Staunton, July 16 – By invading Ukraine, “the Kremlin has shot itself in the foot,” Aleksandra Garmazhapova says, because ever more non-Russians within the current borders of the Russian Federation are identifying with the situation of the Ukrainians and demanding that Moscow give real content to the federalism it falsely claims Russia has.
The émigré co-founder of the Free Buryatia Foundation says that her group, which began as an organization to help Buryats escape from military contracts requiring them to serve in Ukraine, now has a broader agenda: “full-blown federalization” of Russia (rfi.fr/ru/россия/20220723-в-бурятии-война-никого-не-обошла-стороной-александра-гармажапова-о-тех-кто-больше-не-хочет-воевать).
Although she has been accused of being a separatist, Garmazhapova says that she considers that “the ideal prospect” for her and the Buryats is “ a genuine federation … union of equal peoples … in which each region will define its socio-economic and linguistic agenda” rather than having it imposed by Moscow.
“Many imperialistically thinking Russians including certain liberals must recognize that they are not above or better than the rest and that all are equal.” That will require a change in the thinking of many people, Garmazhapova says, as a recent survey she conducted on Instagram shows.
She expected perhaps 50 responses to her questions about the need for the de-Nazification of Russia but instead has received 100 to 150 every day. The Buryat activist said she had expected people with a clearly non-Slavic physiognomy would be the only ones complaining about discrimination and mistreatment.
But in fact, Garmazhapova continues, others like Udmurts, Karelians, Chuvash and Komi wrote in almost as frequently. They complained not only that they were the victims of discrimination but that Moscow both Soviet and post-Soviet was working hard to destroy their languages and thus their nations.
Because of Moscow’s attack on their languages, the Kremlin’s claims to be defending Russian in Ukraine where the government has been protecting the right of the people to use their national language has made non-Russians within Russia feel close to the Ukrainians and equally opposed to Moscow.
This is creating a new reality within Russia, the Buryat activist says, one that many non-Russians hoped for but would not have achieved had it not been for Putin’s war in Ukraine and the arguments he has advanced in an effort to justify it.