Saturday, April 16, 2022

Moscow’s ‘Irresponsible Policy’ Making Siberia Less Russian and More Turkic, Regional Scholars Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 7 – According to a new study, the Turkic share of the population of Siberia is increasing while the Slavic component is decreasing, largely if not entirely due to what its authors describe as “the irresponsible policy of the federal center” which has been ignoring the real impact of migration flows and of differences in growth rates of various peoples there.

            That is just one of the numerous remarkable conclusions a group of Siberian scholars offer in a new monograph, Siberia’s Civilizational Mission (in Russian; Barnaul: New Format, 2022, 368 pp., ISBN 978-5-00202-054-6, the full text of which is available online at

            According to the scholars, the ethnic structure of their region has changed dramatically since 1989. There has been a general decline in the number and fraction of representatives of Slavic peoples, a growth in the numbers of representatives of Turkic nations, and an increase in the number and share of all titular ethnoses in all non-Russian state units.

            In the previous two decades, the balance between Slavic and Turkic elements had remained stable at roughly 65 to 32 percent, “in recent times,” that has changed, with the Slavic falling by seven percent and the Turkic share increasingly by a like amount, the Siberian scholars continue.

            “The main cause of this contraction of the Russian population in Siberia,” they say, “is the irresponsible policy of the federal center.” The outflow of ethnic Russians is the product of “the short-sighted federal policy” whose authors have forgotten what similar trends led to in 1991.

            In some places, the scholars say, there has been “a territorial contraction of the Russian population,” in depressed areas because of Russian flight and in better off areas because of the arrival of other non-Russians from the Caucasus and Central Asia who are adding to the Turkic element in Siberia.

            And at the same time, there has been an increase in the numbers of many of the indigenous peoples of Siberia, including most importantly the largest of them. That too recalls what happened at the end of Soviet times when the leaders of union republics mobilized their increasingly homogeneous and non-Russian populations against Moscow.

            All of this is not confined to Siberia, of course, they add. “One can speak about a trend toward ‘the titularization’ of the population of republics” elsewhere – “in particular the North Caucasus and Southern Federal Districts.” Moscow does not appear to recognize that it is helping to promote the restoration of a pattern that brought down the USSR.

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