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Novorossiya (Russian: Новороссия, tr. Novorossiya, IPA: [nəvɐˈrosʲɪjə] (About this soundlisten); Ukrainian: Новоросія, romanizedNovorosiia; Romanian: Noua Rusie), literally New Russia but sometimes called South Russia,[citation needed] is a historical term of the Russian Empire denoting a region north of the Black Sea (now part of Ukraine). In Ukraine the territory was better known as Stepovyna (Steppeland) or Nyz (Lower land).[1] It was formed as a new imperial province of Russia (Novorossiya Governorate) in 1764 from military frontier regions along with parts of the southern Hetmanate in preparation for war with the Ottomans.[2] It was further expanded by the annexation of the Zaporizhian Sich in 1775. At various times it encompassed the Moldavian region of Bessarabia, the modern Ukraine's regions of the Black Sea littoral (Prychornomoria), Zaporizhzhia, Tavria, the Azov Sea littoral (Pryazovia), the Tatar region of Crimea, the Nogai steppe at the Kuban River, and the Circassian lands.

A map of Novorossiya (New Russia), c. 1897.

The region was part of the Russian Empire until its collapse following the Russian February Revolution in early March 1917, after which it became part of the short-lived Russian Republic. In 1918, it was largely included in the Ukrainian State and in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic at the same time. In 1918–1920, it was, to varying extents, under the control of the anti-Bolshevik White movement governments of South Russia whose defeat signified the Soviet control over the territory, which became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, within the Soviet Union from 1922.

In 2014, Russia and pro-Russian separatists attempted to create a Novorossiyan confederation in the region.


Ukraine 1648 (south on top) with a broad belt of "loca deserta", Latin for desolated areas
Map of the Wild Fields in the 17th century
Lands of Zaporizhian Host in 1760
Novorossiya Governorate of Russian Empire. Its central city was Ekaterinoslav (modern Dnipro), which was briefly renamed "Novorossiysk" during the reign of Paul I

The modern history of the region follows the fall of the Golden Horde. The eastern portion was claimed by the Crimean Khanate (one of its multiple successors), while its western regions were divided between Moldavia and Lithuania. With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, the whole Black Sea northern littoral region came under the control of the Crimean Khanate that in turn became a vassal of the Ottomans.[citation needed] Sometime in the 16th century the Crimean Khanate allowed the Nogai Horde which were displaced from its native Volga region by Muscovites and Kalmyks to settle in the Black Sea steppes.[citation needed]

Vast regions to the North of the Black Sea were sparsely populated and were known as the Wild Fields (as translated from Polish or Ukrainian) Dykra (in Lithuanian) or Loca deserta ("desolated places") in Latin on medieval maps. There were, however, many settlements along the Dnieper River. The Wild Fields had covered roughly the southern territories of modern Ukraine; some[who?] say they extended into the modern Southern Russia (Rostov Oblast).[citation needed]

The Russian Empire gradually gained control over the area, signing peace treaties with the Cossack Hetmanate and with the Ottoman Empire at the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish Wars of 1735–39, 1768–74, 1787–92 and 1806–12. In 1764 the Russian Empire established the Novorossiysk Governorate; it was originally to be named after the Empress Catherine, but she decreed that it should be called New Russia instead.[3] Its administrative centre was at St. Elizabeth fortress (today, Kropyvnytskyi) in order to protect the southern borderlands from the Ottoman Empire, and in 1765 this passed to Kremenchuk.[3][4]

The rulers of Novorossiya gave out land generously to the Russian nobility (dvoryanstvo) and the enserfed peasantry—mostly from the Ukraine and fewer from Russia—to encourage immigration for the cultivation of the then sparsely populated steppe.[citation needed] According to the Historical Dictionary of Ukraine:

The population consisted of military colonists from hussar and lancer regiments, Ukrainian and Russian peasants, Cossacks, Serbs, Montenegrins, Hungarians, and other foreigners who received land subsidies for settling in the area.[5]

