Saturday, April 30, 2016

Moscow’s Failure to React to Tajikistan’s De-Russification Said Reflection of Larger Problems

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – Neither Russian officials in Moscow nor the Russian embassy in Dushanbe have reacted to the latest efforts by Tajikistan to de-Russianize that country, although as Andrey Serenko points out, if Ukraine were doing the same thing, there would be widespread expressions of Russian outrage.

            In part, this is a reflection of “the cynical quality of the double standards of Russian policy in the post-Soviet space,” the political analyst writes on the Fergana portal, with Moscow always keeping track of the removal of Lenin statues in Ukraine but ignoring far more radical de-Sovietization and de-Russification elsewhere (

            But in part, it reflects something a much larger development: Moscow’s loss of influence over the media in Central Asia, a loss that has occurred because Russian officials have proved incapable of working effectively with journalists there and thus have conceded defeat without much of a fight, according to the Regnum news agency (

            Serenko notes that the Tajiks took down the last memorial to Lenin in their country already eight years ago and that last December they dismantled the 24-meter-high monument to Soviet power. If Ukraine had done this, the Russian media which have accused Kyiv of fascism, but “in the case with Tajikistan, there has been the silence of the grave.”

            Nor was there any Russian official reaction to the renaming of streets in the Tajikistan capital, to the elimination of all Russian-language signs and memorials, to the reduction of the number of hours of Russian language in the schools, to the requirement that Tajiks use their national language in contacts with officials, and to de-Russianizing their names.

            This last step and the absence of Russian reaction is especially troubling, Serenko says, because it means that ethnic Russians like the Ivanovs, Petrovs or Sidorovs who are Tajikistan citizens must either give up their Russian names or become “de facto second class people orthographically.”

            “The pragmatism of Russian policy in the near abroad, which is built on corrupt ties and personal accords with narrow ruling groups and which ignores real work with public opinion in the republics of the former USSR has already led to its collapse in Ukraine,” Serenko says. If Moscow continues this approach, it is going to lose its influence elsewhere as well.

            In an article on the Regnum news portal, Yevgeny Kim quotes Mikhail Petrushkov, the former representative of Central Asia in the World Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots says this reflects the inability or unwillingness of Russian officials in the embassies in Central Asia to work with the media in order to ensure that Russian themes reach a broad audience.

            According to Petrushkov, who lives in Tajikistan, the Russian embassy in Dushanbe has been anything but helpful to the local Russian community there and at the same time doesn’t take kindly to any criticism of its shortcomings which have contributed to Russia’s “surrender of positions” to anti-Russian and pro-Western outlets since 1991.

            “In Tajikistan now,” he continues, “there is not a single pro-Russian media outlet which gives the audience Moscow’s positions.”  And even those that sometimes publish pro-Moscow information also carry things like interviews with the Ukrainian ambassador who is anything but polite about Russia.

            This has consequences for Russia’s standing in Tajikistan, Petrushkov says. The older generation still has warm feelings for Russia and Russians, but the younger one “already does not see Russia as a friend.”  More needs to be done with television – there is only one Russian channel – and with the Internet.

            And it has to be careful about how it presents things. When Russians talk about the advantages of Eurasian integration, they also need to point up “the minuses” involved because “the worst thing of all is when expectations are raised and later are proved to be false,” Petrushkov continues. 

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