Monday, September 6, 2021

You Can Change Your Name but Not Your Nationality, Siberian Told

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 6 – The actions of the Russian registration office in Krasnoyarsk strongly suggest that the authorities are taking a tougher line in advance of the census against anyone who wants to identify in regional terms and more generally against anyone who does not declare a nationality on the government-approved but secret list of approved nationalities.

            Several weeks ago, Siberian blogger Aleksey Krovogornitsyn visited the ZAGS office to declare that he wanted to change his family name to Tayganavt [Taiga-naught] and his nationality from Russian to Siberian. The clerk to whom he applied handed him back his document with the changes.

            But then he was called back and told that while he was free to change his name, he was not free to change his nationality to Siberian because that national identity was not on the list of approved nationalities, although no one in that office could provide him with the list ( and

            Non-Russians have long believed that there is such a list and that it is used in tabulating the declarations of people in censuses. If someone says he or she is a member of a nationality not on the list, then the tabulators will group them with others. That means that someone like Taygavnavt would be listed as a Russian even though he clearly identifies as a Siberian.

            What makes this case noteworthy is that the still-secret list of approved nationalities is now being used not just by the census but also by registration offices, something that is likely to lead to more cases like Taygavnavt’s, especially in Siberia and in the North Caucasus where it may be used by officials to limit registration of declarations of a common Circassian identity.

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