Wednesday, May 4, 2022

By Its Attacks on Ukraine, Kremlin Sparking Discussion of Rights of Ethnic Groups in Russia Itself, Buryat Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 23 – Aleksandr Garmazhapova, a Buryat activist who now lives in Prague, says that with its unrelenting attacks on Ukraine and Kyiv’s policies, “the Kremlin itself has provoked a discussion about the rights of numerically smaller peoples in the Russian Federation itself.”

            “You wanted to talk about the infringement of Russian in Ukraine?” she asks. “OK, let’s discuss the situation with Udmurt in Russia. You want to condemn Nazis in Ukraine? Then let’s discuss why in Russia, representatives of ethnic minorities are afraid to leave home on April 20th, Hitler’s birthday, and November 4th, the day of national unity.”

            She says that she can attest that “every Buryat who has grown up or lived in Petersburg or Moscow has been traumatized by racist attacks.” She says some of those who grew up with either treated her worse because she was a Buryat or said she was so attractive that she could be a Russian (

            No, Garmazhapova says, she has always insisted that she is a non-Russian and asked why anyone would think that she “wants to be a Russian. Is that some kind of mark of quality?” In fact, “to be a Russia is not a privilege just as to be a Buryat is not a privilege. Nationality as such is not a privilege.”

            Addressing Putin directly, she writes “Vladimir Vladimirovich, you have sent Russian soldiers to Ukraine to defend the local population from Nazis? But who defends poor Russian regions from you?”   And she adds that he must know that the reasons there are so many Buryats in the Russian army is that poverty leaves them with little choice of careers.”

Now they are returning in zinc coffins, Garmazhapova continues. But the bigger question is why should Buryats be fighting others when they themselves suffer from economic depression, the destruction of their national languages, racism and xenophobia at home?

“Buryatia is a rich region which has just about everything including Lake Baikal.” But despite that, its housing hasn’t yet been connected to gas supplies? And its people have to beg in Moscow for just about everything.

That leads one to conclude that “the Ukrainians and Buryats have much more in common than many think.” For example, both have been forced in the past to speak Russia, with officials denigrating their native languages as “rural” dialects. Unfortunately, because Russians and Buryats don’t know their history, they both are making mistakes.

It is thus time for both “to look in the mirror” and draw the appropriate conclusions, Garmazhapova concludes.


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