Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Reducing Nations to Ethnic Groups: Moscow’s New Tactic Against Turkic and Finno-Ugric Groups in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 27 – Vladimir Putin’s frontal attack against the non-Russian nations within the borders of the Russian Federation by eliminating the requirement that people who live in the republics study the language of the titular nationality has attracted widespread attention and condemnation by many non-Russians.

            But another tactic the Kremlin is employing has not: cutting off the two major language groups with ties to important co-ethnic countries abroad and promoting Russian rather than any other common language at meetings nominally devoted to promoting these groups, a “hybrid” attack designed to reduce these nations to Russian ethnic groups.

            As Ramazan Alpaut of the IdelReal portal points out, this approach was very much  in evidence at the just-completed Fourth Festival of Turkic Youth in Kazan where the Turkic peoples of Russia were represented but not Turkey and where the common language being promoted wasn’t Turkic but Russian (

            The meeting attracted some 70 participants from the following Turkic peoples -- the Chuvash, the Kazakhs, the Kryashens, the Bashkirs, the Nogays, the Balkars, the Karachays, the Kumyks, the Kyrgyz, the Altays, and the Crimean Tatars – and had as its common language Russian. 

            As a result, its sessions sent three messages: First, these groups should think of themselves not as part of a common Turkic world but as members of a more limited “Russian Turkic” one. Second, they should use Russian rather than any common Turkic tongue. And third, they should identify as ethnic groups rather than as ethno-territorial nations.

            Not only does that set the stage for the reduction in their status from nations to ethnic groups, using the notions of the Stalinist paradigm that still defines much of the thinking in Moscow, but it also is designed to set the stage for the destruction of the non-Russian republics and for the reduction of these proud nations to the status of Russian-speaking ethnic groups.

            Alpaut argues that the occasion for this shift was the cooling of relations between Moscow and Ankara after Turkey’s downing of a Russian plane, an event that led to the breaking off of most contacts between the two countries.  Since then, Moscow has worked to keep Turkic groups inside Russia and the CIS isolated from Turkey because of its views that Ankara will always pursue a pan-Turkic agenda.

            But how far Moscow is prepared to go, he continues, is suggested by what he calls “the Finno-Ugric precedent,” the set of policies the Russian government has pursued to prevent Russia’s numerous Finno-Ugric nations from falling into the orbit of the three independent Finno-Ugric countries, Finland, Hungary and Estonia.

            In the 1990s, the three Finno-Ugric countries created a set of institutions to reach out to Finno-Ugric groups inside the then more open Russian Federation. In response, Moscow created duplicate ones limited to the Finno-Ugrics of Russia and intended both to enhance Russian control and to allow Moscow to use these against the three Finno-Ugric states.

            As offensive weapons, the Moscow-organized groups largely failed; but they did promote the use of Russian rather than the Finno-Ugric languages and the notion that these peoples were not nations which should have their own territories but rather ethnic groups which do not merit such things.

            Partially as a result of this approach, the Finno-Ugric peoples of the Russian Federation have suffered a significant decline in the percentage of their members who speak their national languages – although the retention of ethnic identity even among new Russian-only speakers is high testifying to the importance of these nations for their members.

            It seems clear, Alpaut concludes, that the Turkic peoples face a similar “hybrid” attack now and can hardly count on Moscow to help them survive as nations.

No comments:

Post a Comment