Staunton, Feb. 4 – Putin’s war in Ukraine is harming the numerically smallest nations of the Russian Federation especially hard in five serious ways, according to Dmitry Berezhkov, the editor of the Russia of the Indigenous Peoples portal. And those hits have been compounded by the falsification of census data about their numbers and languages.
First of all, he says, mobilization has fallen disproportionately on them, not because they have been targeted but because they have less information and fewer resources to resist; and deaths in combat even if small in absolute numbers are often enormous for the peoples involved (storage.googleapis.com/istories/stories/2023/01/30/narodi-na-grani-ischeznoveniya/index.html).
If a nation of a million loses 100 men in combat, that is one thing, Berzhkov points out; but if a nation numbering a hundred or less loses even two, that can cast an enormous shadow on the demographic survival of that community, something that is happening all too often among the 47 nations of the Russian Federation who have fewer than 50,000 people each.
Moreover, the deaths are of men who in traditional societies like those of the numerically small peoples of the North and Far East are the portions of the community that do the most to keep traditional forms of economic activity alive, forms that are the basis for the limited subsidies these nations receive.
Second, the war has had a serious negative economic impact on peoples who live far from major cities. As the economy has worsened, businesses have cut back deliveries to smaller markets and that means that the numerically small peoples now have fewer supplies than they did only a year ago.
Third, the exit of foreign firms has hit these peoples hard as well. When Western firms depart, standards at the remaining Russian ones invariably fall; and the employees at these firms suffer as well. Foruth, the Russian government has cut government subsidies to these peoples and thus isn’t able to compensate for the economic decline in their areas.
And fifth, Berezhkov says, the war has cut Russia’s northern peoples off from the chance to tell their stories in international forums and sometimes get help. Earlier, representatives of these peoples could tell their stories in Geneva or New York, but now they can’t; and as a result, Moscow “no longer devotes attention to international demands, letters and appeals.”
Compounding all these problems, he continues, was the falsification of the latest Russian census. Everyone knows that its figures for national identity aren’t reliable given how many people were listed as not having a nationality. But in the case of the numerically small peoples, this falsification has taken two forms.
In some cases, officials boosted the number of people in some nationalities far beyond the level of plausibility lest anyone say these nations are on the edge of dying out. But in others, they reduced the number to below 50,000 so Moscow could say the 47 numerically smaller nations were doing well rather than admitting many in that category should be moved out of it.