Soviet Scientists by Ethnicity as of 1973

Click to enlargeOn, Anatoly Karlin displays an interesting graph of scientists per capita of over 50 Soviet ethnic groups as of 1973.

Not surprisingly, the #1 most scientific ethnicity in the Soviet Union were the Jews and the very last group were the Gypsies, with Gypsies producing about 1/500th as many professional scientists per capita as Jews.

This graph once again demonstrates that UC Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine’s otherwise outstanding 2004 bookThe Jewish Century gets off to a bad start by asserting a conceptual grouping of Jews and Gypsies as “Mercurians.”

There was a lot of petty anti-Semitic career discrimination in the USSR by 1973, so the Jewish advantage in talent was probably even greater than this chart shows.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my wife’s late uncle, a USAF colonel with a Ph.D. in metallurgy, used to spy behind the Berlin Wall in the 1970s-1980s with Soviet Jewish rocket scientists who were headed to Israel (or America) after their five year cooling off periods. He’d cross into East Berlin as a tourist and meet a Soviet Jewish scientist who was vacationing in East Berlin who was parked on a dark street and debrief him about what his Soviet counterparts were up to.

I wonder how much of Israel’s economic explosion as a high tech center over the last few decades is driven by the exodus from the old Soviet Union? For example, the rumors in the Israeli press that the FBI contracted with an Israeli firm to break the encryption on the San Bernardino terrorist’s Apple iPhone gets me wondering how much of the Israeli advantage in telecom software these days is due to KGB investments in sigint and codebreaking in the old days …

Our old friends the Chechens are fourth from the bottom in this list.

At the top of the list, Jews are first by a mile, but then come Georgians (e.g., Stalin and Beria — don’t let anybody tell you Stalin was stupid) and Armenians (e.g., the Mikoyan brothers), followed by Russians. I believe there was some affirmative action for the Russian majority, but, still, they’re formidable. Then come Krymchaks, Estonians, Latvians, Tats, Buryats, Ossetians, Lithuanians, Azeris, and Ukrainians.

I was interested in the more obscure high performers. Perhaps there are small sample size problems, but the overall sample size of scientists was over one million, so these results are worth considering. From Wikipedia:

– The Krymchaks (Krymchak: sg. кърымчах – qrımçax, pl. кърымчахлар – qrımçaxlar) are Jewish ethno-religious communities of Crimea derived from Turkic-speaking adherents of Orthodox Judaism.[2] They have historically lived in close proximity to the Turkic Karaites who also follow Judaism (Karaite Judaism). …

– The Buryats (Buryat: Буряад, Buryaad; Mongolian: Буриад/Buriad), numbering approximately 500,000, are the largest indigenous group in Siberia, mainly concentrated in their homeland, the Buryat Republic, a federal subject of Russia. They are the major northern subgroup of the Mongols.[4] …

– The Tat people (also: Tati, Parsi, Daghli, Lohijon, Caucasian Persians, Transcaucasian Persians) are an Iranian and ethnic Persian people, presently living within Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia (mainly Southern Dagestan). … Tats are mainly Shia Muslims, with a significant Sunni Muslim minority. …

– The Ossetians or Ossetes (Ossetian: ир, ирæттæ, ir, irættæ; дигорæ, дигорæнттæ, digoræ, digorænttæ) are an Iranian ethnic group of the Caucasus Mountains, indigenous to the region known as Ossetia.[12][13][14] They speak Ossetic, an Iranian language of the Eastern branch of the Indo-European languages family, with most also fluent in Russian as a second language. The Ossetians are mostly Eastern Orthodox Christian, with a Muslim minority. …

The sort of good but not great 2004 King Arthur movie starring Clive Owen was based on the idea that King Arthur was a Roman legionnaire from Sarmatia north of the Black Sea. The Ossetians are supposedly descended from Sarmatians.

The decent performance of Tats and Azeris suggests that Islamic culture and scientific competence aren’t as inevitably antithetical as you might suspect.

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