The RSFSR had "cantons" as subdivisions of some of its constituent Republics in the 1920s. What led to the abandonment of this term, later on? (I'm guessing the word (which is probably a loan word) was deemed not Russian enough, but it's just a wild guess on my behalf.)

2 Answers 2


The cantons were an Imperial-era designation, originally introduced in 1798 and briefly re-embraced after the Revolution alongside other archaic divisions such as uezds as the new government was organizing the redistribution of lands and redrawing administrative boundaries.

The existence of Soviet cantons largely coincides with the Pre-Stalin New Economic Policy era (with the exception of Volga German ASSR which was untouched until its complete liquidation in 1941), so it would seem that they were victims of the reorganization going on as Stalin took power and implemented the collectivization process (which would create new administrative divisions).

They were reorganized into raions, which is a word that comes from French, so the linguistic hypothesis doesn't really hold. The typical raion was much smaller than the canton it belonged to, which makes sense as they were implemented alongside a strengthening of the Soviet state apparatus and increased restrictions on freedom of movement.

Notably, Soviet-era cantons were limited to only 5 ASSRs and one AO, so liquidating the entire classification as part of overall standardization would have made sense from an administrator's perspective.


Soviet ethnic policy was "bait and switch": pretend to be accommodating to ethnic peculiarities and then assimilate ("ethnic is form, socialist in content"). Thus all local terminology was eventually phased out - some sooner, others later.

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    Interesting POV. I can remember one of my old 80's "Social Studies" texts saying that while the USA was a "melting pot", the USSR was a "mosaic". In a lot of ways, one could argue that they had it exactly backwards.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 1:08
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    While true, this doesn't seem relevant to the question as the canton designation was not "local terminology" in any sense and had nothing to do with the ethnicities in question - though I would welcome links to sources that demonstrate otherwise.
    – SPavel
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 16:33

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