Saturday, January 7, 2017

How Moscow has Tried and Failed to Suppress the Siberian Language and Siberian Identity

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 7 – Yaroslav Zolotaryov, a prominent Siberian regionalist leader who headed the Council of the Siberian People until Russian officials forced it to shut down in 2013, says that Moscow has failed to suppress either the Siberian language or Siberian identity and that both will re-emerge stronger than ever when Vladimir Putin’s repressive regime weakens.

            In a commentary for the AfterEmpire portal, the Siberian regionalist points out that “the movement for a Siberian language was begun almost immediately after its appearance as a literary standard” and took the form first of all in a network of Internet communities (

                The movement was especially active a decade ago, with a Living Journal page real_siberian, a website , and a Siberian Wikipedia accountВикипедия_на_«сибирском_языке. But all were subject to hacker attacks and Russian government interference and either closed down and became inactive, Zolotaryov says.

            A new upsurge in Siberian identity and language activity occurred around the 2010 census when activists tried to force Russian census takers to record what Siberians said they were – Siberians – rather than reclassifying them as ethnic Russians. That effort was only partially successful.

            On the one hand, it led to the formation of a Council of the Siberian People which crafted a program before Moscow forced its closure. (For the program text, see; for Moscow’s moves to close it down, seeЗакрытие_Совета_сибирского_народа.)

                But on the other, activists had some limited success in getting their numbers registered as Siberians, even though again Moscow intervened to try to force the reclassification of all such people as ethnic Russians to boost the total of the latter. (On these competing efforts, see and

            According to Zolotaryov, “the measures the authorities have taken to suppress information about these issues are ineffective because the activity of the communities was only a manifestation of specific attitudes in society, including in Siberian society.” And closing down such discussions only drives things underground and makes any resolution more difficult.

            But the Siberian regionalist expresses confidence that “in the case of any weakening of the political censorship or the appearance of an occasion for discussion, one should expect a rapid rebirth of organized structures of the Siberian national movement, as has happened more than once in the past.”

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