Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ethnic Russians Must Be a Majority in Every Federation Subject, Yermolov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 3 – The deteriorating situation of ethnic Russians in Tyva and their flight to other parts of Russia, Sergey Yermolov argues, require that all non-Russian republics be suppressed and the borders of all federation subjects be redrawn so that ethnic Russians form a majority of the population in them.

            The Russian nationalist commentator’s proposals, which go beyond anything Vladimir Putin has called for, suggest that the current crisis has emboldened some Russians to call for an even more radical redrawing of borders, one that would likely trigger an explosion of non-Russian nationalism across the country (

            Yermolov’s 7,000-word article, entitled “Tyva, Yet Another Republic Where Ethnic Russians are Disappearing,” not only provides a detailed history of Tuva both before and during Soviet times but traces the ethnic conflicts of 1989-1992 which led to the massive outflow of ethnic Russians and a dramatic increase in Tuvan nationalism.

            According to the Russian nationalist commentator, “the situation of ethnic Russians in this sad federation subject has remained a forbidden topic.” Indeed, he says, Moscow scholars routinely gloss over the situation and say things are “completely favorable and stable” (, an evaluation local Russians reject.

            He quotes one who says that Russians “are considered a lower race. We can be stolen from, denigrated, and even killed and no one wants to defend us.”  The only solution that Russian says he has is to flee the republic, if someone beyond its borders will only provide him with the money to do.

            And Yermolov says that independent Russian scholars who have visited Tyva are more inclined to accept the evaluations offered by local Russians than those put out by the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology in Moscow.  He offers as an example the conclusions of Roman Silantyev in May 2009 as presented at

            But the clearest evidence of the situation Russians find themselves in in Tyva is Russian flight: In 1989, they formed 32 percent of the population; in 2010, 16.3 percent. And everything suggests that the Tyvans will continue to gain because they have the highest birthrate among titular nationalities of the non-Russian republics, albet one somewhat reduced by higher than average death rates and a life expectancy of only 62 years from birth.

            Yermolov says that if that continues, then “Russophobia in the republic will disappear as it has in Chechnya for entirely natural reasons: there simply won’t be anyone left to hate.”

            Moscow should be especially worried not only about nationalism and crime in Tyva but also about what he describes as the deteriorating situation there because of Chinese interest in the land. Many Chinese still view Tyva as part of their patrimony and even show it as a Chinese possession on some maps. 

            What should Moscow be doing?  According to Yermolov, it needs to take five steps. “The first and most obvious and not only in the case of Tyva is the suppression of the insane Soviet survival of the past under the title ‘national republics.’” But eliminating them is not enough: Moscow must redraw borders so that non-Russians are never a majority in any entity regardless of what it is called.

            Second, he says, the Russian authorities must end “any government support for local national identity.” Third, there must be a detailed study of all cases of “the genocide of ethnic Russians in Tyva” and the unishment of the guilty, “not just the street-level murderes but also the bureaucrats.”

            Fourth, Moscow must develop the transportation system in such a way that Tyva will develop more quickly and so that it will be more integrated into the Russian economy.  And fifth, Moscow must insist on the restoration of all Russian toponyms, such as Belotsarsky for Kyzy and Verkhne-Nikolsk for Bay-Khaak.

            It is difficult to imagine any other combination of ideas that would do more to exacerbate ethnic feelings in the republic and lead to exactly the opposite effect that those proposing it have in mind.

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