Thursday, October 16, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Non-Russian Universities Attracting Co-Ethnics from Beyond Republic Borders

Paul Goble


            Staunton, October 16 – Higher and secondary educational institutions in Russia’s non-Russian republics are increasingly enrolling members of the national diasporas living beyond their borders, a development that is helping to preserve the national languages of these communities and also likely intensifying non-Russian identities.


            The latest evidence for this trend comes from the Middle Volga Finno-Ugric Republic of Mordvinia, where this academic year approximately 1300 graduates of schools from other Russian federal subjects are enrolled in its universities, technicums, and specialized secondary schools (


            This development and the desire of Mordvin officials to promote it were the subjects of a meeting of the working group of the Mordvin Republic’s Coordination Council for Demographic and Migration Policy.  


            Rafail Ashirov, the deputy chairman of the Republic State Assembly said that this year, there were 1022 students in Mordvin universities and 274 people enrolled in specialized secondary schools from 53 other federal subjects of the Russian Federation, figures that have doubled since 2008.


The largest contingents were from Nizhny Novgorod, which sent 341 students, Penza oblast, which sent 249, and Ulyanovsk oblast which sent 229. But there were also students from Moscow, St. Petersburg, the Yamalo-Nenets and the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous districts, and Krasnoyarsk kray.


No ethnic breakdown was given for these flows, but Anatoly Chushkin, the republic nationality policy minister, left no doubt that many of the students were Mordvins living beyond the borders of Mordvinia and that his republic is doing all it can to attract more of them as students.


“The representatives of the Mordvin diaspora, who live in the regions of Russia,” he said, “maintain a vital interest in our republic. For the preservation of Mordvin languages, the attraction of students from the diaspora plays an important role,” and to that end, the Mordvin government has reached out to these people.


Yury Mishanin, director of the Volga Center for the Cultures of Finno-Ugric Peoples, said that among these measures were the “Koy” ethno-schools that the republic had promoted in diaspora centers where upper classmen “receive information about the education institutions of Mordvinia” and meet with the rectors of the higher educational institutions.


Ashirov pointed out that this work is coordinated with the Mordvin national-cultural autonomies which now exist in “more than 40 regions of Russia.”  He concluded this week’s session by saying that the next step for Saransk is to “create conditions for graduates from the regions so that they will stay in Mordvinia to live and work.”




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