Wednesday, January 18, 2023

‘Political Assimilation’ Reducing Number of Ukrainians in Russian Federation, Bezpalko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 14 – The number of Ukrainians counted in the 2021 Russian Census fell by a million, the result not only of how the census was conducted and the natural process of inter-generational assimilation but also because of “political assimilation,” according to Bogdan Bezpalko, the head of the Federation of National Cultural Autonomies of Russia.

            That term refers, he says, to the desire of people not to be associated with “the negative phenomena” they see in Ukraine – “manifestations of Nazism, coups, murders, disorders and so on” – that citizens of Russia are offended by (

            And thus in an act that can best be described as “political assimilation,” they have given up their Ukrainian identities and taken a Russian identity or declared no ethno-national identity at all. These people may continue to speak Ukrainian and even be part of Ukrainian culture but politically they feel they must separate themselves from that nation and state.

            Bezpalko points to two other causes for the decline in the number of Ukrainians as registered by the Russian census. On the one hand, he points to problems with how the census was conducted under conditions of the pandemic, which meant that census takers did not talk to many people and had to leave the nationality line blank or fill it in from unreliable sources.

            “As a rule,” he continues, “in these alternative data bases there is no information on nationality. There is information on citizenship, country of origin and possibly native language. But these things do not always correspond with nationality or ethnic membership” and so the numbers are distorted.

            And on the other, there is ongoing and in his view entirely natural ethnic assimilation in which the children of Ukrainians living in Russia having Russian citizenship and speaking Russian have decided to identify as Russians rather than as Ukrainians.

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