Thursday, October 14, 2021

Nationalities May Decline in Number in Upcoming Census for Reason Moscow Won’t Like

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 8 – Like its Soviet predecessor, the Russian government is happy to see a decline in the number of nationalities listed in the census if that is the result of the assimilation of members of the smaller nations to the ethnic Russians. But Moscow is unlikely to welcome a development that will lead to a similar decline.

            That is the reconsolidation of nations that Moscow split apart to divide and rule the country. The most likely case of this in the upcoming census involves the dozen nationalities into which the Soviet government broke the Circassian nation, a division the Russian government has maintained ( and

            But it is far from the only case, as two leading specialists on the ethnic map of the Russian Federation make clear. Akhmet Yarlykapov, a scholar at the MGIMO Center for the Study of Problems of the Caucasus, says other small people may follow the Circassian example ( and

            There have been appeals to various Turkic nations to call themselves Nogays, he says, adding that “all small peoples now have such calls. Avars are called to write down that they are Avars, Circassians, Circassians and Tatars, Tatars” even if earlier they had been encouraged or even forced to identify as members of sub-ethnoses.

            And Sergey Aryutyunov, a professor at Moscow State University and one of Russia’s most senior and distinguished specialists on the North Caucasus, says that this may become a trend and that “the new census offers an opportunity” for correcting what he called “errors,” the identification of people not by nationality but by sub-ethnic groups.

            “This idea is popular not only among the Circassians,” the MSU scholar says. “By the way, it would be more correct to list not simple Circassian” in the census but rather “Circassian and then in parentheses ‘Adyg’” as that is the self-designator for most of the members of these various groups already.

            Among the nationalities who may do this are the Tses, the Nogays, the Udis, the Khvarshins, and the Botlikhts.” One group has already made it clear that that is its intension, the Nogays of Astrakhan. In the past, they were listed as Tatars; but now they want to be called Nogays.

            Some regional officials will pressure them in one direction, and others in the reverse. In Daghestan, for example, officials may press smaller ethnic communities to identify as Avars in order to boost the influence of that group in the republic. But others may oppose such a move precisely out of fears of that happening.

            Artuyunov is “certain” that “the results of the census will not show the real picture of the national composition” of the Russian Federation. For example, “peoples who do not live on the territory of Daghestan who are indigenous there most likely will write what they want.” The Botlikhs “living in Vladivostok” will describe themselves as Botlikhs.

            But those living in Daghestan will be pressed and in many cases will follow the pressure and write down that they are Avars. Representatives of these groups confirm that Arutyunov’s judgment is correct.

No comments:

Post a Comment