Staunton, May 22 – Since becoming president, Vladimir Putin has sought to amalgamate smaller non-Russian republics with larger and predominantly ethnic Russian krays ostensibly to simplify the administration of the country and end any chance that the non-Russia republics could play the same role in Russia’s future that the union republics played in ending the USSR.
But Nikolay Bratenkov, a former deputy on the State Council of Komi, the latest republic to be targeted for amalgamation argues that the underlying reason behind Putin’s actions in support of mergers and his moves against non-Russian languages is a desire to promote “the complete Russification of Russia” (idelreal.org/a/30628678.html).
The Komi nation is totally opposed to losing its republic status as a result of amalgamation with Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Nenets Autonomous District and is prepared to protest against it. At the very least, the Komi will vote against the acting governor in the September elections if he gives any hint that he supports that idea.
And they will be supported in this by other non-Russians who can see that amalgamation is part and parcel of the current Kremlin policy which calls for “the complete Russification of Russia.” In recent years, the Kremlin has moved ever more directly against the non-Russians in order to “Russify” them, that is, to assimilate them completely to the Russian nation.
Bratenkov’s words undoubtedly reflect the attitude of many Komi and other non-Russians. And the attitudes behind them should serve as a warning to the Kremlin that its policy will backfire: any attempt to Russify culturally and not just Russianize linguistically will produce a backlash.
That is why sophisticated Soviet leaders like Lenin avoided a direct assault on the non-Russians lest they create an explosive situation that they could not control. Putin has denounced Lenin for his support for the non-Russian republics failing to see that this was a compromise necessary to hold the empire together.
And consequently, if Bratenkov is right and if others agree with him, Putin has apparently decided to go for broke and assimilate the non-Russians, thus creating the conditions for exactly the kind of explosion Lenin avoided by supporting albeit without particular enthusiasm non-Russian identities and setting up union and autonomous republics.
Such a policy may win Putin support from the hurrah patriots; but it may very well cost him his country and thus his job.