Sunday, July 30, 2023

the last book I ever read (The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy, excerpt seven)

from The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy:

Among the Russian peasants attracted by the jobs available in Yuzivka, which were dangerous but well paid by the standards of the time, was the young Nikita Khrushchev. He was fourteen years old in 1908, when he moved from the Russian village of Kalinovka, approximately forty miles northeast of the Cossack capital of Hlukhiv, to Yuzivka to join his family. His father, Sergei, a seasonal worker on a railroad in the Yuzivka region before he moved his family there and became a full-time miner, never abandoned his dream of saving enough money to buy a horse and move back to Kalinovka. His son, who had no such dream, embraced city life and became a mining mechanic before joining the Bolshevik Party in the midst of the Revolution of 1917 and embarking on a stunning political career. He would be the leader of the Soviet Union during the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Nikita Khrushchev was not the only future Soviet leader whose family left a village in Russia to benefit from the industrial boom in southern Ukraine. A few years earlier than the Khrushchevs, Ilia Brezhnev, the father of Leonid Brezhnev, Khrushchev’s onetime protégé and successor at the helm of the Soviet Union, moved to the Ukrainian industrial town of Kamenske (till recently Dniprodzerzhynsk). Leonid was born in the steel town in 1906. The Khrushchevs and the Brezhnevs took part in a major Russian peasant migration into southern Ukraine that contributed to the underrepresentation of ethnic Ukrainians in the cities. In 1897, the year of the first and only imperial Russian census, approximately 17 million Ukrainians and 3 million Russians resided in the Ukrainian gubernais of the empire—a ratio of almost six to one. But in the cities, they were on a par, with slightly more than 1 million Russians and slightly fewer than 1 million Ukrainians. In the major cities and industrial centers, Russians constituted a majority. They accounted for more than 60 percent of the population of Kharkiv, more than 50 percent in Kyiv, and almost 50 percent in Odesa.

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