Staunton, June 12 – Even Vladimir Putin repeats as mantras the idea that “the variety of nationalities and ethnic cultures is our wealth” and that “our strength is in our diversity,” ideological positions that represent perhaps the last defense of the non-Russian nationalities living within the borders of the Russian Federation.
Such declarations, according to Roman Yushkov, a geographer at Perm State University, have become so frequent and customary that Russians long ago “stopped noticing” just how “idiotic” they are and how not even the people who routinely invoke them actually believe what they are saying (www.apn.ru/opinions/article33640.htm).
“If our strength were really in our multi-national population,” the scholar continues, “then why is it that we are at the same time forced to declare that the enemies of Russia are trying to divide us along nationality lines, driving wedges between nations” living in the Russian Federation.
Does that mean, he asks, that “despite everything we say, diversity in fact is our weakness [as] clearly our enemies are not fools?”
Indeed, Yushkov says, “if our wealth really is basedon the diversity of nations and cultures, then certainly we should immediately launch a federal program to increase ethnic diversity!” And we should create in Russia “diasporas of some kind of Pushtuns, Bushmen, Apache Indians, Zulus, Pigmees, and Tutsis.”
Such a strategy is nonsensical, but so is the idea on which it is based, the geographer continues. In fact, as history and international experience teaches, “a homogenous monolithic system by definition is firmer, and the methods of administering it are simpler and more universal.”
“Perhaps,” he says, “the Georgian authorities who are seeking to displace, assimilate and unite into a single Georgian nation their Mingrelians, Svans, Ajars, Kartvels, and Lazes are acting wisely?” For Russia, such questions are not easy but they represent “a fateful choice in the spheres of administration, culture, ethnic policy and geopolitics.”
Given this, “do we need, for example, to Russify the Finno-Ugric peoples or should be following the Soviet model continue to invest government money in the support of their ethno-cultural and political distinctiveness and thus slow down their assimilation?”
Consider the Komi-Permyaks, he suggests. “Racially, they are indistinguishable from Russians. Over the course of four centuries of active involvement, they have been drawn to the Russians and oriented on their cultural models. The Komi-Permyaks do not have any nationalists who are demanding something from us.”
But despite that, the geographer says, “Perm kray year after year continues to spend millions of rubles in support of the Komi-Permyak cultural and identification differentiation. Even in the framework of the Program for the promotion of the harmonization of inter-ethnic relations, this is on its face absurd.”
Nonetheless, Yushkov continues, “Russia is acting in the same way with the Komis, the Udmuts, the Maris, the Wepsies, the Khants, the Manis, the Karelians and the Mordvins. Why?! So that on one fine historic day, someone will play the Finno-Ugric card in the same way the Ukrainian issue is now being played, by convincing the Udmurts about their eternal oppression by the Russians and blow us up from the inside?”
“The situation is simple,” he argues. Russia has had to fight twice with Chechnya “but not with Pskov oblast and not with Krasnoyarsk kray. The greater the cultural distance from some group, the more probable problems with this group become. And the greater variety of the entire system as a whole, the weaker it is and the more likely to fall apart.”
Russians should end this nonsense and declare their country “a state of the Russian people.” If that doesn’t happen, the Perman geographer says, then there will be ever more “projects” of anti-Russian groups, including Pomors, Chaldons, Belarusians, Cossacks, and of course the Siberians.
(Yuzhkov notes that the Siberian movement today very much resembles that of the Ukrainians in the 19th century, something that should give Russians pause about how big things can come from small beginnings.)
The geographer insists that in calling for a Russian nation state, he isn’t calling for “the forced Russification of all and sundry. That would be completely wrong especially since pressure gives rise to resistance. The very same de-Ukrainianization on the liberated territories of Novorossiy and Malorossiya must be conducted gradually.”
“All incorrigible fanatics of Ukrainianism, Finno-Ugrianism, Chuvashism and other small cultures can continue to peacefully assemble and publish – but exclusively on their own and not with money from abroad! – their brochures about ancient roots, as they gradually marginalize themselves and die out under the supervision of the state.”
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