Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Ethnic Russian Majority Consists of Other Nations who’ve Had Their Languages, Cultures and Identities Taken from Them, Kostyuchenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 14 – “The ‘ethnic Russian’ majority in many regions of the Russain Federation,” Grigory Kostyuchenko points out, consists of “in fact of smaller peoples who as a result of the policy of unification [that the Russian state has conducted] have lost their languages, distinctive cultures and identities.”

            The fact that so many of these peoples are only completely assimilated inevitably raises the question at least in Siberia and the Russian Far East, the Novosibirsk economist and translator says, of whether it might be possible for these smaller peoples to regain their independent standing as nations (

            “If the Siberians will have the chance to independently conduct their economic relations and establish their own tariff policy,” Kostyuchenko says, “Siberia soon will become an independent economic and political subject;” and many currently submerged nations will re-emerge to take their place in the sun.

            According to the Novosibirsk scholar who has specialized in research on the indigenous peoples of Siberia, “Moscow historiography up to now imposes the myth that Russians colonized some ‘unpopulated spaces’ or that there were at most some kind of ‘backward tribes.” In reality, there were “a multitude of various state and proto-state formations.”

            These “principalities,” Kostyuchenko continues, “must not be called ‘primitive proto-states as is customary today in Moscow academic circles” because they had developed to a level comparable to other state formations at the time they existed economically, militarily and politically.

            Because of that experience, “such ethnoses as the Khanty, the Selkups and the Evens preserve their distinctions from one another, but as a result of the unifying propaganda [emanating from Moscow] many of them do not view themselves as independent peoples. Who have the right to define their local policy as party of an active civil society.”

            In order for effective self-administration among ethnic Selkups, Khants, Mansi and Siberian Tatars, he argues, these people need to “turn to the history of these small peoples in their states.” Redeveloping their self-consciousness will in fact represent “the first step to the regional self-administration of Siberia.”

            Kostyuchenko’s argument is important because it represents a rare case in which a Russian analyst acknowledges that the relationship between ethnic self-consciousness and regional governance is critical and that the Russian nation, which has sought to assimilate many, is less of a unity than many Russians and many others believe.

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