Staunton, Jan. 20 – At the end of a lengthy article about the history of Buddhism in Russia, Buryat philologist Varvara Khandarova makes a point about how the Putin regime is changing its approach to non-Russians in a hybrid way that threatens to destroy them without assimilation or violence.
According to the scholar, “the creation of an ethnic Russian identity in Buryatia is no longer being pursued via missionary work and Russification but rather by forcing the latter to act in complete congruence with ‘the state-forming nation’ and thus making them part of the picture of the notorious ‘Russian world’” (beda.media/special/po-stepi-letali-stranicy-kak-repressirovali-buryatskih-buddistov).
“This world,” Khandarova continues, “is ready to put up with the presence of non-Russians if the latter defend ‘Russian’ traditional values, the ‘Russian’ heritage, and ‘Russian’ freedom at the cost of their own lives,” even though now in the course of Putin’s war in Ukraine, that world expects the Buryats to sacrifice themselves at three times the rate of real Russians.
She draws that conclusion less from the comparative death rates of soldiers from Buddhist Buryatia and of those from predominantly ethnic Russian regions than from a declaration of the Pandito Khamo Lama, the head of the setate-supported Buddhist hierarchy almost a year ago in support of Putin’s war in Ukraine.
At that time, Khandarova says, the religious official said that “Buddha is with us,” a perfect echo of the Russian claim that “God is with us” and an illustration of the way in which non-Russian values are being subverted and betrayed even without the normal kinds of assimilation, something inevitable when religious leaders allow themselves to serve political ends.