Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Moscow Now Compiling Not Just List of Indigenous Nationalities but One of All Their Members

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 9 – The Russian government has long had a list of what it calls the numerically small indigenous peoples of the North and Far East, but now it has taken the next step and is seeking to compile a list of the members of these nationalities to determine who can get the benefits these groups have already been extended.

            The numerically small indigenous peoples – often slightingly and thus incorrectly called “the small peoples of the North” – have had their rights to traditional forms of economic and social activity acknowledged by the state. Not surprisingly, some people who are not members want to be and have even gone to court to achieve recognition. (On such strugges, see  

            Now, the Russian government has decided to “solve” this problem by coming up with a list of all the members of all the numerically small indigenous peoples, a process that is extremely challenging and already is running into difficulties ( and

            According to the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, there are some 47 numerically small peoples in the Russian Federation who collectively number slightly more than 300,000 people. Of these, it says, some 70,000 have applied for identification as members; and “almost 25,000” have been granted it.

            Those figures suggest both that many of the genuine members of these communities are so alienated from the government and its approach that they are not going to apply or perhaps may be being dissuaded from doing so and that the official registration process itself is going anything but quickly and easily.

            This reification of nationality among the numerically small peoples is being justified as required because of the privileges members of these groups get, but the process of forming lists of the membership may have an impact on other, larger nations within the current borders of the Russian Federation.

            That is because if such enumerations are conducted, Moscow may use the failure of many to take part in them to reidentify those who don’t seek such official recognition as an indication that these people need not be classified as members of non-Russian nations at all but instead can be counted as non-ethnic Russians or even ethnic Russians.  

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