Asians in the Soviet Union?

I recently came upon an interesting Youtube video of the former Soviet Union’s national anthem. The music was set to a clip of Soviet propaganda, which was also interesting to watch. There was a lot of emphasis on heavy industry, for instance, a peculiar obsession of communist countries that still lingers in places such as China.

In the middle of the video, however, something very surprising occurred. Take a look at 0:48, 1:44, and 1:52.

These scenes show what look unmistakably to be individuals whom we in the United States label as “Asian.”

Who are these people?

There are several possibilities. Perhaps they are Chinese, North Korean, or from another East Asian communist country. The video might have been showing Soviet assistance to its allies. This is the less likely explanation, however; why aren’t there Cubans or Africans (from communist nations in Africa) in the video then?

Or perhaps these people are citizens of the Soviet Union.

When most people think of a Soviet Union citizen, they imagine a person with features that Americans associate with “white” people. There is reason for this: people of Russian ethnicity – who fit under the definition of white – composed the majority of the country’s population. They dominated the Soviet Union’s elite; all of its leaders were “white.”

Most of Central Asia, however, also was a part of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union bordered China and Mongolia for thousands of miles.

It is very difficult to classify the “race” of the people in these areas; it is a region most people (including, admittedly, me) do not pay attention to. Yet one imagines that if a place borders Mongolia or China, the people in that place will appear somewhat similar to people living in Mongolia or China.

When looking at the “Asians” in this video, one is strikingly reminded of the way African-Americans are portrayed in American commercials and movies. There is always at least one African-American in a commercial. But they are never the majority. The same phenomenon seems to be happening here, except with Asians instead of blacks.

Perhaps the Soviet Union had token minorities of its own.

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11 Responses to Asians in the Soviet Union?

  1. 25rus says:

    Yes, we do have a lot of asians in Russia. I am an asian male from The republic of Tuva in East Siberia currently living in the city of Vladivostok. In our country by saying russian we mean all the ethnicities that have historically been living within the territories of the modern Russian Federation. In fact, in russian language we have two different words for the english “russian”: rossiyanin and russkiy. The first one is used to refer to russian society in general, the later is for describing the slavic “russkiy” component of Russia’s population almost all the foreigners think of when they hear the word russian. All the ethnicities have been co-existing during hundreds of years in the vast lands of the Russian Empire. As a result we ended up having one mentality. In modern Russia the only difference between ethnic groups are appearance and the different sub-languages we speak. That is exactly the reason why we go to Kazakhstan and see no difference: it feels just like you are in Russia. Nevertheless we did preserve unique cultural heritage that are different throughout Russia. But in my opinion we are recently struggling to maintain what we have preserved. For example, a lot of tatar people nowadays are not very familiar with their own cultural background. The same is true for every other ethnicity in Russia, including “russkiy” russians. I have heard a lot of talks about xenophobia in our country recently. Yes, we do encounter such problems once in a while but mostly they come from the neo-nazi groups of young people calling themselves skinheads who have ideological back-up. We are pretty much sure this is happening “not without the assistance of the foreign forces”. But most of the hostility towards foreigners come from the ordinary russian people, and they might be of any ethnicity.

    • inoljt says:


      I can’t believe that there are neo-Nazis in Russia. Some of their grandparents probably died fighting Hitler.

      Your English is really good. How did you learn?

  2. Mchenko says:

    Well.. There are many ‘Koryo-saram’ from Korea.

  3. Bobloblaw says:

    The USSR had lots of minorities. What you’re thinking of as whites are ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. The Mongols conquored central Asia. So lots of khazaks and Uzbeks look Chinese

  4. Toshi says:

    Russia is the biggest nation in Europe, Russia is the biggest nation in Asia. Siberians and Central Asians are considered Asians. Russia and Mongolia are close neighbors that share a common history and have influenced the other, ie. Mongolian have their own Cyrillic and Russians eat pelmeni, originally Mongolian dumplings. In World War II, the biggest foreign armed forces to be adopted into the German Army on the Eastern Front were Asians from Western Turkistan (Kazakhs, Uzbekis, Turkmenis, etc.). Here is some rare footage i found on youtube: and

  5. Giovanni says:

    Most of the Former Soviet Union is located in Asia. Mongolians, Eastern Turks, Tatars, Avars— i guess what you could call The Huns conquered and ruled over the lands of the Tatary or the Former USSR. Like the saying goes, “Scratch a Russian, find a Tatar.” Other Asian minorities would be North Koreans, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese.

    • inoljt says:

      Yeah, there were a lot of horsemen tribal empires on those plains back in the day. What do you mean by “other Asian minorities,” by the way?

  6. Brett Heffner says:

    Look up “Altaic languages” and youll see the relationship between Turks and Mongols. The primary means of classification of languages is by structure. Although the Turkish of Turkey has a vocabulary substantially influenced by Arabic, Greek, and Persian and uses the Latin alphabet since the Ataturk years, it retains its Altaic structure from the geographical centre of Asia. There were already Turkic peoples present in eastern Russia proper and southern Ukraine centuries prior to the Mongol conquest. The overwhelming majority of manpower of the “Mongol hordes” was Turkic. The Mongols knew that they couldn’t possibly conquer and govern millions of square miles on their own and implemented a conscription system requiring each Turkic prince and chieftain to provide a quota of able-bodied men to ride with their hordes. Indeed, tens of millions of people in the European part of Russia speak Turkic languages to this day, but in that same portion, the only Mongol speakers are a few thousand Kalmyks in the northern Caucasus. That is sufficient to tell the demographic story.

    After the Mongol Empire split into four, Golden Horde Khan Oz Beg encouraged a form of ethnoracial detente and positive relations with his European neighbours and other trading partners. He knew that the time for expansion was past and he wanted to make the most of what he had to rule. Intermarriage was not that uncommon at the time, but it will require further DNA studies to know to what extent Altaic genes found their way into the Russian and Ukrainian genomes. If you look at some Russian/Soviet leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev and Boris Yeltsin, youll see that they look pretty “white” except for Mongoloid eye sockets. It is much easier for Mongoloid genes to blend into white populations subtly than it is for Negroid genes to do so.

    Most Americans are unaware of where the Census Bureau draws the line in Asia to divide the “White” and “Asian” races. Under its current policy, any person with primary ancestry from the former USSR is presumed to be “white” unless he declares himself Asian. That means that in some cases, indigenous Siberians that through outside knowledge we may consider 100% Mongoloid could be miscounted as “white.” I believe that it should be the other way around—a person with primary ancestry from the Asian portion of the former USSR should be presumed to be Asian unless he states a European ancestry or declares himself white.

    • inoljt says:

      Very interesting stuff.

      I have no knowledge of the history of Central Asia, so the context is quite fascinating. Thanks for the information.

  7. Brett Heffner says:

    Yes, the USSR always had tens of millions of people that we may consider “Mongoloid.” The nations of the former Soviet Central Asia have an interesting melange of ethnoracial makeups varying from family to family. Turkic and Mongol peoples steadily moved westward over time, intermarried with and assimilated Scythian, Tocharian, Persian, and other Indo-European peoples already present, and created a new mixed geographical race. To the north and NE of this region, there always have been and continue to be fully Mongoloid peoples in Russia. It is not uncommon for ethnic Russians and Ukrainians to have a Turkic element to their own ancestries that they could see if they were able to trace their ancestries to the 13th century and beyond. Many of us dont typically think of Turks as Mongoloid, but when we hear that T-word, we first think of the Turks of Turkey and forget that their Turkic ancestors were cousins of the Mongols and moved westward and intermarried with “white” Asians and Europeans over a course of centuries during the process.

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