Staunton, Sept. 2 – Perhaps the most unnoticed emigration from Russia since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine has been that of Buryats, Tuvins and Kalmyks, three Buddhist and Mongol nations in Russia, to Mongolia. Many are finding it hard to fit in and plan to move on, but few plan to return to Russia even after Putin leaves the scene and the war ends.
Ordinary Mongols are quite welcoming to these people, the exact number of whom is unknown; but the government is cautious not only because it faces difficulties in providing jobs for its burgeoning population but because it fears angering Russia or opening the door to an influx of Mongols from China, something that could destabilize the situation.
Some of the Buddhist peoples in Russia had begun to move to Mongolia even before the war because they have become increasing victims of Russian racism and xenophobia, but their numbers have swelled with the war which many of their number oppose and do not want to serve in (sibreal.org/a/simvol-mira-na-nespokoynoy-planete-/31991330.html).
Dugarma, a Buryat now living in Mongolia, left Russia in 2016 because of the racism he experienced. He was welcomed by the people but the government made it hard for him to get a job or set up a business. But he lives as well in Mongolia as he did in Buryatia and is happier to be in a place where people call things by their own names, war and genocide, for example.
Few of his co-ethnics could come during the pandemic, but when Mongolia opened the border again in March, many more arrived, “fleeing from the regime, the army and the horror of it all.” Some have found work, but more are making plans to move on to Korea, Turkey or the United States, he says.
Another Buryat now in Mongolia, Dorzho, says Mongols have been welcoming and many Buddhist people from Russia have found a place in that society. More are likely to come because of the Russian nationalist position of Moscow and its increasing repression of non-Russian languages and cultures.
He personally chooses not to have anything to do with Russian “relocators” as he calls those ethnic Russians who have come to Mongolia and doesn’t plan on going back to Russia ever. “Even if Russia ended the war in Ukraine tomorrow, the Russian nationalists who in the RF are very numerous aren’t going anywhere.”
“The Buryats carefully listen to Russian opposition liberals, who spout one chauvinist pearl after another,” Dorzho says. “These people may replace Putin or those who come after him may be open Nazis or communists.” None of those prospects are good for Buryats or other non-Russians.
He does not want to have his children converted into half-Russian who will be alienated from their own culture but who will at the same time be treated contemptuously by the Russian majority which will view them as outsiders no matter how well they speak Russian.
He says that many in Buryatia feel the same, although not all have the chance to leave and not all who first come to Mongolia can find a place and thus have to move on. But unless something fundamental changes, probably involving independence for his nations and others, those who remain will become ever angrier and those who have left won’t be going back.