Cultural backwardness

Cultural backwardness

Cultural backwardness (Russian: культурная отсталость) was a term used by Soviet politicians and ethnographers. There were at one point officially 97 "culturally backward" nationalities in the Soviet Union.[1] Members of a "culturally backward" nationality were eligible for preferential treatment in university admissions.[2] In 1934 the Central Executive Committee declared that the term should no longer be used, however preferential treatment for certain minorities and the promotion of local nationals in the party structure through korenizatsiya continued for several more years.[3]


Characteristics of "cultural backwardness"

The People's Commissariat for Education listed five official characteristics of culturally backward nationalities:[4]

  • An extremely low level of literacy
  • An extremely low percentage of children in school
  • Absence of a written script connected to a literary language
  • Existence of "social vestiges" (oppression of women, racial hostility, nomadism, religious fanaticism)
  • An extremely low level of national cadres

List of "culturally backward" nationalities

In 1932 the People's Commissariat for Education published an official list of "culturally backward" nationalities:[1]


  1. ^ a b Martin, 167
  2. ^ Martin, 56
  3. ^ Martin, 374
  4. ^ Martin, 166
  5. ^ Wixman, p. 20.
  6. ^ Wixman, p. 89.
  7. ^ Wixman, p. 149.
  8. ^ Wixman, p. 190.


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