Sunday, August 23, 2020

Ufa has Transformed Environmental Protest into National Movement, Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 18 – Both by its duplicity in handling the Bashkir protest against development of the Kushtau mountain and by its repressive actions against Ayrat Dilmukhametov, Ufa has transformed an environmental protest into a national movement, something its leaders have built on via their own telegram channel, Vadim Sidorov says. 

            The Bashkirs wanted to save the Kushtau mountain from mining and development, assembled a large protest, and forced the head of Bashkortostan to promise not to allow anything to go forward until a compromise was worked out. They celebrated but too soon, the commentator says, because Rady Khabirov had betrayed them (

            Hardly had he left the place where the protesters were assembled, the Ufa leader ordered his siloviki to begin harassing and arresting Bashkir activists and clearly signaled that the development of Kushtau would go ahead as planned.   By his duplicity, Khabirov lost any support he may have had and Bashkirs were radicalized.

            They recognized that “they must struggle not for the improvement of the existing order but for its cardinal change, in the first instance, for the right of the people of Bashkortostan to independently, in free and competitive elections, choose a republic head who will defend the interests of its residents and not the Kremlin and thieving colonial capital,” Sidorov says.

            Khabirov’s timing could hardly have been worse: His betrayal of the protesters at Kushtau took place as the trial against prominent Bashkir activist Ayrat Dilmukhametov began, an activist who faced up to 12 years in prison for supposedly advocating secession and whose sentence is expected before the end of this month.

            Not only has Dilmukhametov given a face to the Bashkir protests, but it has come out that the order for his persecution came not from Ufa but from Moscow, thus underscoring the sense Bashkirs have that they are a colony and not currently in control of their own destiny (

            Bashkir activists have brought these two issues together and spread the word to others by launching their own telegram channel -- – using the Belarusian telegram channel Nexta as their model. It now has almost 30,000 subscribers, including many in Moscow who in the past rarely have paid much attention to Bashkortostan.

            This combination of official duplicity and thuggishness, on the one hand, and clever use of social media by the population, on the other, may very well mean that Bashkortostan will become the next “hot spot” in Russia rather than the afterthought it has so often been. That is likely to become clear when sentence is handed down against Dilmukhametov.

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