Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Kremlin’s One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Repressing Non-Russians May Backfire Prompting Them to Unite against Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 25 – Tatarstan activists say that Moscow’s moves against VTOTs follow a similar set of moves against Bashkir nationalists and show that Moscow’s “logic” is as follows: Once one declares Bashkirs extremists, then it is required that the same approach be pursued with regard to Tatars (

            Given the enormous diversity of the population of the Russian Federation, it is no surprise that Vladimir Putin, committed as he is to centralization and homogenization has adopted this approach. From his perspective, it is the only reasonable position at least within macro-regions like the Middle Volga.

            But it carries with it two risks which the Kremlin leader does not appear to be aware of. On the one hand, it is perhaps the clearest indication yet that Moscow under Putin intends to destroy whatever rights republics had under the nominally federal system that the constitution proclaims but that Moscow does not respect.

            And on the other, by so doing, it is likely to lead ever more non-Russians to see that they have a common interest in opposing what Moscow is trying to do to them. They have already expressed common views on the denigration of non-Russian languages. They may now form a common front against the new wave of repression.

            In the current environment, that could in turn mean that the non-Russians will become an ever more important component of the pro-Navalny, anti-Putin movement, even though many non-Russians remain skeptical about the opposition leader. For them as a group, Putin is the greater threat, and Navalny promises to be the lesser evil.

            Given that non-Russians now form a quarter or more of the population of the Russian Federation, such a development could add real clout to the rising opposition movement. It could also prompt Navalny and his supporters to adopt a more supportive attitude toward the rights of non-Russians  and non-Russian republics.

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