Sunday, February 4, 2024

Russian Courts Rejecting Efforts by Some to Claim Membership in Numerically Small Peoples of the North

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 1 – Given that officially recognized membership in one of the numerically small peoples of the Russian North comes with subsidies and rights, residents of these regions seek recognition. But because each person so recognized costs the state money and other members money, many who seek such recognition are being turned down by Russian courts.

            Only a few of these cases are reported beyond the borders of the North. (For some that have been, see,, and

            Now, a new case has been reported from the Khanty-Mansiik Autonomous District; and because it involved an appeal to a higher court that was rejected, it provides more details on just what is going on (

            A local resident whose grandparents were Manis but whose father and she herself were listed as Russians went to court to seek reidentification as a Mansi so that she could get the benefits and privileges that go to these numerically small nations. The court of first instance turned her down, and she appealed.

            The appeals court also turned her down, pointing out that she did not follow the traditional way of life  that in its view define who is a member of the Mansi, a nation of just over 12,000, according to the most recent Russian census, and thus could not declare herself a Mansi having decided earlier to declare herself a Russian.

            The last phrase in its decision is important because it will almost certainly be used in future cases and to help Moscow reduce still further the number of people in each of the numerically small nations of the North.

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