Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Kremlin Looks Ready to Re-Start Regional Amalgamation Campaign with Khakassia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – The Republic of Khakassia is a small republic of 500,000 people in the southwestern section of eastern Siberia, bordering Krasnoyarsk kray, the Republic of Tuva, the Altai Republic, and Kemerovo oblast, that seldom attracts much attention except among those interested in mining and timber harvesting.

            But that may be about to change because in the last two weeks there are indications that Vladimir Putin may restart his on-again, off-again desire to amalgamate smaller non-Russian federal subjects with larger and predominantly Russian regions in Khakassia. (For background, see

            In the best Putin tradition, these indications involve calls from below for what those on top would like and trumped-up charges of extremism against members of the ethnic group whose interests would be sacrificed in the event that Khakassia was combined with a neighboring Russian area, most likely with Krasnoyarsk kray.

            Ivan Mironov, a candidate for head of Khakassia, is an example of the first. He argues that the population of Khakassia is suffering because of the region’s status as a non-Russian republic and says that if he is elected (a referendum on this idea as it were) he will “liquidate Khakassia as an independent subject” ( and

            Mironov says he is against giving non-Russians political territories unless they form a majority of the population there. In the case of Khakassia, the Turkic Khakass form “less than 12 percent” of the total according to the 2010 census. As a result of in-migration and ethnic engineering, ethnic Russians make up more than 80 percent of the total.

            The candidate goes even further: he says he doubts that the Khakass are a unique people. According to Mironov, “before the destruction of the Russian Empire there were no references about ‘Khakassia’ and ‘the Khakass’ people.” The Bolsheviks in his view created this nationality in order to win friends locally.

            He adds that he “is not concerned about protests by the indigenous residents after the liquidation of the status of the national republic … No one will become worse off from this – all will simply be equal to other peoples as to their rights and responsibilities.”

            An FSB attack on a Khakass activist is the second.  The Russian security service has brought charges of extremism against Lidiya Bainova, an ethnic Khakass who lives in the republic capital of Abakan, for a post she put on line (, and

            In her post, Bainova complained about Russian discrimination against Khakass people, including signs saying that only Russians are welcome in particular stores. On seeing such things, she said, “one wants to organize a revolution, take power, and return the land to our people.  It is time to fight for our rights.”

            Bainova has refused to acknowledge that she is in any way guilty of extremism or exciting people against the existing system. Her lawyer adds that her words are emotional but understandable and not some programmatic attack on the Russian system.  But the FSB nonetheless is pressing ahead with the case.

            Mironov and Moscow are undoubtedly only too pleased about that.

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