Staunton, Jan. 29 – The recent protests in Bashkortostan were inevitable, Georgy Filin says, because the current governor of that Middle Volga republic allowed Bashkir nationalism to rise under the guise of an ecological movement and failed to address the fact that environmentalism there from the start has been a cover for radical nationalism and Pan-Turkism.
Many were surprised by the recent protests in Bashkortostan, the Moscow commentator says; but they should not have been. They were the result of the coming together of three factors: environmental concerns of the population, outside agitation from Turkey and Kazakhstan, and Ufa’s failure to respond adequately (versia.ru/vystupleniya-nacionalistov-v-bashkirii-predskazuemyj-rezultat-dejstvij-vlastej-respubliki).
Filin bases his argument on the findings of a 2022 article by two Bashkir writers about “The Influence of Panturkism in the Republics of the Middle Volga Federal District on the basis of Nationalist Organizations of Baskiria” (cyberleninka.ru/article/n/vliyanie-pantyurkizma-v-respublikah-pfo-na-materiale-natsionalisticheskih-organizatsiy-bashkortostana-chast-1/viewer).
He suggests that the old saying that “if you scratch a Russian, you’ll find a Tatar” needs to be updated to read: “if you scratch any Bashkir environmentalist, you’ll discover a [Bashkir] nationalist,” something that has been obvious for the last 20 years, especially after the Russian FSB general was shifted from Bashkortostan to newly-annexed Crimea.
Lt. Gen. Viktor Palagin understood this linkage between environmentalism and nationalism and fought against it, but Ufa officials either did not or did not want to understand and act accordingly, Filinn says. Instead, they took environmentalism there at face value, a mistake that the nationalists and Pan-Turkists did not.
Filin’s article is part of a virtual campaign against the current republic head, Radiy Khabirov, who is clearly fighting to remain in office by denying that nationalism is a problem and organizing rallies in support of himself. But it is more than that: it is a recognition of the ways in which environmentalism and nationalism are interconnected.
And it is also a sign that Russia’s already hard-pressed environmentalists, at least some of whom are apolitical, are likely to suffer even more repression in the coming months.