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From Peasants to Labourers

From Peasants to Labourers: Ukrainian and Belarusan Immigration from the Russian Empire to Canada

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    From Peasants to Labourers
    Book Description:

    Written from the migration systems perspective, From Peasants to Labourers places the migration of Ukrainian and Belarusan peasant-workers within the context of Old- and New-World economic structures and state policies. Through painstaking analysis of thousands of personal migrant files in the archives of the Russian consulates in Canada, Kukushkin fills a void in our knowledge of the geographic origins, spatial trajectories, and ethnic composition of early twentieth-century Canadian immigration from Eastern Europe. From Peasants to Labourers also provides important insights into the nature of ethnic identity formation through an exploration of the meaning of "Russianness" in early twentieth-century Canada.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6046-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables, Figures, and Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. A Note on Transliteration, Terminology, and Dates
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xvii-2)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    Canadian immigration historiography has come a long way from the times when mapping Canada’s ethnic landscape and simply “getting the facts right” were the primary tasks of those working in the field. Since Donald Avery wrote his pioneering“Dangerous Foreigners”a quarter century ago, historians have made substantial progress in studying immigrant worker communities in twentieth-century Canada.¹ Italian navvies in Montreal, Finnish domestics in Sudbury, and Jewish garment workers in Toronto all claimed their place in Canadian history as it moved away from the past focus on great statesmen, empire builders, and valorous warriors towards a broader and more inclusive...

  9. 1 Economy, Society, and Migration on Russia’s Western Frontier
    (pp. 12-29)

    All peasant migrations in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe had their roots in the economic and class structures of the donor societies. In each region, the local sets of social relationships associated with the dominant economic systems produced peasant responses specific to that particular area. Geographic factors – the proximity of ocean ports, major transportation junctions or large industrial centres, which served as safety valves for excess rural labour – could each have had an impact on migration processes, lending them a distinctive regional configuration.

    Like other forms of population mobility, transoceanic emigration from East-Central and Southern Europe developed in areas...

  10. 2 The Anatomy of Migration
    (pp. 30-54)

    Human migration is never a random process. Even within relatively compact geographic areas, let alone such vast territories as Russia’s western borderlands, it always exhibits variations in size, momentum, and the composition of the migrant stream. While emigration from certain localities on the empire’s frontier developed as early as the 1890s, in others it did not take off until the eve of World War I and in most places remained nearly or fully absent. Areas where emigration proceeded at a relatively constant pace were interspersed with those where it showed sudden fluctuations. Migration trajectories, including the choice of travel routes...

  11. 3 An Airtight Empire?
    (pp. 55-80)

    When the first Ukrainian and Belarusan peasants reached Canada in the early 1900s, emigration in tsarist Russia was considered a marginal phenomenon, limited to the territorial and ethno-religious fringes of the empire and having little to do with the Slavic Orthodox population (the so-called “indigenous Russians”). Russian Jews began to emigrate in the early 1880s, soon followed by Poles, Lithuanians and Finns, but the masses of Slavic peasants east of Congress Poland remained outside the continental and transoceanic migrant streams. Mennonites and Germans from Volhynia, southern Ukraine, and the Lower Volga region were the only ethnic groups in the empire’s...

  12. 4 “So Close to Being Asiatics”
    (pp. 81-92)

    On 19 March 1909 the OttawaFree Presscarried a short article with a title that must have caught the attention of some readers and mystified others: “Russian Moujiks for g.t.p. Work.”¹ It reported the landing of a group of “Russian labourers” at Vancouver for employment in the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific (GTP) Railway. A few weeks later, an article in the VancouverEvening Post,entitled “Russian Invasion Next,” predicted that Canada was on the threshold of a massive inrush of “Slavs from Siberia.” Quoting an unnamed passenger who had just arrived from Japan, a major transit point...

  13. 5 Frontiersmen and Urban Dwellers
    (pp. 93-117)

    If the majority of Galicians and Bukovynians headed to the Prairies to become agricultural settlers, Ukrainians from the Russian Empire migrated primarily to the resource frontier or large urban centres of eastern Canada, as did their geographical neighbours from Belarus. Here they joined the growing polyglot army of immigrant workers, many of whom floated across the country – or even across the Canadian-American border – in search of job opportunities. While much of this movement may seem spontaneous, by 1914 distinctive migration patterns specific to Russian-born workers began to emerge. Transnational networks of kith and kin, as well as the activities of...

  14. 6 Sojourners and Soldiers
    (pp. 118-137)

    Like thousands of other labour immigrants from eastern, central, and southern Europe, the majority of Ukrainians and Belarusans who came to Canada from the Russian Empire were temporary sojourners — “birds of passage,” who did not intend to settle in Canada for good. By the eve of World War I, only a few of the earlier arrivals had completed the transition from sojourning to settling. The Li-Ra-Ma files show that some labourers, still primarily engaged in industrial occupations, acquired plots of land with the apparent goal of putting down roots in Canada. Yet even by 1917–18 their number, by all...

  15. 7 A Difficult Constituency: Priests, Preachers, and Immigrants
    (pp. 138-162)

    The relationship between immigrant workers and religion was more complex than it is often presumed to be. For cultural, social, or political reasons, not all immigrant groups displayed the same degree of religiosity and commitment to the church. Organized religion was a secondary concern for the majority of labourers from the Russian Empire, who viewed their presence in Canada as a temporary break in the village lifecycle and showed little inclination to expend their energy and savings on the creation of institutions they considered to be of little use. Such attitudes, partly rooted in intrinsic peasant pragmatism, were exacerbated by...

  16. 8 Bolsheviks or Rebels?
    (pp. 163-187)

    Ukrainian and Belarusan labourers came to Canada from rural communities with no traditions of organized labour or socialism that could be transplanted to the New World. In the western provinces of the Russian Empire, where an industrial proletariat was all but non-existent, socialism recruited its ideologues and followers primarily from the ranks of the urban and small-town intelligentsia or progressive-minded nobility. Even so, the Ukrainian and Belarusan radical parties that began to emerge in the Russian Empire in the early 1900s were small and could rarely compete with their stronger and better-organized Russian counterparts. By the time of the 1905...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 188-197)

    Between 1896 and 1914, Canada added over 3,000,000 immigrants to its population. While many came as agricultural settlers attracted by the promise of a free homestead on the Prairies, others filled the growing ranks of Canada’s working class. Throughout the period, Britain and the United States remained the largest suppliers of Canadian immigrants, but it was the “strong-limbed” eastern and southern Europeans that came to be sought the most eagerly by prosperous Canadian farmers and industrialists searching for new reservoirs of cheap labour.

    Ukrainian and Belarusan immigration from the Russian Empire was part of the massive transoceanic circuits of population...

  18. APPENDIX: The Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers Collection as a Statistical Source
    (pp. 198-204)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 205-252)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-274)
  21. Index
    (pp. 275-283)