Staunton, April 2 – Even though Tuva was the site of some of the most anti-Russian protests a generation ago and still includes a population often hostile to Russians on a day-to-day basis, the Buddhist republic has long been an electoral anomaly in Siberia, routinely casting its votes for those in power, according to Russian political analyst Aleksandr Kynyev.
“The Tuvan republic was a politically anomalous region already in Soviet times,” he says. When Russia voted for Yeltsin in 1991, Tuva voted for Ryzhkov,” the analyst says. It always supports those in power. If tomorrow Navalny became president, Tuva would vote for Navalny” (sibreal.org/a/29115574.html).
He continues: “Already in Soviet times this was a state within a state; and even after being included in the USSR, there was its own distinctive political regime. Even today, its regime is quite distinctive. When you come to Tuva, you immediately feel as if you are not in Russia.” Yes, within its borders; but the people there look at outsiders as “aliens.”
The republic’s political regime is based on clans and “a very high level of day-to-day nationalism. The local spectrum of opinion is to a large extent defined by the inter-personal relationships among the political figures” of the republic, Kynyev suggests.
According to the political analyst, “the current powers of the region are oriented toward their most well-known landsman, Sergey Shoygu,” Russia’s defense minister, “and this is perfectly natural.”
Tuvins voted overwhelmingly for Putin, Kynev says. “They wanted as usual to show their loyalty to the federal center: they did so in the 1980s and 1990s and now. If the situation changes, they will love the new powers that be just as much as their predecessors.”
At the same time, however, it seems unlikely that the republic’s voters supported Putin as much as officials reported: “I of course am convinced that there were massive falsifications” because the number of voters was so small, few outside observers were prepared to spend money to observe the elections.