Staunton, Aug. 1 – The Free Buryatia Foundation, established by Buryat émigré Viktoriya Maladayeva in Kyiv shortly after Putin began his expanded war in Ukraine, has conducted research and disseminated information about how Moscow is using non-Russians to fight its battles.
But perhaps its most important achievement so far has been to help 150 Buryat soldiers either to avoid serving in Ukraine at all or to return home if they are sent to Ukraine, Maladayeva says (kyivpost.com/russias-war/russias-ethnic-minorities-voice-outrage-over-invasion-of-ukraine.html).
Buryatia, like other non-Russian republics in the Russian Federation, she continues, “can’t determine [its] own policies … It is governed by the colonial policies of Moscow … If we had a real federation, the head of our republic could say no, Buryats won’t fight in this criminal war. But [the republic head] keeps providing cannon fodder for Putin.”
Maladayeva points out that “Our languages and history are disappearing off the face of the Earth, while Moscow sucks all the money and resources out of the provinces. Moscow is a beautiful city but it’s such a facade of all of Russia, because if you go just a little further, the houses are falling apart, there are no roads, and there’s no work.”
The activist’s comments make clear that Putin’s war is increasing the sense among many non-Russians that Moscow is behaving like an imperial power not only in Ukraine but at home. And to the extent that non-Russians within Russia take that view and see the non-Russians outside Russian borders as allies and fellow victims, that will be bad news for the center.