Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Putin’s Readiness to Recognize Ainu as a Numerically Small People Likely to Spark Demands from Others

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 17 – Vladimir Putin’s casual response to a question that he is ready to recognize the Ainu as an indigenous numerically small people who will thus qualify to receive special state subsidies may appear to have little cost: After all, there are only 105 Ainu living in the Russian Federation now. Most Ainu live in Japan, making them a special case of a kind.

            Consequently, the direct costs of extending benefits to them will be microscopically small; but Putin’s willingness to give them this status, a readiness he expressed at the Presidential Human Rights Council when he also said he favored simplifying the process by which groups can gain this recognition, entails a more serious risk (

            There are many numerically small peoples who would like to claim this status and these benefits but they have been prevented from doing so by a bureaucratic procedure that makes getting these things inherently difficult.  But now certainly more groups will seek it, especially as some Russians living among them are seeking these things as well. (On that, see

            Now that Putin has suggested that the Ainu can get the status and the benefits on the basis of a simple request by a member of his human rights council, others can be counted on to try the same route. And if they are turned down, they are certain to be angry over something they might not have been had it not appeared that Putin was willing to make these concessions.

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