Sunday, April 13, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Assimilation of Russians by Other Nations ‘Not a Myth,’ Nationalist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 13 – For the last several years, many Russian commentators have talked about Russians who have converted to Islam and thereby become even more anti-Russian than ordinary Muslims. Now, a Russian nationalist is focusing on the reality that at least some ethnic Russians are assimilating to other nations and following the same path.

            Because for much of their history and because of the power of the Russian state, Russians have been an assimilating rather than an assimilated nation, and the sense among some Russians that that has changed or even been reversed is among the most psychologically disturbing developments of the last two decades.

            On the one hand, it shows that Russian national identity is not as strong or integral as Russians want to believe unless it is backed by a preponderance of state power.  And on the other, it suggests to many the unwelcome conclusion that other nations may be more attractive even for those born as ethnic Russians.

            In a Facebook post, Valery Moshev, who has written frequently and enthusiastically about the Soviet Union and equally frequently and critically about what has taken its place, says that the assimilation of ethnic Russians by other peoples is “not a myth” but a “terrible” reality that must be countered (

            Russians who have assimilated to other nations, first in the Baltics, “then everywhere” and in Ukraine where this trend is “the most tragic” are becoming “’Janissaries of the West,’” Moshev says. But what is especially disturbing is that Russians are being de-nationalized by the media and schools in Russia itself and thus left open to assimilation by others.

            Many Russians do not understand these dangers, he continues, “but time is passing and brains are being washed; and those Kyiv residents who used to be Russians are bringing flowers to the Maidan and cursing Russia and the Russians.”  Meanwhile in the Baltic countries, “many former Russians now call themselves ‘Europeans’” and do not have “any relationship to the Russian people.”

            Moshev says that he very much “wants to believe” that Crimea will be “a turning point” in this regard. But he says he sees a continuing threat of the assimilation of Russians by others arising as a result of the way in which the Russian media is covering the situation. Indeed, he says, “the very weakest link of our authorities is in ideology and the media.”

            Like communications which form “the nerves of an army, the media are the communication link of society, the elites and the authorities.” They are now suffering and the situation “MUST BE CURED.”

            Moshev’s commentary, of course, is a rant. He provides no numbers – and it is likely that the number of ethnic Russians who are assimilating to other nations is not as high as he clearly thinks. But the fears behind it are real enough, and just as the appearance of some “ethnic Russian Muslims” has unsettled Russians, the appearance of some “former Russians who have assimilated to other nations” is having the same effect. 

            That is because both trends, however small they may be – and few have suggested that there are more than 100,000 ethnic Russian Muslims or millions of former Russians in ethnic terms – strikes at the heart of the national self-consciousness of many Russians who have long been told and assumed that such shifts were absolutely impossible.

            And the appearance of such commentaries bears watching because they help to explain both the extreme defensiveness of many ethnic Russians about their nation and the extreme aggression they manifest toward those, like the Ukrainians, who since 1991 have been assimilating ethnic Russians in sizeable numbers.

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