Sunday, March 13, 2022

Activist Seeking New Federal Subject for Tver Karelians Persecuted by Russian Authorities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 9 – Mikhail Dron, a Tver Karelian, has been calling for the creation of a new federal subject for the Tver Karelians who once outnumbered the Karelians in Karelia. He won election on that platform to the local legislature, but Russian officials have using trumped up criminal charges in order to try to end his campaign.

            Dron speaks for the Tver Karelians who moved to the region after certain lands were handed over to Sweden in the 17th century. In 1926, there were 140,000 of them with their own schools and institutions. Now, they number only 7400 and are on the brink of extinction (

            The Russian government believes that having occasional culture days is enough for the Tver Karelians; but Dron argues that they need a state of their own with compulsory instruction in their language -- at present, only 25 of the 7400 say they speak Karelian – demands the authorities don’t want aired.

            “I consider that the transformation of Tver Karelia into a new subject of the Russian Federation is the most optimal form of existence, one that will open enormous opportunities for the construction of higher education, the development of our territories and the arrangement of relations with other Finno-Ugric regions,” Dron says.

            He points to Ingushetia as an example of the positive consequences of a nation getting its own federal subject. After Ingushetia left the Chechen-Ingush Republic in 1992, the Ingush people, their language and culture all took off. The same thing should happen for others, including the Tver Karelians.

            The Russian authorities make the mistake of equating Tver Karelian language use and Tver Karelian identity. They are not the same, but because most Tver Karelians now speak Russian, this allows the powers that be to argue that this nation is on the way to extinction. Both that view and that vector must be reversed.

            Dron is currently waiting for the decision of the Tver Oblast Court about the fake charges brought against him in 2019. An appellate court has already vacated most of his conviction, and he hopes the even more senior court will confirm that and go further and exonerate him so that he can continue his campaign.

            He has managed to publish a book in Rusisan, Reflections on the Future State System of Tver Karelia, and now hopes to publish brochures to popularize this idea among the Tver Karelians and to serve as a model for other sizeable minorities in predominantly ethnic Russian federal subjects. 

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