Staunton, June 24 – Ethnic and Religious issues must become “a taboo for all political parties and figures in Russia,” Igor Barinov, head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, and the authorities must crack down “in the harshest possible way” to any violation of that official ban.
Barinov made this comment to TASS on Thursday at the conclusion of the Pyatigorsk conference on nationality policy. He said that he had no doubt that “’destructive forces’ are seeking to ‘shake the political situation in the country on a nationalistic basis” (tass.ru/politika/4358694 and nazaccent.ru/content/24479-glava-fadn-nacionalnaya-tematika-dolzhna-stat.html).
The nationalities official pointed out that “similar situations had been observed in previous election campaigns” and involve not only the presidential race but also political competitions within individual federal subjects. “Of course,” he continued, “this is a very dangerous tendency.”
Barinov’s words are important for two reasons. On the one hand, they suggest that the Kremlin is now prepared to adopt a much more repressive approach to any such discussion given that it has gotten away with harsher measures in a variety of other sectors of the Russian political landscape.
And on the other hand, his words also signal that Moscow is worried about ethnic issues and especially those within republics that might tear them apart, such as the remaining bi-national republics in the North Caucasus (Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria where Circassian activism is growing) and Daghestan which has been shaken of late by Nogay moves.