Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ethnic Balance Shifting Against Russians in Far North

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 20 – The number of members of the numerically small peoples of the North are increasing as are people from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, India and Ukraine while the number of ethnic Russians there is falling, fundamentally shifting the ethnic balance in that critical region.

            Flera Sokolova, a religious specialist at the Northern Arctic Federal University, says as a result of emigration and excess deaths over births, the number of ethnic Russians in the Russian Arctic has fallen by 26.3 percent, while the number of the numerically small non-Russian nations has increased by 23.3 percent (

                (Specifically, she says, the numbers of ten of these groups – the Dolgans, the Nents, the selkups, the Khants, the Chukchis, the Evenks, the Evens, the Entsy, the Eskimos and the Yukagirs – have gone up, while the number of others – the Kets, Nganasans, Saamis, Chuvans, Chulymtsy, and Kereks – have continued to fall.)

            The changing ethnic balance in the region has been amplified by the influx of others from the Caucasus, Central Asia, and further afield.  To date, this has not led to major inter-ethnic clashes – this is a territory “with a low level of ethnic conflict potential.” But “there are several potential threats,” including those that may set non-Russians and Russians at odds.

            The efforts of some from within the Russian community to identify as Pomors and to have that identity recognized as one of the numerically small peoples of the North has divided both Russians and non-Russians, Sokolova says. 

            Another threat is “a split between the indigenous population” which includes both Russians and the non-Russian numerically small peoples and those who have arrived recently is perhaps more urgent because those who have come in typically take jobs the others might get and have higher incomes, Sokolova says. 

            As a result, the declining size of the ethnic Russian population “includes within itself a threat of growing ethnic separateness” and may mean that Moscow will no longer have the ally it once had in “guaranteeing the defense of the national interests of the country” in the increasingly important Far North.

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