Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Could Moscow Declare an Entire Nation ‘a Foreign Agent’?

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 1 – Yekaterina Kuznetsova, a Vod artist who organizes cultural events in the Estonian border city of Narva, says that “absurd as it may appear,” Moscow regularly accuses activists in small Finno-Ugric nations within the current borders of the Russian Federation of working for Estonia and they may thus be declared “foreign agents.”

            At present, the Vod activist says, it is much simpler to organize cultural events for the numerically small peoples who live on the territory of Leningrad Oblast than it is in the places where they live; and when representatives of these peoples take part, they risk being denounced as they have been in the past (

            “Why is this happening?” Kuznetsova asks. The answer is simple: “the Russian powers are following the Soviet tradition: they love to claim credit for ‘a multiplicity of cultures’ but in reality, the representatives of these peoples are deprived of their rights: many languages do not have any official status because of a stupid law that they must write in the Russian script.”

            Russian officials restrict access to the border regions where these nations live, and “even for raising the national flags on holidays people can be accused of ‘separatism.’” If they seek help from their co-ethnics abroad, they are accused of “working for Estonia,” the activist continues.

            According to Russian officialdom, there are only 64 of the Finno-Ugric Vods living in the Russian Federation and only six to ten of them speak the national language, putting them near the top of the list of those nations in Russia likely to become extinct ( and

Two years ago, Vladimir Putin when asked about the status of one Finno-Ugric nation, the Vod, acknowledged that “they had been assimilating, but,” he added, “I am sure “that they will not disappear completely” (

But his regime seems set on promoting exactly that outcome by raising the possibility that the Vod nation as a whole will be declared “a foreign agent” and suffer even more restrictions as a result.

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