Staunton, January 7 – The long New Year’s holiday in the Russian Federation and its former Soviet neighbors has often been a period when officials or others release statistics that at least some of them might prefer no one pay much attention to or -- worse -- reflect upon the broader implications of the numbers.
This year is no exception. Among the flood of number the past week, three stand out: Daghestan has discovered 199 villages it did not officially know it had, Tajikistan has succeeded in getting its nationals who were illegally studying in Islamist medrassahs abroad to return home, and Russian women in the Far East are marrying Chinese men in ever increasing numbers.
In Daghestan, the largest republic in the North Caucasus, officials have discovered 199 population points with 80,000 people living in them that Makhachkala had never registered as existing. It is one thing for a government to lose track of an individual, but it would seem to be quite another for it to lose track of entire villages (regnum.ru/news/economy/1882640.html).
At least some of these settlements in the valleys of that republic consist of herders who have been bringing their flocks down from the mountains for years and are registered, if one can say that, as part of villages in the mountains. But suddenly discovering that there are this many in the valleys, the part of Daghestan its center has the most effective control, is unnerving.
According to the Regnum.ru news agency, these newly discovered villages “have been included in the register of population points of Daghestan.” But it noted in its report on this development yesterday that Makhachkala officials had not indicated what the status of these places would be in terms of the federal law on local self-administration.
Meanwhile, in Tajikistan, the Committee for the Affairs of Religion announced that Dushanbe had succeeded in getting 2896 of some 3,054 Tajiks who were illegally studying in Islamist medrassahs abroad to return home, something it presented as a great triumph (centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1420555560).
It would be if it were not for two unwelcome realities the committee chose to ignore at its press conference. On the one hand, its success was achieved by reducing the number of those studying abroad without permission others said were doing so. For background, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2012/01/window-on-eurasia-tajikistan-brings.html.
And on the other, the committee did not say what was going to happen with those who have received Islamic training and Islamist indoctrination abroad. Given that it says there are only 23 religious organizations in the country which has a population of more than eight million, most of whom are Muslims, that is a serious issue.
At least some of the returnees Dushanbe is now celebrating are likely to become informal unregistered mullahs and push their brand of Islam at a time and in a place which is already unstable and which faces the very real threat of Islamist forces coming over the border from Afghanistan.
Given that possibility, Dushanbe may regret this success because within it are the seeds of a larger failure – at least in the short term.
Finally, data from the Russian Far East show that intermarriage between Chinese and Russians is “much greater than anyone could have supposed,” according to a Chinese website directed at Russians and Russian speakers (russian.china.org.cn/exclusive/txt/2015-01/05/content_34476900.htm).
While it gives no specific statistics, the site says that “according to data for 2004 through 2012, the number of Chinese men who married Russian women is almost twice as large as the number of Chinese women who chose to marry Russian men.”
In part that reflects the gender imbalance that Beijing’s one-child policy has produced – among the prime marriage age cohort, there are now a disproportionate number of men – and consequently, Chinese men are searching for wives wherever they can find them, including in Russia.
But according to the site, other factors are at work as well: “Chinese men,” it says, “are romantic and not many of them can be said to suffer from ‘male chauvinism.’ After marriage, they are concerned about their family and strictly follow the principles of respect. Moreover, they drink relatively little.”
“Such qualities,” it continues, “attract Russian girls,” especially in the Far East where they see “broader prospects” for themselves in China than in Russia. For many Russians, who have long assumed that they are destined to be forever an assimilating rather than assimilated nation, that may be the most disturbing fact of all.