Staunton, July 27 – Arguing that many ethnic Russians in non-Russian republics like Tuva and Karachayevo-Cherkessia now feel themselves to be the victims of discrimination, Igor Barinov, head of the Federation Agency for Nationalities Affairs, says his institution has the responsibility to defend their rights and will do so.
Barinov’s position was echoed by Magomedsalam Magomedov, deputy head of the Presidential Administration and former head of Daghestan, who said that “Not a single people of Russia can feel good if the [ethnic] Russian people feels bad,” (kommersant.ru/doc/3048403 and nazaccent.ru/content/21416-fadn-russkie-chuvstvuyut-sebya-ushemlennymi-po.html).
In the past, Russian agencies responsible for nationality affairs have at least ostensibly declared that they were responsible for ensuring the rights of non-Russian groups even though Moscow policies have been anything but even-handed in dealing with them relative to the ethnic Russian majority.
Now, however, the words of Barinov and Magomedov at the Klyazma meeting suggest, the Kremlin is going to dispense with that fig leaf and promote an openly pro-ethnic Russian approach, one that may please Russian nationalists but that is likely to exacerbate relations between Russian and non-Russian groups.
Barinov said that a poll last month showed that nine percent of the residents of the Russian Federation as a whole report feeling discrimination but that in some republics, including Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Tuva, “the situation is more tense,” with 26 percent of the residents of the latter saying they have experienced discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity.
The agency head said that this 26 percent “corresponds with the number of Russian-speaking citizens living in Tuva” and therefore it is entirely appropriate to conclude that “namely this group of the population feels itself to be discriminated against on the basis of nationality,” a view that ignores the likelihood that many ethnic Tuvans may feel that way.
Barinov said that Russians form 80 percent of the country’s population. Many live in predominantly ethnic Russian areas and for them Moscow’s assistance will “bear a socio-economic character.” But for those who live in non-Russian regions, he said he will “defend Russians” by other, unspecified means. “We have that authority,” he concluded.