This page was created by Yipeng Zhou.  The last update was by Kelly O'Neill.

The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Russians in the World


This project examines the spatial and social history of migration in its many forms (voluntary and coerced, individual and collective). Our goal is to enhance the growing body of knowledge about Eurasian migration with a collection of datasets, maps, and visualizations that deliver deep dives into specific historical episodes.

The Tsar's Trans-Atlantic Voyagers

The centerpiece of the project is a large dataset provided by the U.S. National Archives consisting of half a million passenger arrival records and ship manifests across six decades (1834-1897). The data is vast and rich, but difficult to use in its raw form. In an effort to increase the usability of the records we reorganized, decoded, tidied, and enhanced. We even built statistical models that allowed us to test the spatial and thematic patterns embedded in the records. We identified the inconsistencies and documented the ambiguities. In a nutshell, we converted messy historical records into data you can feed into your favorite GIS software or visualization app. 

This is the most human dataset we have produced. Sure, the records offer woefully limited sketches of the men, women, and children who set sail for the United States, but without them we might not know anything about the existence of the teenage ginger maker named Abraham Limbowsky, who sailed on the Werkendam in 1897, the 24 year-old confectioner from Dunaburg named Salomon Starobin, or the 44 year-old midwife named Marin Ward, who sailed to New York on the Wisconsin in 1891. When taken together, these sketches paint a vibrant portrait of the social landscape of imperial Russia.

Feature List
Ready to reconstruct the social and cultural identities of those who left the empire behind, as well as the political, economic, and geographical contexts through which they moved? We will be posting a series of visualizations and maps right here, but there is no need to wait: we published our edition of the data under an open-access license. We invite you to play with it, improve on it, build new tools with it, and share your work with us!

Go to the Data Catalog

Authors: Vivian Wei, Kelly O'Neill

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