Friday, October 15, 2021

For Russians, Census is Only Statistics; for Non-Russians, It’s an All-Important Plebiscite, Free Idel-Ural Organization Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – The Free Idel-Ural group, most of whose members have been forced to emigrate but which retains significant influence across the peoples of the Middle Volga says that “for Russians, the census is only about statistics, but for non-Russians, it is rare possibility to speak out on behalf of themselves.” Indeed, the group says, it is a critically important plebiscite.

            On its portal, the group says that “the nationality policy being carried out by Moscow in its colonies does not leave any possibilities for the development of non-Russian peoples. Even such relatively large nations as the Tatars who have their own republic as a subject of the federation speak ever less often about development, progress, and a broadening of possibilities.”

            “Instead of this, they talk about salvation from an approaching catastrophe, the liqudation of national republics, the complete end of any forms of educational work in their native languages, and the final assimilation and disappearance of their peoples,” the group says (перепись-это-наш-плебисцит/).

            According to Free Idel-Ural, “practically all the national movements of the autochthonian peoples of the Russian Federation include one and the same word in their programs – ‘survival.’”

            “In this struggle with forced assimilation, time works for the empire. On our side is only firmness, courage and unity.” And to that end, “the census is more important than any voting, for attention and respect to these peoples will depend directly on their numbers.” Those who lose numbers as many of them are will get less and less attention and support.

            “We call upon all the sons and daughters of Idel-Ural, the Erzyan,  the Moksha, the Chuvash, the Maris, the Udmurts, the Tatars and the Bashkirs to declare themselves members of their peoples. Do not hesitate and do not fear clearly indicating your nationality!” The census is one time when this really matters.

            “Even if You have distant Turkic or Finno-Ugric roots (grandparents or even great grandparents), declare yourself a representative of the autochthonian people. This does not require any effort but its vitally important for saving those who are currently drowning in the Russian sea.”

            “This is a case when it is possible to show respect to your ancestors and to secure a chance to choose a better fate for your descendants. The All-Russian Census is our plebiscite. Speak out about yourself and your people.”

            Three things are noteworthy about this appeal. First, it is a reflection of the despair that many ethnic minorities in Russia feel, given their declining numbers and the increasing pressure of the Putin regime against their languages and cultures. Second, it is a sign that groups like Free Idel Ural believe the Internet can help them survive.

            And third, and perhaps most important for outside observers if not for the peoples themselves, it is yet another indication of how political the numbers of the Russian census are and must be read. They are not simply a description of reality but a playing out of a political struggle going on at many levels and in many places in Russia.

            (For background on the Free Idel-Ural organization and its members, see, and

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