Saturday, February 29, 2020

Moscow Still Fighting UNPO, the Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 24 – The Unrecognized Nations and Peoples Organization, which was founded by among others the late Estonian scholar Linnart Mäll and played a key role in the national movements within the USSR at the end of that empire’s existence, continues to be a thorn in the side of the Russian government.

            On the one hand, Moscow has worked very hard and, in many cases, successfully to force activists from territories under its control to leave the group, IdelReal’s Ramazan Alpaut says. But on the other, the group continues to issue damning reports on Russian government actions in occupied Crimea and against the non-Russians in Russia (

            The group was formally established in the Hague in February 1991 by representatives of Australian aborigines, Armenia, the Crimean Tatars, Eastern Turkestan Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Tibet, Taiwan, Tatarstan, Abkhazia, Assyria, and other groups without their own statehood who are oppressed by others.

            While it remains committed to representing the unrepresented and to the defense of the rights of such groups, its membership has changed over time as some have gained independence and others have been subject to even more intense pressure from the states within whose borders they exist.

            At present, Alpaut reports, there are approximately 40 members, including Abkhazia, Eastern Turkestan, Southern Azerbaijan, Catalonia, the Lezgins and the Crimean Tatars. Significantly, none of the peoples of the Middle Volga are represented, “although this was not always the case,” the journalist and commentator says.

            The Tatars and Maris were represented in it from 1991 to 2008, the Udmurts from 1993 to 2013, the Chuvash from 1993 to 2008, and the Bashkirs from 1996 to 1998.  Other peoples within the current borders were also represented but no longer are, either because they can’t afford the dues or in most cases because Moscow doesn’t want them in.

            The Buryats were members from 1996 to 2010, the Chechens from 1991 to 2010 the Circassians from 1994 to 2015, the Ingush from 1994 to 2008, the Tuvans from 1996 to 2009, the Sakha from 1993 to 1998, and the Kumyks from 1997 to 2008. Of peoples within Russia, only the Lezgins of Daghestan are still members.

            But if Moscow has been successful in forcing the non-Russians out of UNPO, it has not been able to block the organization from issuing statements decrying its repression. Among those were UNPO’s findings that Russia was behind the death of Crimean Tatar activist Vedzhe Kashka ( and that Moscow’s language policy violates international norms (

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