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Russians Are the Nicest Colonizers You Can Hope For

Where Western Europeans extracted riches from their colonies the ethnic Russian territories, whether in the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation, financially subsidized their ethnically non-Russian territories

This article from our archives was first published on RI in December 1969

1. Via Egor Kholmogorov’s eponymous article for Komsomolskaya Pravda, source given as “Sovetskaya Rossiya 1992″, according to which the RSFSR and Belarus were the only net donors.

2. Orlowski, Lucjan T. – 1995 – Direct transfers between the former Soviet Union central budget and the republics: Past evidence and current implications

Russia, Belarus, and Estonia only net donors, if marginal ones; Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan massively subsidized.

Armenia was massively subsidized, but part of that must have been an artifact of the 1988 earthquake.

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Georgia had a reputation for being massively subsidized, but it seems the sums were relatively modest compared to Central Asia.

The figures in the article with their modest transfers seem more serious.

OTOH, I have talked with central Russians who traveled to other republics in the USSR, and the general impression was that living standards were higher – at least as proxied by availability of nice consumer goods, since that was the real limiting factor – outside the RSFSR, especially in Georgia, the Baltics, and Black Sea/Caspian coastal areas.

3. “Average deposit in savings accounts in the republics.”

Whatever the precise numbers, it is clear that transfers in the USSR went from the Russian core to peripheries. In economic terms, the USSR was the exact opposite of Russian imperialism.

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The exact same thing continues in the RSFSR Russian Federation.

This has a very long history.

The Turkestan region was subsidized by the rest of the Russian Empire since its incorporation until its collapse, with a brief exception during 1908-1912 (left – spending; middle – income; right – balance; figures from Boris Mironov’s History of the Russian Empire).


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