Monday, July 17, 2023

Russia’s Nationality Agency Focuses Largely on Numerically Small Peoples

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 14 – Gennady Semigin, the head of the Duma nationalities committee, says that “more than 60 percent” of the appeals to the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs (FADN) come from the numerically small indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Russian Far East.

            That is an enormous percentage given that these people constitute less than three percent of all non-Russians now living within the borders of the Russian Federation (

            While Semigin did not address why there was this imbalance, there are at least three reasons why it is so. First, many of the numerically small nations don’t have their own autonomous state institutions and so are inclined to make appeals to Moscow to deal with their problems.

            Second, the Kremlin has shown, especially under Vladimir Putin, that it is prepared to take steps to appear to be solicitous to these groups as a way of countering criticism of its largely anti-non-Russian policies regarding language, investment and other issues when it comes to larger nations like the Tatars, Bashkirs and so on.

            And third, the larger non-Russian nations have other channels to seek to defend and promote their interests. They thus apparently view the nationalities agency as of less importance to them than it is to the numerically smaller groups and do not turn to it as often as do many of the latter

            But what this means is that an agency that is often pointed to as an indication of Moscow’s support for all non-Russians in fact is helping only a small portion of them, despite the claims that Russian propagandists routinely make to the contrary.  A more honest name for the FADN would be the Federal Agency for the Numerically Smallest Peoples.

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