There was an initial endeavour to colonize the region with several ethnic groups, of which the most numerous were Romanians and Ruthenians (Ukrainians).[citation needed] East of the Southern Bug river, in the region formerly called New Serbia, in 1757 the largest ethnic group were Romanians at 75%, followed by Serbs at 12% and 13% others.[6]

After the annexation of the Ottoman territories to Novorossiya in 1774, the Russian authorities commenced an aggressive program of colonization, encouraging large migrations from a broader spectrum of ethnic groups. Catherine the Great invited European settlers to these newly conquered lands: Romanians (from Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania), Bulgarians, Serbs, Greeks, Albanians, Germans, Poles, Italians, and others.[citation needed]

In 1775, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great forcefully liquidated the Zaporizhian Sich and annexed its territory to Novorossiya, thus eliminating the independent rule of the Ukrainian Cossacks. Prince Grigori Potemkin (1739–1791) directed the Russian colonization of the land at the end of 18th century. Catherine the Great granted him the powers of an absolute ruler over the area from 1774.[citation needed]

The spirit and importance of New Russia at this time is aptly captured by the historian Willard Sunderland,

The old steppe was Asian and stateless; the current one was state-determined and claimed for European-Russian civilization. The world of comparison was now even more obviously that of the Western empires. Consequently it was all the more clear that the Russian empire merited its own New Russia to go along with everyone else's New Spain, New France, and New England. The adoption of the name of New Russia was in fact the most powerful statement imaginable of Russia's national coming of age.[7]

In 1792, the Russian government declared that the region between the Dniester and the Bug was to become a new principality named "New Moldavia", under Russian suzerainty.[8] According to the first Russian census of the Yedisan region conducted in 1793 (after the expulsion of the Nogai Tatars) 49 villages out of 67 between the Dniester and the Southern Bug were Romanian.[9]

A historical German map of Novorossiya 1855

The ethnic composition of Novorossiya changed during the beginning of the 19th century due to the intensive movement of colonists who rapidly created towns, villages, and agricultural colonies. During the Russo-Turkish Wars, the major Turkish fortresses of Ozu-Cale, Akkerman, Khadzhibey, Kinburn and many others were conquered and destroyed. New cities and settlements were established in their places. Over time the ethnic composition varied.[clarification needed]

Multiple ethnicities[clarification needed] participated in the founding of the cities of Novorossiya (most of these cities were expansions of older settlements[10]). For example:

  • Zaporizhzhia as formerly the site of a Cossack fort
  • Odessa, founded in 1794 on the site of a Tatar village (the first recorded mention of a settlement located in current Odessa was in 1415[10]) by a Spanish general in Russian service, Jose de Ribas, had a French mayor, Richelieu (in office 1803–1814)
  • Donetsk, founded in 1869, was originally named Yuzovka (Yuzivka) in honor of John Hughes, the Welsh industrialist who developed the coal region of the Donbass

According to the report of governor Shmidt, the ethnic composition of Kherson Governorate and the city of Odessa[clarification needed] in 1851 was as follows:[11]

Nationality Number %
Ukrainians ("Little Russians") 703,699 69.14
Romanians (Moldavians and Vlachs) 75,000 7.37
Jews 55,000 5.40
Russian-Germans 40,000 3.93
Great Russians 30,000 2.95
Bulgarians 18,435 1.81
Belorussians 9,000 0.88
Greeks 3,500 0.34
Romani people 2,516 0.25
Poles 2,000 0.20
Armenians 1,990 0.20
Karaites 446 0.04
Serbs 436 0.04
Swedes 318 0.03
Tatars 76 0.01
Former Officials 48,378 4.75
Nobles 16,603 1.63
Foreigners 10,392 1.02
Total Population 1,017,789 100

From 1796 to 1802 Novorossiya was the name of the Governorate with the capital Novorossiysk (previously and subsequently Ekaterinoslav, the present-day Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk not to be confused with present-day Novorossiysk, Russian Federation) In 1802 it was split into the Yekaterinoslav Governorate, Kherson Governorate, and the Taurida Governorate.

