Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Numerically Small Peoples of Russia Unlikely to Gain Independence but Can Achieve Self-Determination, Two of Their Leaders Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 9 – “There is virtually no prospect that the relatively small populations of the indigenous peoples of Russia’s Far North, Siberia and the Far East will ever have the luxury of achieving self-determination in the form of independent states,” Pavel Sulyandziga and Dmitry Berezkov say.

            The two activists for the Udygey and Itelmen respectively and members of the International Committee of the Indigenous Peoples of Russia say there is even a risk that if they try for independence, they may end up ruled by authoritarians like those Moscow has imposed on them already (themoscowtimes.com/2023/09/09/what-decolonization-means-for-russias-indigenous-peoples-a82387).

            Consequently, Sulyandzig and Berezkov say, it is critically important that non-Russian activists and Russian liberals begin a discussion about democratic rights. After all, “decolonizing the country is not just a matter of historical justice … it is a necessary precondition for moving past the obsolete narratives that the Russian state and society tell themselves.”

            Russians must recognize “the historical fact of colonization” as “this could become the jumping-off point for a new and more just relationship between indigenous peoples of the state” and “the construction of a new state, one that dispenses with revisionist history in favor of historical truth.”

            That would help both Russians and non-Russians. Indeed, it might help the former even more than the latter as it would “go a long way toward dismantling the particularly toxic myth of the God-given role of the Russian people in world history and of the special path of a Russia that acts as alone bulwark of traditional values against a West that is mired in iniquity.”

            At present, there are two serious problems, the two say. The Russian opposition is debating the question of disintegration “without consulting any representatives of the colonized peoples themselves,” a reflection of “the pervasiveness of the imperial mindset even among people of seemingly impeccable liberal credentials and not just members of Putin’s entourage.”

            And some non-Russian activists are talking as if “the only thing that matters is their separation from Russia,” rather than recognizing the “democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights are the basic principles that can help our peoples protect their collective rights for development and self-determination.”

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