Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Some Sakha Officials Want Children of Ethnically Mixed Marriages to Be Listed as Members of Neither Parent's Nationality

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 29 – In Soviet times, officials promoted ethnically mixed marriages between ethnic Russians and non-Russians on the assumption that most of the offspring would identify as Russians and thereby help unify the country’s population. Since 1991, officials have been less open about this in part because their preferred goal hasn’t always happened.

            Instead of identifying with Russians, many children of ethnically mixed marriages especially in the republics identify with the locally dominant nationality even if they continue to use Russian as their primary language. That has prompted some, like Academician Valery Tishkov, to press for allowing the listing of more than one nationality in the census.

            His efforts in that regard have been viewed by many non-Russians as nothing more than a way to reduce their numbers and boost that of the ethnic Russians, and they have called him out on that with such vigor that census officials at least so far have not been willing to adopt his proposal.

            But now another idea has surfaced, one that neither Russian nationalists nor non-Russian nationalists are likely to be entirely happy about. Some officials in Sakha, Yandex’ EthnoGeo page says, want to identify children of marriages between Slavs (Russians and Ukrainians) and Sakha not as Russians or Sakha but as members of a separate people altogether.

            In the language of the Russian Federation census, they would be classed as “members of other nationalities,” the category for the large number of numerically small peoples whose numbers are often not counted on the combined census returns. If that were done, the non-Russians might lose membership but the Russians wouldn’t gain any.

            In an article entitled “A New Russian Ethnos,” EthnoGeo discusses what is calls the impressive number of ethnically mixed marriages in Sakha and the especially beautiful nature of the offspring. There, such people are referred to as Sakhalyar, a word in Sakha which means “metis” (

            The article suggests that “many Sakhalyar are educated in both Sakha and Russian traditions,” although it concedes that “by their mentality, they are all the same closer to the Sakha, which in general doesn’t elicit any surprise. In most cases, such people master the two languages beautifully – and the Sakharlyar are really beauties!”


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