From 1822 to 1874 the Novorossiysk-Bessarabia General Government was centred in Odessa.

With regard to language usage, Russian was commonly spoken in the cities and some outside areas, while Ukrainian generally predominated in rural areas, smaller towns, and villages.[clarification needed]

The 1897 All-Russian Empire Census statistics show that Ukrainian was the native language spoken by most of the population of Novorossiya, but with Russian and Yiddish languages dominating in most city areas.[12][13][14]

Russian poster from 1921 — "Donbass is the heart of Russia".
Language Kherson Guberniya Yekaterinoslav Guberniya Tavrida Guberniya
Ukrainian 53.4% 68.9% 42.2%
Russian 21.0% 17.3% 27.9%
Belarusian 0.8% 0.6% 6.7%
Polish 2.1% 0.6% 0.6%
Bulgarian 0.9% 2.8%
Moldovan and Romanian 5.3% 0.4% 0.2%
German 4.5% 3.8% 5.4%
Jewish (sic) 11.8% 4.6% 3.8%
Greek 2.3% 2.3% 1.2%
Tatar 8.2% 8.2% 13.5%
Turkish 2.6% 2.6% 1.5%
Total Population 2,733,612 2,311,674 1,447,790

The 1897 All-Russian Empire Census statistics:[15]

Language Odessa Yekaterinoslav Nikolaev Kherson Sevastopol Mariupol Donetsk district
Russian 198,233 47,140 61,023 27,902 34,014 19,670 273,302
Jewish (sic) 124,511 39,979 17,949 17,162 3,679 4,710 7
Ukrainian 37,925 17,787 7,780 11,591 7,322 3,125 177,376
Polish 17,395 3,418 2,612 1,021 2,753 218 82
German 10,248 1,438 813 426 907 248 2,336
Greek 5,086 161 214 51 1,553 1,590 88
Total Population 403,815 112,839 92,012 59,076 53,595 31,116 455,819

List of founded citiesEdit

Many of the cities that were founded (most of these cities were expansions of older settlements[10]) during the imperial period are major cities today.

Imperial Russian regiments were used to build these cities, at the expense of hundreds of soldiers’ lives.[10]

First waveEdit

Second waveEdit

Third waveEdit

Impact in modern timesEdit

Following the Soviet Union's collapse on 26 December 1991 and concurrent with the lead-up to Ukrainian independence on 24 August 1991, a nascent movement began in Odessa for the restoration of Novorossiya region; it however failed within days and never defined its borders.[16][17][18][citation needed] The initial conception had not developed exact borders, but focus centred on the Odessan, Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Crimean oblasts, with eventually other oblasts joining as well.[18][19]

The name received renewed emphasis when Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in an interview on 17 April 2014 that the territories of Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa were part of what was called Novorossiya.[20][nb 1] In May 2014, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic proclaimed the confederation of Novorossiya and its desire to extend its control towards all of southeastern Ukraine.[23] The confederation had little practical unity and within a year the project was abandoned: on 1 January 2015 the founding leadership announced the project had been put on hold, and on 20 May the constituent members announced the freezing of the political project.[24][25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ While the modern province of Kharkiv was partially within the historical region of Novorossiya, the city of Kharkiv was not, but part of the historical region Sloboda Ukraine.[21][22]


