The following article is divided into two parts. The first part below addresses the timing, place of birth and mother tongue of Ukrainian immigrants to the United States, as well as their distribution within the U.S., and it provides insights into the development of the socio-cultural identity of Ukrainian immigrants. The second part, which will be published in the following issue of The Ukrainian Weekly, will address Ukrainian immigrant’s characteristics, such as age and sex, education (literacy), knowledge of English, family structure, employment status, class of worker, occupation and homeownership.
by Oleh Wolowyna
Immigration of Ukrainians to the United States is divided into four periods or waves: the First Wave, which took place from the late 19th to early 20th century; the Second Wave, which took place during the interwar period; the Third Wave, which took place after World War II; and the Fourth Wave, which began following Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Thanks to data collected in censuses and surveys, there is reliable information about the Fourth Wave. Data on the other three waves, however, has been limited for mainly two reasons: first, there was a lack of a clear understanding at the time of the concepts of “Ukrainian” and “Ukrainian language,” especially among immigrants of the First Wave; second, Ukraine was not an independent country during the first three waves.
The main sources of statistics on the First Wave are the Annual Reports of the Commissioner General of Immigration for the years 1899-1930, previously analyzed by Profs. Yulian Bachynskyj, Wasyl Halich and Myron Kuropas.
Recently released data from the 1910, 1920 and 1930 censuses provide new information about these immigrants. The Center for Demographic and Socio-Economic Research of Ukrainians in the U.S. at the Shevchenko Scientific Society has started to analyze the previously unreleased data.
The main difficulty in analyzing the First Wave is that Ukraine did not exist as an independent country and its territory was divided among several countries. Concepts like “Ukrainian identity” and “Ukrainian language” were not fully developed during this period. As pointed out by Prof. Kuropas in his foreword to the book “Atlas of Ukrainians in the U.S.,” “before 1914, most people who left Ukraine for the United States were illiterate. They identified with their village. There was no Ukrainian ethno cultural identity. Many immigrants called themselves Rusyns (Ruthenians) or Little Russians.”
Two census questions are available for identifying immigrants from Ukraine: “place of birth” and “mother tongue.” They provide two possible definitions of immigrants from Ukraine: a) born in Galicia or Ukraine; b) with mother tongue Ruthenian, Ukrainian or Little Russian. These are very different concepts and define different subpopulations. Place of birth implies a region with a fixed territory. Mother tongue – defined as the principal foreign language spoken at home during one’s earliest childhood – is usually a narrower concept. Despite their limitations, these definitions can be used to address at least three issues: a) evaluation of estimates of the size of the First Wave; b) evolution of the immigrant’s understanding of their ethno-cultural identity; c) a more detailed picture of the immigrant’s demographic and socio-economic characteristics than the one available until now (this topic will be addressed in Part 2 of this article).
Messrs. Bachynskyj and Halich based their estimates of the number of First Wave immigrants on data from the Commissioner-General of Immigration Yearly Reports. Mr. Bachynskyj used the yearly time series for the 1899-1909 period (his book was published in 1914), while Mr. Halich used the same data but extended the time series to 1930 (his book was published in 1937). Mr. Halich took these data at face value and adopted 268,000 as his estimate of the total number of Ukrainian immigrants during the period 1899-1930. Mr. Bachynskyj gave the official figure of 119,000 for the period 1899-1909. He then adjusted this number for Ukrainian immigrants listed under other nationalities, added estimates of immigrants for the 1877-1898 period, and presented a figure of 393,000 for the period 1877-1909. The year 1914 is consider to be the end of the First Wave, as the number of immigrants dropped drastically starting in 1915. If added to this estimate is the official number of 135,000 Ukrainian immigrants for the period 1910-1914, then the total number of immigrants for the period 1877-1914 is 528,000. This is, arguably, a rather high number but, as will be demonstrated, census data does not allow for a better estimate of the number of immigrants in the First Wave.
Table 1 presents data on the total number of immigrants for 1910, 1920 and 1930 according to two definitions: a) place of birth (Galicia and Ukraine); b) mother tongue (Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Little Russian). The numbers fluctuate widely between censuses and according to the two definitions within each census. They cannot be used to estimate the actual number of immigrants. Census data also do not provide the elements for estimating the number of Ukrainians born in the U.S. The only criteria available for defining Ukrainians born in the U.S. is “mother tongue,” and this question was only asked of foreign-born individuals.
If immigrants born in Galicia and Ukraine by mother tongue are tabulated, as well as immigrants with the three mother tongues by place of birth, changes in these data from one census to the next provide insights on the evolution of their ethno cultural identity.
