Staunton, Nov. 17 – Activists for the Nogays, a Turkic nationality spread across much of the North Caucasus and lacking the status of an autonomous republic anywhere, are now seeking independence from Moscow and a state whose borders would extend into many current federal subjects, including most prominently, Astrakhan Oblast.
A decade ago, a congress of Nogays called for the formation of a Nogay autonomous republic but got nowhere (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2012/11/window-on-eurasia-nogays-call-for-their.html). Subsequently, they have clashed with republic leaders by demanding control over regions where Nogays are in the majority, again without success (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/07/nogay-crisis-in-daghestan-echoes-in.html).
And many have written off this divided people without even an autonomous republic to their name, even though they may number as many as 200,000 in the North Caucasus and Southern Russia and as many as 500,000 in Turkey where the government actively supports them (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-nogays-another-turkic-people-in.html).
But now radicalized by shifts in opinion among many non-Russian groups in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Nogay activists have decided to demand not some autonomy but complete independence from Moscow and the formation of a new state that would include parts of several federal subjects, including Astrakhan.
Edge Bekmurzayev, head of Free Nogai El, says that “the Nogais are a divided people” and have been since the 18th center when Catherine II “began a genocide against them.” Despite the fact that so many fled to the Ottoman Empire, approximately 100,000 Nogais live in five republics of the North Caucasus and Stavropol Kray and another 100,000 in Astrakhan Oblast.”
(Those figures are far higher than the Russian census records, at least in part because census takers count separately several component parts of the Nogai nation.)
He says that a restored Nogai state must include portions of all these current Russian federal subjects but that he hopes conflicts with others, including the Kalmyks, who also claim part or all of Astrakhan Oblast, can be resolve by negotiations. But he reminds that the city of Astrakhan was once the capital of the Nogai state and should be Nogai once again.