Staunton, May 29 – Kalmyks are celebrating the fact that for the first time, a native of their North Caucasian republic has been appointed to one of the leading positions at the permanent representation of Kalmykia to the President of the Russian Federation, an office that has existed since the 1920s and that is informally known as that republic’s embassy.
Four days ago, Aleksey Orlov, the head of Kalmykia, signed an order naming Baatr Lidzhiyev, one of the leaders of the Kalmyk community in the Russian capital, as first deputy head of the republic’s permanent representation, thereby making that institution more Kalmyk (asiarussia.ru/news/12429/).
In recent months, the lack of such a real Kalmyk there has been the subject of numerous critical articles in the Kalmyk opposition press which has reported that the Kalmyk population has viewed the absence of such a person at the representation as something insulting, especially given that other non-Russian republics routinely staff theirs with real representatives.
An example of this anger, which recalls the anger many non-Russians felt about the presence of Russians in key posts prior to the collapse of the USSR, is provided in a recent declaration issued by the head of the Kalmyk section of the Yabloko party (ekgazeta.ru/articles/628-zachem-kalmykii-takoe-postpredstvo).
“We live,” B.B. Boromangnayev says, “in a federative state … [and] the permanent representation must represent in the capital of the federation not only not so much the organs of state power as the entire Republic of Kalmykia as a state formation and its multi-national people.”
Moreover, he continues, “the Permanent Representation must represent in the organs of state power of Russia the Kalmyk people.” The best people to do that are those who were born and lived in the Kalmyk Republic and who are of Kalmyk nationality. Only they truly know “the specific features, history and culture” of the Buddhist republic.
Tragically, the Yabloko activist says, in an article that appeared just before the government appointed an ethnic Kalmyk to be number two in the Permanent Representation, there haven’t been any such people there. This is an insult to the people of Kalmykia and is completely unacceptable, he writes.
At least in part because there have not been any Kalmyks in the Kalmyk Permanent Representation in recent years, the opposition party leader continues, that institution has not pushed the programs of the republic in Moscow or helped the Kalmyk in the Russian capital or Kalmyk visitors when they travel there. It has even refused to offer Kalmyk language lessons.
Yabloko “supports the actions and patriotic position of the public organization, “Kalmyk Community, which unites people from Kalmykia in Moscow which first raised the question about the strange and inexplicable cadres policy” of the Kalmyk government regarding the Permanent Representation, Boromangnayev says.Although they seldom get much attention – one exception was when Heydar Aliyev broke with Moscow during Black January in 1990 – 60 of the federal subjects maintain these offices today, most of which trace their origins back to the Peoples Commissariat of Nationality Affairs (Narkomnats) in the early 1920s (windowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2010/07/window-on-eurasia-three-fourths-of.html).
Prior to 1991, the union republics of the USSR also had such offices in Moscow, something that was symbolically important to many and practically important both because they offered help to visitors from their republics to the Russian capital and because they often became real embassies when these countries gained their independence.
Today, they may in the minds of at least some non-Russians represent a step toward state independence or at least the elevation of the status of their republics: Daghestan now has 50 such offices across the CIS countries (windowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2009/05/window-on-eurasia-daghestan-now-has-50.html), and Tuva has even opened one in the Mongolian capital (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/03/window-on-eurasia-tuva-opens.html).