Sketches used by the Soviet police to identify suspects based on ethnicity, 1960s
This card was used by police in the Soviet Union to identify different nationalities by facial phenotypes. Originally it was developed by a group of Soviet criminologists based on various mugshot collections. The exact date is unknown, however, based on few Soviet sources, these typical faces sketches were made in 1960-1965. In the nomenclature of the USSR people weren’t classified based on their race or ethnicity.
USSR documents carried two entries: grazhdanstvo (citizenship): Soviet and nationalnost’ (nationality): Armenian, Russian, Jew, Kazakh etc. This “nationality” was not equal to citizenship or residence in one of the constituent SSRs, but independent. You could be a Soviet citizen with “nationality: Kazakh” born and raised in the Ukrainian SSR.
The Soviet Union was an ethnically diverse country, with more than 100 distinct ethnic groups. According to a 1990 estimate, the majority were Russians (50.78%), followed by Ukrainians (15.45%) and Uzbeks (5.84%).
All citizens of the USSR had their own ethnic affiliation. The ethnicity of a person was chosen at the age of sixteen by the child’s parents. If the parents did not agree, the child was automatically assigned the ethnicity of the father.