Russian History



In the mid-1990s, the Russian Federation remains an amalgam of widely varying ethnic groups and cultures. In fact, the differentiation among groups has increased since the demise of the Soviet Union. The much less repressive grasp of Russia's central government has encouraged both cultural and political autonomy, although ethnic Russians constitute about 80 percent of the population and about 75 percent of religious believers are Russian Orthodox. Many minority groups maintain their ethnic traditions, continue wide use of their languages, and demand economic and political autonomy partially based on ethnic differences.

In the 1990s, Islam, which has the second largest body of religious believers in Russia, has prospered among many of the ethnic groups. The Russian Orthodox Church also has experienced a renaissance after emerging from Soviet repression; the church's membership, secular influence, and infrastructure expanded rapidly in the 1990s.

Russia's long and rich literary history came to a new crossroads beginning in the late 1980s, as freedom of expression seemingly ended the traditional role of literature as the antidote to authoritarian dogma. Like literature, other elements of the federation's cultural and artistic life, all of them with notable past accomplishments, remained in a transitional stage in the 1990s.

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The Handbook of Major Soviet Nationalities , edited by Zev Katz, is a somewhat dated but detailed listing of ethnic groups. National Identity and Ethnicity in Russia and the New States of Eurasia , edited by Roman Szporluk, provides a discussion of the unique viewpoints of all the major ethnic groups of the former Soviet Union, including those remaining in the Russian Federation. In Islamic Peoples of the Soviet Union , Shirin Akiner lists and describes all the Islamic ethnic groups in that category; that book is supplemented by Muslims of the Soviet Empire: A Guide by Alexandre Bennigsen, Marie Broxup, and S. Enders Wimbush. Religion as an ongoing element of Russian culture is described in Russian Culture in Modern Times , edited by Robert P. Hughes and Irina Paperno; Michael Bourdeaux discusses religion in post-Soviet Russia in The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia . The evolution of Russian literature is discussed in the introductions and explanatory texts of anthologies such as Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales , edited by Serge A. Zenkovsky, and The Literature of Eighteenth-Century Russia , edited by Harold B. Segel, and in Marc Slonim's The Epic of Russian Literature from Its Roots Through Tolstoy and Edward J. Brown's Russian Literature since the Revolution . (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)