“When I studied in school,” Romanov says, “we had in our class not a few Tatars, Bashkirs, Ukrainians, Kazakhs and Jews. [But] we are then all recorded as Russians.” He adds that while his name is Romanov, he is fact his of mixed ethnicity: his mother was a Ukrainian deported from Western Ukraine during de-kulakization, while his father “was from the North.”
If there were to be “an honest census of the population” with a nationality line, the regionalist continues, “it would turn out that ethnic Russians are not the titular nation in the Urals. Urals residents are a multi-national people, and its flourishing will begin only with its independence.”
Such an attitude represents a dual challenge to the Kremlin. On the one hand, it means that members of all the different groups Moscow counts as separate nationalities may now think of themselves primarily in regionalist terms and are ready to work together as such, limiting the center’s ability to play divide and rule tactics against them.
And on the other, it means that many of the regions whom many dismiss as unlikely candidates for separatist movements may be able to form them if their populations think more in these regional terms than in ethnic ones, a likely possibility given the weakness of Russian identity in many places and the number of residents of mixed ethnicity in even more.