Staunton, Jan. 24 – It is generally and reasonably assumed that the chief actors of national movements are members of the nation involved. But there are exceptions: at the end of Soviet times, many Russians living among non-Russians often took the non-Russian side; and now, some Russians and others living outside their home areas are doing the same.
One of the standout cases of this phenomenon is Nadezhda Nizovkina, a Chuvash who has lived all her life in Buryatia and has fought for the rights of all individuals and groups oppressed or persecuted by Moscow (idel-ural.org/archives/chuvashskaya-nadezhda-buryatii/#more-16378).
Since 2014, she has spoken in defense of Ukraine and more recently she has called for the independence of Buryatia and other nations who remain captives of the Russian state. But at the same time and as a matter of principle, she has also defended the rights of the families of Buryat men who have fought in Ukraine.
That Nizovkina opposes what they fought foeopr in no way lessens her commitment to law and justice; and for that, she deserves honor and respect. But her case also calls attention to something that is often ignored not only by ethnic activists but by analysts in Moscow and in the West.
When something is right in principle, such as the right of nations to self-determination, no on should assume that people who are not victims of national oppression won’t recognize it in others when they see that and will come to their aid. Those fighting for their rights should never forget about the possibility of such alliances and allies.