Monday, November 30, 2020

Chechens Likely to Overtake Bashkirs and Chuvash as Fourth Largest Nationality in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 27 – The all-Russian census now slated to occur in April 2021 is likely to upend the rankings of the non-Russian peoples as far as size is concerned, with some declining significantly and others showing an increase, Ruslan Gabbasov says, arguing that distance from Moscow and religion are the most important factors explaining this trend.

            Those peoples in the Middle Volga who practice Islam – the Tatars and the Bashkirs – may decline but far less than those in that region who remain animist or have adopted Russian Orthodoxy and find it easier to assimilate to the Russians, the Bashkort activist continues (

The Muslim peoples in the North Caucasus are, with the exception of the Circassians, mostly increasing, with the Chechens on tract to overtake the Bashkirs and Chuvash as the fourth largest nationality in the Russian Federation. But religion is not the only factor that explains what is occurring, he says.

Geography matters as well. “If national republics are geographically far from the center of Russia, then the number of their peoples despite the demographic hole the entire country finds itself is growing. And contrarywise, if the national republics are located in ‘the nucleus’ of the country and surrounded by other oblast with predominantly Russian population, the number of the indigenous peoples of the republics is declining.”

That is why some nationalities in Siberia and the Russian Far East are doing better than one might otherwise expect, even when as in the case of the Tuvins, the Buryats and the Sakha, they do not have the advantage of being Muslims who are more traditional with regard to family size and less susceptible to assimilation.

There is little question, Gabbasov says, that fewer Bashkirs will be enumerated in the upcoming census. They aren’t growing in any region as a result of “several interconnected factors” – the economic crisis, unemployment, and lack of confidence in the future, all of which are generating alcoholism, suicides, divorces, and decisions to have fewer children.

Moreover, ever more young Bashkirs are putting off starting a family until they have made a career in Moscow, St. Petersburg or the Russian North; and when they do decide to have children, it is too late to have more than one or two. Neither Ufa nor the World Bashkir Kurultay has been able to convince them to do otherwise.

The Bashkir republic government has failed as well to attract Bashkirs back to the republic or to promote economic development so that Bashkirs will have more reason to have more children sooner. Instead, Ufa has obsessed about the issue of whether Bashkirs will be counted as Tatars in the northwestern portion of the republic.

That is a problem, but it is minor compared to all the other issues, Gabbasov says. And the focus on it appears designed to suggest the regime cares when its failure to act in other areas shows that it doesn’t (cf.

“Today,” the activist says, “it is very important that the upcoming census be conducted honestly” so that Bashkirs do not continue to deceive themselves about the extent of their decline. If the numbers are falsified this time, by the following census, it may be too late to turn things around and save the Bashkir nation.

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