Sunday, December 31, 2017

Non-Russians Increasing Their Share in Most Republics of Russian Federation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 29 – Most of the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation are recapitulating the pattern of the non-Russian union republics at the end of Soviet times: the share of the titular nationalities in their populations is growing as is their representation in key positions as a result of higher birthrates and Russian flight.

            That pattern helps to explain why Vladimir Putin has launched his attacks on the republics and especially on their power to require residents to study the local languages in schools, one of the major reasons Russians point to in explaining why they want to leave and a major contributing factor to the growth of non-Russian power in these places.

            Indeed, and again just like at the end of Soviet times when Mikhail Gorbachev ordered an ethnicity blind approach to filling top jobs, the non-Russians may take losses in the short term but win over the latter, achieving their victories as some Central Asians said at the time not in open politics but in closed bedrooms.

            This possibility is suggested by an article by Oleg Polishchuk from earlier this year that Kyiv’s Delovaya stolitsa portal has reissued now as one of the most widely discussed from its pages during 2017 (

            Entitled “The Unnoticed Ethnocide. Where the Russians are Disappearing in Russa,” the article points out that while ethnic Russians may dominate the population of the country as a whole, they increasingly are again declining as a share of the population and of the occupants of key positions in the non-Russian republics – just as they did at the end of Soviet times.

            In the North Caucasus, these trends have been especially stark, Polishchuk says.  “Over the past 25 years, the number of ethnic Russians living in Chechnya has fallen approximately 250,000 while the number of Chechens in the republic has increased by half a million. The same pattern holds elsewhere, and “’the Russian question’” as a result has disappeared as it were.

            In Daghestan, those few cities with ethnic Russian majorities now are dominated by non-Russians, and the Russians in the republic as a whole now constitute at 3.6 percent of the population only the eighth largest nationality there.  Elsewhere in the North Caucasus, the same pattern holds.

            If in Soviet times, ethnic Russians formed “almost half” of the population of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, now they form less than a third; and the Russian third in Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia over the last two decades has been reduced to only one-fifth of the total.”

            Among Mongol groups, the Kalmyks have risen from minority status to majority and now fill “practically all” the key positions in that republic. Although the Buryats form just under a third of the population now, that is an improvement on the less than a quarter they did when the Soviet Union came apart.

            As far as the Siberian Turkic peoples are concerned, the situation resembles that of the North Caucasus. Since the 1990s, there has been a mass emigration of ethnic Russians from Tuva, and their numbers there, Polishchuk says, have fallen by half. The Tuvins control all the key posts in the republic.

            The Sakha, who as the Ukrainian writer points out were “never distinguished by particular tolerance toward Russians, have also improved their position. When they protested against “Russian conquerors” for three days in 1986, they formed 33 percent of the population while Russians formed 50 percent. Now, the Sakha form 50 percent, and the Russians only 38.

            In the Middle Volga, the embattled Tatars nonetheless form more than 50 percent of the population of the republic and control the overwhelming majority of key positions.  In Bashkortostan, the Bashkirs are still a minority but when they can cooperate with the Tatars, the two together outnumber the Russians 54 percent to 35 percent.

            The titular nationality is also gaining in Chuvashia, where this demographic develop has quietly inspired the members of that nation to expand their demands for linguistic and regional rights.

            The situation among the Finno-Ugrics in this regard is less bright, Polishchuk says. “The only republic where there has been a positive dynamic in favor of the indigenous people is Mordvinia. There the titular nation has increased slightly in numbers – by 20,000 – but its share of the total has risen dramatically because 130,000 Russians have left.

            In Mari El, the share of Russians has fallen slightly from 48 to 42 percent, but “in the remaining Finno-Ugric republics, the titular nations are dying out m ore rapidly than the local Russians.” As a result, only 28 percent of the people in Udmurtia are Udmurts; only 24 percent Komi Zyryans in Komi, and only seven percent Karels in Karelia.

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