Staunton, Mar. 16 – One of the most frequent and devastating criticisms of those who have fled Russia in the face of Putin’s repressions is that they have left those behind to suffer and do nothing but talk about some “beautiful Russia of the future.” But there are exceptions to that pattern, and they deserve close attention.
Semyon Kochkin, a native of Chuvashia who served as head of Navalny’s staff in Cheboksary until being forced to emigrate, says he tries to avoid talking about the big issues of the future because they don’t depend on him but instead works to help people in the here and now (istories.media/stories/2023/03/16/est-mnogo-lyudei-nedovolnikh-po-suti-ya-ikh-golos/).
He tells Ekaterina Fomina of the Important Stories portal that he has succeeded in reaching out to and speaking for the silent in Chuvash by means of his Angry Chuvash telegram channel (t.me/s/ChuvashiaDream), which currently has more than 15,000 subscribers, an enormous number in that Middle Volga republic.
Kochkin says he was inspired to act when Putin began his war and started talking about promoting a Russian world. He knew from his own experience that people in Chuvashia wanted to read their own language and study their own culture, and he felt that as well. Hence, he had no choice but to act.
Drawing on a network of correspondents in the republic, he continues, he knows that there are many dissatisfied and angry people in Chuvashia. His telegram channel speaks for them and more important gives them hope that someone cares and is listening at a time when fewer Chuvash language outlets are available and fewer Chuvash still know their language.
Among his most important tasks and contributions, Kochkin says, is the work he has done in telling Chuvash people about their rights when facing the draft and in reporting about the number of Chuvash who have fought and died in Ukraine for a Russian world when their own Chuvash world is being destroyed by the same people who are demanding they fight.
The Russian census shows that the Chuvash nation is being destroyed, and the war has made it worse given that most of the men drafted for service there from the republic come from Chuvash areas. When they die, part of the future of Chuvashia dies with them, the former Navalny aide says.
One might be tempted to conclude that a genocide is going on against the Chuvash, Kochkin says. But he adds that he isn’t sure that is the right word. Genocide implies conscious intention; and it isn’t clear that Vladimir Putin has ever given a conscious thought to the Chuvash people and their republic.