Thursday, November 9, 2023

Smallest Nations within Russian Federation Likely to Remain within Some Larger State, Berezhkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 6 – “It is crucial for the indigenous peoples of Russia that the Russian state and society recognize the historical fact of the colonization” of others, Dmitry Berezhkov say; but “the bitter reality is that there is virtually no prospect that the small indigenous peoples in Russia’s Far North Siberia, and Far East will ever have independent statehood.”

            Instead, the founder of the International Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of Russia (ICIPR) and editor of the Indigenous Russia portal says these peoples must recognize that “no matter how the political situation in Russia develops, we will probably be living in somebody else’s country” (

            Berezhkov, an Itelman from Kamchatka who has been in Norwegian exile for more than a decade, says such self-awareness must lead to a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, these peoples must seek to convince all the residents of Russia they have a colonial past and must overcome it first by taking steps to eliminate its features the way that Canada and Australia have.

            And on the other hand, they must work to promote the development of democratic institutions not only in their own areas but also in Russia as a whole that will allow them to defend their rights and interests and ensure the survival of their national communities into the future.

            In the short term, victories on either front are almost unthinkable, Berezhkov says. There is little willingness among Russians in general to acknowledge that their country arose and remains a colonial empire. And “numerous problems stand between [the numerically small peoples] and their self-determination.”

            “No matter how the political situation in Russia develops,” Berezhkov says, “we will probably be living in somebody else’s country” given the size of these national minorities, their geographic isolation, and insufficient resources. Moreover, in most cases, “we make up only a minority of the population” in the places where we are most numerous.

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