Wednesday, July 3, 2019

People of Buryatia Must Lose Their Fear of Identifying as Buryad-Mongols, Bazarov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 1 – Since 1958, when Khrushchev decreed that the Buryat Mongol ASSR would be known as the Buryat ASSR and its titular nationality, the Buryad-Mongols, would have to call themselves Buryats, more than 60 years have passed, the communist system has disappeared, but Buryad-Mongols are still afraid to use their historic name, Sergey Bazarov says. 

            They are also afraid in many cases to speak their national language when they are in the presence of Russian speakers, even though Buryat is a state language in the republic equal in status to Russian, unfortunate survivals of the Soviet past that are continued by the political authorities and the educational system, the commentator says (

            “Unfortunately,” officials make a point that those who speak Russian will achieve more than those who speak Buryat, and teachers of Russian promote their subject in ways that give rise to Russian chauvinism and extremism, while teachers of Buryat avoid pushing their language forward fearful as a result of their own time in Russian classes of being denounced as nationalists.

            This is one of the bad survivals of the Soviet past, Bazarov says, and it like the others must be fought. Among other survivals that must be fought is the idea that everyone is exactly the same, the idea that one language is superior to another, and the notion that the political system in Moscow is better than any other.

            The people of Buryatia “mistakenly think that if they return the name of the republic then Outer Mongolia (Khalka Mongolia) will have pretensions to Buryad-Mongolia.”  But that is nonsense: “small countries do not even begin to think about pretensions to gigantic countries. They have no such possibilities.”

            The Buryat commentator makes two additional proposals. On the one hand, he says, Buryad-Mongol should be written with a “d” not a “t” as many have if the Buryats are to recover their historical name.  And on the other, they must stress their commonality not only with the Khalka Mongols but also with the Kazakhs and Kalmyks, both of whom are the Mongols.

            That image of an expansive Mongol community, especially in this year of the 750th anniversary of the Golden Horde, will spread even more terror among some Russians than the name change Bazarov wants to promote. That he is doing so suggests there is more interest in that community and in the old name than most analysts have allowed.

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