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From Peasants to Labourers

Ukrainian and Belarusan Immigration from the Russian Empire to Canada

Vadim Kukushkin

This illuminating study of transnational population mobility offers a new interpretation of early twentieth-century Canadian immigration from tsarist Russia.

McGill-Queen's Studies in Ethnic History #2.23

Canadian immigration from the Russian Empire is often portrayed as consisting entirely of non-Slavic minorities and religious refugees. Vadim Kukushkin shows that a large number of immigrants were peasants from Russia's Ukrainian and Belarusan provinces attracted by Canadian wage-earning opportunities, unlike their neighbours from Austrian-ruled Ukraine who searched for land.

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.

Review quotes

"From Peasant to Labourers is much more than an ethnic biography written in isolation from broader trans-Atlantic migration trends. There are references to a range of studies dealing with European immigration to North America, the economic and cultural experiences of these diverse European groups, and astute comparisons with 'Russian' migrants." Donald H. Avery, history, University of Western Ontario

Vadim Kukushkin teaches Canadian history at the University of Alberta and Grant MacEwan College.


From Peasants to Labourers