Sunday, December 18, 2016

‘Buryats are Accused of Separatism but the Main Separatists Now are Ethnic Russians’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 18 – Having overlearned the results of the demise of the USSR in 1991, many in Moscow and the West constantly look for signs of separatism among non-Russian nations within the borders of the Russian Federation. They exist, but as the AfterEmpire portal notes, “the main separatists” are ethnic Russians (

            They draw that conclusion on the basis of their own research and on the recognition of some in Moscow of that reality. In particular, they cite the argument of Aleksey Verkhoyantsev that “the absence of a supra-national idea is making the situation in the country extremely vulnerable” given that Siberians and others “willingly believe” Moscow is stealing what belongs to them (

            This problem, Verkhoyantsev says, “exists even in those regions where ethnic Russians form the majority” and that means that “the problem of separatism in Russia in the immediate future will bear not so much an ethnic as a social character,” with regions being played against the capital just as at the end of Soviet times.

            The AfterEmpire portal another article this past week that provides additional support for this conclusion. Yaroslav Zolotaryev traces the history of the “Siberian language” project, something those Moscow views as ethnic Russians but who see themselves as Siberians been promoting since 2005 (

                Inspired by Ukraine’s “orange revolution,” he and others sharing his views sought to promote a distinctly Siberian language, alphabet and culture in opposition to the Moscow-centric ones the powers that be have sought to impose country-wide. Not surprisingly, the Russian authorities fought back, shutting down websites and bringing criminal charges against some Siberian activists.

            These repressive actions by the Russian authorities have slowed the rise of this movement, Zolotaryev acknowledges; but they have not suppressed interest in the idea of a distinctive Siberian identity and in promoting the cultural and linguistic bases for its separate existence.

            Analogous phenomena of varying degrees of intensity exist in Novgorod, the Russian northwest, and even in regions around Moscow itself as the Russian government’s reaction shows.  And both they and the Kremlin’s moves against them deserve more attention than they typically receive. AfterEmpire is thus performing a real service by its reporting.

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