The aim of this study was to investigate the spatial distribution of Eastern European suicide mortality both before and at the end of the Communist period, as well as the changes that occurred during this period.
Regional data on suicide mortality were collected from Czarist “European Russia” in 1910 and from the corresponding area in 1989. The distribution of suicide mortality was mapped at both points in time. Regional continuity over time was further studied with the help of geographical units specially constructed for this purpose.
In 1910, suicide mortality was found to be high in the northern Baltic provinces, in the urban parts of north and central Russia, the more urbanized parts of northern and western Poland, in east Ukraine, and in the northern Caucasus, while suicide rates were generally low in south Russia, Dagestan, and in southern Poland. In 1989, suicide mortality was highest in the Urals, the east Russian “ethnic” areas, and in southeast Russia. The rates were low in Poland, Moldavia, and in most of the northern Caucasus. The across-time analysis using specially constructed comparison units showed that the spatial distributions of suicide mortality in 1910 and 1989 were not correlated with each other. Additional analyses pointed to a short-term consistency of regional patterns both in the 1900s–1920s and the 1980s–1990s.
The lack of regional continuity in suicide mortality in the area may imply an absence of strong and continuous regional cultures, or a strong influence of other factors, such as societal modernization, on suicide mortality. Suicide as an act changed its social nature during the Communist period, becoming more normal, and more equally distributed among social classes and geographical locations.