Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Ethnic Activists in Russia View Census as ‘a Pre-Election Campaign,’ Sidorov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 28 – Ethnic activists across the Russian Federation view the current census as part of “a pre-election campaign” in which they are trying to improve their chances to win influence and power, according to Prague-based political commentator Vadim Sidorov (

            That lies behind the two issues which now divide the nationalities of the country. On the one hand, some are fighting over whether this or that ethnic community is a sub-ethnos or independent and thus deserving of its own recognition and state formation. Among these groups are the Cossacks, the Pomors, the Siberian Tatars, and the Kryashens.

            And on the other, others are fighting over when some disputed group in the population belongs to themselves or to others, a conflict that involves both the Tatars and Bashkirs in the northwestern portion of Bashkortostan and the Nogais in Astrakhan Oblast, the commentator continues.

            Another debate, but one less along ethnic than political lines, concerns those who favor “an ethnic Russian Russia” and those who back the idea of “a non-Russian Russia.” The first favors listing as many people as possible as ethnic Russians, while the second supports identifying as non-Russian as many as possible to prevent Russian nationalism from winning out.

            The urgency of these debates has been increased by all the talk about doing away with the non-Russian republics, something many Russian nationalists favor, and defending them at all costs, as most non-Russians are committed to doing. But it also intersects with efforts to mobilize citizens for electoral campaigns.

            And that is terribly important under Russian conditions. Elections in the Putin era have been largely reduced to empty exercises where all the results are determined in advance. But because that is so, many have organized to call attention to the falsifications that the powers that be engage in.

            But many ordinary Russians assume that the census in contrast is more or less honest and accurate and fail to see that the same kinds of falsifications either to boost on nationality or another are taking place with the counting and even more the processing of census declarations, Sidorov says.

            Unless Russians recognize this reality and organize to call attention to it, it is entirely possible that falsification of census results will be even greater than the falsification of elections and with equally serious consequences, as officials seek to use census “data” for their own purposes rather than allow the actual situation to drive policy and practice.

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