Varvara Osipova, the press secretary of the Presidential Human Rights Council, says that Babushkin is expressing his personal opinion and in no way that of the Council as a whole. But the leading opponent of his position is Tishkov, who says that “the Pomors are in no way a separate people or a minority.” They are “one of the forms of identity of the ethnic Russians.”
“In the census,” the academician continues, the Pomors “are counted as Russians just as the Cossacks are. They can be separated out as a special ethnographic variant connected with historical tradition but this is in no way makes them a separate people.”
Moreover, Tishkov continues, the law on numerically small peoples does not provide support for all peoples numbering fewer than 50,000 but only to those who continue to live according to their traditional way of life. Many smaller groups don’t, and they aren’t given any special benefits.
But Mikhail Todyshev, a specialist on the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East, notes that “the Pomors have for a long time aspired to having the rights which are given to [the others] extended to them. And this is based on their way of life and traditional economic activity.”
“Naturally, not having any defense, [the Pomors] are exposed to the take over of their land by industrial development and this represents for them a serious threat.” In his view, deciding whether they are a separate ethnos or not is less important than providing them with the assistance they need.