Sunday, August 8, 2021

Putin Further Alienating Non-Russians inside Russia by His Stance on Ukraine, Kyiv Official Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 2 – Anton Drobovich, head of the Ukrainian Institute for National Memory, says that Vladimir Putin’s stance on Ukraine as reflected in his latest article is having a negative impact on non-Russians within the Russian Federation and will come back “like a boomerang” on Moscow.

            In an essay of his own released in both Ukrainian and Tatar and now also available in Russian, Drobovich argues that is not only because non-Russians inside Russia routinely draw parallels between Moscow’s approach to the former union republics, seeing in it a harbinger of what Moscow plans for them.

(For Drobovich’s article in Tatar and Ukrainian as originally released, see and; for a translation into Russian of significant portions of it, see

The Ukrainian official says that Ukrainians and Tatars in particular have close links because of the many parallels in their history; but he says he won’t “anger Putin by speaking about ‘the historical unity of Ukrainians and Tatar,” despite their being at least if not more reason to do so than Putin’s claims about Russians and Ukrainians being one people.

“Like any empire,” Drobovich says, “Russia has employed carrots and sticks. It destroyed some Ukrainians and Tatars and drove other abroad. It raised a third to high ranks, glory and wealth. Naturally, these imperial benefits were distributed in exchange for loyalty and rejection of each’s national identity.”

“At the start of the 20th century,” he continues, “Ukrainians and Tatars practically simultaneously created their own republics. This was no accident or someone’s whim. It was the realization of a popular effort to live freely in their own country.” Ukraine had more luck because it had an external border but then it suffered even more as Moscow restored control.

According to Drobovich, Ukrainians “recognize that Tatars and others are hostages and tools of the imperial policy of Moscow, just as Ukrainians sometimes were hostages and tools during the USSR intervention in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan.” But Ukrainians also know on their own experience that this use will backfire.

And they know that the more oppressive Moscow is with regard to language, culture and autonomy, the more resistance among the Tatars and all the other non-Russian peoples will grow. Moscow may win some battles by reducing the number of people who speak the non-Russian languages; but over time, it will lose the war with them as it has with Ukraine.

Drobovich argues that Moscow’s repression against non-Russians within its current borders has another consequence: it is “yet another argument as to why Ukraine must keep itself as distant from Moscow as possible.”

Given how serious and direct an attack this Ukrainian article is on Putin and his position, it is striking that Moscow has not chosen to respond with all the brutality it normally employs in such situations. But there is a good reason, several experts with whom Ramazan Alpaut of the Idel-Real portal spoke (

Drobovich’s words are so potentially explosive that the Kremlin has concluded it is better not to attract more attention to what it is doing in both places, given that both non-Russians inside Russia and non-Russians outside would only have more reason to be convinced of the correctness of Drobovich’s argument – and the falsity of Putin’s.

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