Thursday, June 22, 2023

Men from Buryatia 75 Times More Likely to Die in Ukraine than Those from Moscow, Two New Studies Find But Disagree on Reason

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Two new studies confirm that men from Buryatia are 75 times more likely to die in Ukraine than are those from Moscow, a reflection of the fact that, as a result of what appears to be conscious Kremlin policy, far more Russian soldiers are drawn from the poorer and non-Russian regions of the country than from the capital.

            But the two studies diverge on the explanation for this, with one saying that poverty explains more than ethnicity while the other argues that the Russian government is using non-Russians as cannon fodder in order to avoid protests among ethnic Russians who dominate the politically sensitive capital.

            The first study, by Aleksey Bessudnov, now at the UK’s Exeter University, examined information collected by the BBC concerning more than 20,000 reported Russian combat deaths in Ukraine ( discussed at

            He found that the lowest risk of death was among men from Moscow and St. Petersburg, while the highest was from those from impoverished regions, including Buryatia. But he also concluded that “the risk for ethnic Russians from Buryatia and of Buryats from Buryatia was approximately equal” and thus the deaths reflected poverty more than ethnicity.

            Bessudnov also found that the share of non-Russian deaths fell as Moscow mobilized more men and as PMCs came to play a larger role, a reflection of the fact that those non-Russians who wanted to be in the military had already joined up while Russians had to be compelled to do so.

            The second study, in contrast, by Buryat activist Mariya Vyushkova who now works as a researcher at the University of Notre Dame in the US, explains the differences in deaths primarily in terms of ethnicity. She says that “Buryats, Daghestanis and Tuvins are now Putin’s cannon fodder” (

            Moreover, she says, “in the army there are prejudices relative to nationality. It is incorrect to deny this fact. People consider that if Putin didn’t issue a direct order to send all Buryats and Tuvins to their deaths, that means there was no discrimination.” But “why then are there so few Buryats among senior officers?”

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