Table 2 shows immigrants born in Galicia and Ukraine by mother tongue in 1920 and 1930. (data for 1910 are not provided, as the total number of immigrants born in Galicia or Ukraine registered in 1910 is only 200 – see Table 1). Mother tongue “Jewish” is an aggregate of several related languages listed in the census data.
The evolution of the ethno cultural identity of immigrants can be analyzed using three indicators. First, only six percent declared Ukraine as their place of birth in 1920, while in 1930 this percentage was 52. Second, none of the immigrants mentioned any of the three languages (Ruthenian, Ukrainian or Little Russian) as their mother tongue in 1910. Only 12 percent of these immigrants chose one of the three Ukrainian mother tongues in 1920. In 1930 Ruthenian and Little Russian were hardly mentioned and 44 percent of all immigrants declared Ukrainian as their mother tongue. A third indicator is the relative distribution of Ruthenian, Ukrainian and Little Russian within the sum of these three languages. Among immigrants who declared in 1920 one of these three languages as their mother tongue, 54 percent mentioned Ukrainian and 45 percent Ruthenian as their mother tongue; Little Russian was hardly mentioned. In 1930 practically all immigrants in this group declared Ukrainian as their mother tongue.
Table 3 presents data on immigrants defined by their mother tongue: Ruthenian, Ukrainian or Little Russian, classified by place of birth. According to this definition, the total number of immigrants increases with time: 16, 000 in 1910, 44,000 in 1920 and 67,000 in 1930. The data also show a gradual shift from Ruthenian to Ukrainian mother tongue among these immigrants. In 1910 almost all immigrants (91 percent) declared Ruthenian as their mother tongue and Ukrainian was not even mentioned. In 1920 close to half declared Ukrainian as their mother tongue and this percentage grew to 88 in 1930. Percentages with Little Russian mother tongue declined from nine percent in 1910 to two percent in 1920 and 1930.
Trends in place of birth of these immigrants are contradictory. Neither Galicia nor Ukraine was mentioned in 1910. Half of all immigrants mentioned Galicia (42 percent) or Ukraine (8 percent) as their place of birth in 1920. In 1930, however, only 13 percent said they were born in Ukraine and five percent in Galicia. More than half of the immigrants with the three Ukrainian mother tongues declared Poland as their place of birth.
Despite its limitations, the data provide evidence of a process of increased identification with Ukraine as the immigrant’s place of birth and Ukrainian as their mother tongue. Two possible explanations of these trends are as follows: a) they reflect the dynamics of the formation of Ukrainian ethno cultural identity in the late 19th and early 20th century in Ukraine; b) they are indicators of the success of the enlightenment campaign by the Ukrainian National Association with its newspaper “Svoboda,” and the work of several groups and institutions organized by the immigrants. This process was labelled by Prof. Kuropas as a move “from Ruthenian to Ukrainian.”
The censuses also provide data on place of residence by state and metropolitan area. Using the definition of migrants born in Galicia and Ukraine, states and metropolitan areas with the largest numbers of immigrants in 1920 can be listed and compared with the immigrant’s distribution by metropolitan areas between 1910 and 1920 to illustrate their gradual spatial expansion from the original settlement areas.
Table 4 shows numbers and the percent of immigrants in the 10 states with the largest number of immigrants in 1920. These states encompass 95 percent of all immigrants. Most immigrants – 73 percent – resided in north eastern states and 22 percent resided in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Table 5 presents the percent of immigrants in the 10 most populous metropolitan areas in 1910 and 1920, as well as absolute numbers in 1920. A comparative analysis of the two years illustrates their progressive urbanization and a residential shift from the northeast towards the west.
The percent of those immigrants who did not reside in a metropolitan area dropped from 26 percent in 1910 to 13 percent in 1920. This change indicates that, with time, immigrants started moving from rural areas or small towns to big cities. The decrease in the percent of immigrants in the 10 most populous metropolitan areas from 87 percent in 1910 to 82 percent in 1920 indicates a gradual spatial dispersion. More specifically, 17 percent of immigrants in these metropolitan areas resided in two cities: Chicago and Cleveland. In 1920 a third metropolitan areas was added, Detroit, and the percentage in the east north central region increased to 18 percent.
Census data on immigrant’s place of residence is a significant improvement on what has been known so far. Prof. Halich’s data on state’s residence is from the Annual Immigration Reports and is based on the immigrant’s desired or expected destination, as stated at the port of entry. This destination is not necessarily the place where they ended up living. A census registers the actual place of residence of each person and this information is much more accurate. For example, the cumulative number of immigrants during the 1899-1930 period who named on their arrival Pennsylvania as their state of residence was 114,000, while the actual number residing in the state in 1920 was 20,000.
Oleh Wolowyna is Director of the Center for Demographic and Socio-economic Research of Ukrainians in the U.S. at the Shevchenko Scientific Society, and research fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.