, Jews engage in all areas of local trade, rush into risky profiteering and receive high interests. In fact, they hold the major capital of the region in their hands. That is why it is always easier for them to become intermediaries between consumers or foreign buyers and local manufacturers, even more so that they are mostly Little Russian landowners and farmers who prefer to sell their goods on production site, with no need to deliver it to sale centers. Moreover, with small batches, Jews can barter the goods in place of cash, which makes their operations even more profitable. Recently, the activities of the Jews also expanded to agriculture that they previously used to avoid. This new focus should be mentioned as a case of the commercial and industrial entrepreneurship of Jews. Above, you can see several Jewish colonies located on private lands, where Jews grow commercial crops. In the past, there have been no such settlements. However, soon after the liberation of peasants, the land rent dropped in the Kherson province (hardly the 1.50 roubles per acre), and the Jews, merchants and townspeople started renting the landlords estates, mostly burdened with debts. Subsequently, having learned to do business and getting loans, they began to rent large areas of public and private lands long-term, to establish temporary settlements on them and sow hundreds of acres of wheat and flax. It is obvious that this kind of enterprise was only possible for Jews because they owned significant capital at that moment, while landowners were in shortage. It also enabled Jews to buy good agricultural equipment and labour in the required quantities. Therefore, the Jews constitute by far the most important commercial force in the Kherson province. The only competitors are still the merchants from Great Russia who they do not always dare to challenge.

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Oleksandr Cheremisin


Ivanna Cherchovych

Translation into English

Svitlana Bregman

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