Unofficially and officially, Russification (rusifikatsiia) of the country’s ethnic minorities has been a part of Russian rule for centuries. Russification is the forced adoption of the Russian language, mores, dress, religious beliefs, culture, and/or civilization. The concept can be distinguished from the more neutral “Russianization,” which implies a passive or voluntary embrace of Russianness. Under the tsars, cultural and linguistic Russification of Orthodox Slavs (including Ukrainians and Belarusians) and Finno-Ugric peoples (such as the Mordvins, Mari, Karelians, and Udmurts) existed side-by-side with forced conversions of shamanist indigenous peoples of the north and Muslim Tatars, Bashkirs, and Caucasian nations.
   After the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922, official policies of korenizatsiia (rooting or indigenization) were imposed to prevent so-called Great Russian nationalism from eradicating local cultures. Joseph Stalin chose the Russian culture as the model for the creation of the common Soviet culture, which was imposed on all Soviet national minorities. The established educational and politicobureaucratic structure of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) naturally led to the dominance of Russian as the “language of interethnic communication,” a trend that was only increased with the Khrushchev-era policy of sblizheniie (drawing together) of ethnic groups and cultures. Fluency in Russian, with all its accompanying cultural effects, became the norm for nearly all peoples of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the urban areas of the other 14 union republics. Theorized in the 24th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1971, the end result of such phenomena was the evolution of a unique Soviet narod (people), comprised of multiple ethnic backgrounds but unified in language and culture.
   With perestroika and then the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the titular nations of the non-Russian republics, as well as the various ethnic minorities of Russia, moved to reverse decades and even centuries of Russification through support of local languages, cultural practices, and religions. While the Baltic States have effectively extirpated the effects of post–World War II Russification, use of Russian in daily life remains a fact among economic and political elites across much of Central Asia more than 15 years after independence. In Belarus and Ukraine, novel hybrid languages—Trasianka and Surzhyk, respectively—have evolved as a response to intense Russification and the relative similarities of the indigenous languages to Russian. Dialectal differences also function as political markers of cultural and linguistic difference between traditionally Russian and non-Russian communities. However, census data in both countries show a steady reversal of Russianization since 1991 as more citizens reject “Russian” as their ethnic identity as time goes by. Within the Russian Federation, the results have also been mixed. Groups like the Tatars, Sakha, and certain peoples of the North Caucasus are enjoying linguistic, cultural, and religious revivals, while the autochthonous peoples of the Far North and Russian Far East and traditionally Orthodox peoples of the Volga-Ural region continue to exhibit the effects of Russification.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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