  1. ^ Mikhail Levchenko (1874). Opyt russko-ukrainskago slovari︠a︡. Kyiv: Tip. Gubernskago upravlenii︠a︡, p 188.
  2. ^ Magocsi, Paul R. "A History of Ukraine: The Land and Its Peoples," p. 284.
  3. ^ a b Nataliya Polonska-Vasylenko (1955). The Settlement of the Southern Ukraine (1750-1775). Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S. p. 190.
  4. ^ "New Russian gubernia". Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  5. ^ Ivan Katchanovski; Zenon E. Kohut; Bohdan Y. Nebesio; Myroslav Yurkevich (21 June 2013). Historical Dictionary of Ukraine. Scarecrow Press. p. 392. ISBN 978-0-8108-7847-1. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  6. ^ Olga M. Posunjko (2002). Istorija Nove Srbije i Slavenosrbije (in Serbian). Novi Sad. p. 36. ISBN 978-86-902499-2-3. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  7. ^ Willard Sunderland (2006). Taming the Wild Field: Colonization and Empire on the Russian Steppe. Cornell University Press. p. 70. ISBN 0-8014-7347-0. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  8. ^ E. Lozovan, Romanii orientali, "Neamul Romanesc", 1/1991, p.14
  9. ^ E. Lozovan, Romanii orientali, "Neamul Romanesc", 1/1991, p.32.
  10. ^ a b c d Odesa: Through Cossacks, Khans and Russian Emperors, The Ukrainian Week (18 November 2014)
  11. ^ Шмидт А. "Материалы для географии и статистики, собранные офицерами генерального штаба. Херсонская губерния. Часть 1". St. Petersburg, 1863, p. 465-466
  12. ^ "First General Census of the Russian Empire of 1897. Breakdown of population by mother tongue: Kharkov governorate - total population". Demoskop Weekly. Demoscope Weekly (№ 623–624). 31 December 2014. ISSN 1726-2887. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  13. ^ "First General Census of the Russian Empire of 1897. Breakdown of population by mother tongue: Kherson district - the city of Kherson". Demoskop Weekly. Demoscope Weekly (№ 623–624). 31 December 2014. ISSN 1726-2887. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  14. ^ "First General Census of the Russian Empire of 1897. Breakdown of population by mother tongue: Kherson district - the city of Nikolayev (military governorate)". Demoskop Weekly. Demoscope Weekly (№ 623–624). 31 December 2014. ISSN 1726-2887. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  15. ^ "First General Census of the Russian Empire of 1897. Breakdown of population by mother tongue: Donetsk district - total population". Demoskop Weekly. Demoscope Weekly (№ 623–624). 31 December 2014. ISSN 1726-2887. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  16. ^ "The CIS Handbook", edited by Patrick Heenan, Monique Lamontagne, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1999, p. 75.
  17. ^ "Federal State of Novorossiya". Retrieved 18 February 2015. A Russian ethnic republic in Ukraine was named Novorossiya and was proclaimed in 1992 but fell some days after.
  18. ^ a b Paul Kolstoe. "Russians in the Former Soviet Republics", Indiana University Press, June 1995, p. 176.
  19. ^ Zbigniew Brzezinski; Paige Sullivan (1997). Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States: Documents, Data, and Analysis. Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, D.C.); M.E. Sharpe Inc. p. 639. ISBN 978-1-56324-637-1. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  20. ^ "Transcript: Vladimir Putin's April 17 Q&A". Washington Post. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  21. ^ Unmaking Imperial Russia: Mykhailo Hrushevsky and the Writing of Ukrainian History by Serhii Plokhii, University of Toronto Press, 2005, ISBN 0802039375 (page 19)
  22. ^ Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands by Richard Sakwa, I.B. Tauris, 2015, ISBN 1784530646 (page 9)
  23. ^ СМИ: Террористы из "ДНР" и "ЛНР" объединились [Mass media: Terrorists of the "LNR" and "DNR" have united] (in Russian). UNIAN. 24 May 2014. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  24. ^ "Russian-backed 'Novorossiya' breakaway movement collapses". Ukraine Today. 20 May 2015.
    Vladimir Dergachev; Dmitriy Kirillov (20 May 2015). Проект «Новороссия» закрыт [Project "New Russia" is closed]. (in Russian).
  25. ^ "Why the Kremlin Is Shutting Down the Novorossiya Project". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 20 December 2015.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 47°30′N 34°30′E / 47.5°N 34.5°E / 47.5; 34.5