In previous chapters, you learned new vocabulary terms related to global cultures and societies, and had many opportunities to discuss, present, and debate topics related to these terms. In this unit, we will expand upon two small terms that have massive impacts in the world today: ethnicity and race.
Many people, and even some textbooks, use the terms race and ethnicity as interchangeably, but, as you now know, they are very different. Ethnicity is a group that has a common national and cultural background. Race, on the other hand, is the major divisions of people in the world, and you saw one example that contained three divisions (remember that there are other theories out there, so choose the one you believe in).
There are many wonderful artifacts, traditions, and beliefs that are created by different ethnic groups, but not all ethnic groups get along with each other. As a matter of fact, many wars and other types of violence have happened because different ethnic groups held different opinions or beliefs. There is also a lot of tension between races, the most famous being between “blacks and whites,” and this tension has produced a lot of hatred, mistrust, and violence around the world.
Diversity, or having a lot of variety, is something that is usually viewed as positive, especially when considering racial and ethnic diversity. Some countries, like the United States and Canada, are very racially and ethnically diverse, while other countries, such as Japan and South Korea, are not. Whether diversity has more merits for a country than demerits will be discussed later. For now, let’s look at a very large country with an extremely diverse ethnic population—Russia.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (2023) World Factbook, Russia’s size—17,098,242 square kilometers, makes it the largest country in the world, with an estimated population of 141,698,923 people.
With regards to the ethnic groups in Russia, here is the breakdown:
The map above shows how the various ethnic groups are spread throughout Russia. Take a moment and examine the map before moving on to the next activity.
Work with a small group, and think about some important characteristics that make ethnic groups unique, and discuss them in detail. You don’t have to be a part of a small ethnic group to recognize characteristics. Look at your own cultural group’s characteristics, such as customs, habits, traditions, holidays, activities, food preferences, religious beliefs, and language dialects. You can also bring up any experiences you have had with different ethnic groups while you were traveling or studying abroad! Based on these unique characteristics, why would it be difficult for other ethnic groups to get along with them? Try to come up with five, and write them below.
Important characteristic of ethnic groups
Why could this be an issue for other ethnic groups?
Based on Russia’s 2010 census, there are nearly 200 national and/or ethnic groups in the country! However, there are still many conflicts between ethnic groups, so much that Russia created the “Federal Strategy on Ethnic Conflict Resolution,” although apparently it hasn’t been very effective in calming tensions between groups (Sewell, 2013).
This unit is not meant to be a history lesson, and if you don’t fully understand the situation in Russia, or even in your own home country (assuming it’s not Russia), that is ok because the goal is to have a basic understanding of how diverse a large country can be, and how difficult it can be for people in certain groups to get along with other groups. This is a basic problem in society that many countries are dealing with now, and it can extend to other groups, as well: racial, ethnic, gender, sexual preference, socioeconomic, religious, and many others.