Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Shoygu -- but Not THAT Shoygu -- Says Tuvans Subject to Discrimination in Russian Army

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 11 – Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu, who is half Tuvan ethnically, has frequently asserted that there is no ethnic discrimination in the Russian military and that all past problems with abuse of soldiers of one nationality or region by soldiers from another is a thing of the past.

            But now a Tuvan draftee also named Shoygu has said that he has been discriminated against in the army and that five other Tuvans have as well. Because of their shared name and the risk that this could grow into a genuine scandal, the draftee’s case has attracted widespread attention in the media and a visit by Tuvan representatives to his unit in Yaroslavl Oblast.

            The Russian media have hastened to point out that the draftee and the minister despite a common last name are not related and that the authorities are investigating and will take whatever measures are warranted (,,,, and

            But besides the name the draftee shares with the minister, three other things make this case worthy of note. First, the draftee made his complaints on social media; and they spread from there to the regular electronic outlets. Second, even before the claims were verified, Tuvan and military officials were on the case, concerned someone might accuse them of inaction.

            And third – and far and away the most important – this case, the way it arose, and the speed and scope of reaction underscores that Russian officials are worried about a recrudescence of dedovshchina in the Russian military lest it lead to broader ethnic clashes, something ever more likely as the percentage of non-Russians in the ranks increases. 

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