The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Farmlands: Counting Sheep

Project Team: Olga Kiyan, Kelly O'Neill, Paul Vădan
Publication Date: 15 February 2024

What It Is

This dataset contains information about the population size and diversity of livestock in 49 provinces of European Russia based on a census compiled by the tsarist government between the years 1864 and 1867. You will find population counts for the eight most prominent agricultural animals in the region: cattle, reindeer, goats, horses, ordinary sheep, fine-fleeced sheep, swine, and camels.

Why It Matters

Animals and empires go hand in hand. Wild animals and domestic pets have always been celebrated in media and art, but livestock have provided humans with sustenance, mobility, and power for millennia. The history of livestock is a history of farmlands, battlefields, commerce, and imperial politics. Within the Russian Empire, horses and camels played key roles in interactions with rival powers such as the Mongol, Qing, and Ottoman empires, while sheep and cattle figure prominently in literary and artistic depictions of the countryside as well as in the development of domestic and international markets. Despite their significance, livestock are a neglected topic. This dataset provides a window onto their world and an opportunity to define countless question for further research.

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