Saturday, February 17, 2024

Russians Alarmed by Calls for ‘Tajik Autonomies’ in Moscow Oblast

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 13 – Multiple reports that Tajiks and other Central Asian immigrant groups plan to create ethnic “autonomies” in Moscow Oblast have sparked fears among many Russians that this is the first step to creating “national islands of territorial independence.” But legal experts say that such autonomies if they are set up will have far less ominous goals.

            In the last several weeks, activists in the Central Asian immigrant communities in the Moscow region have called for the holding of meetings to create national-cultural autonomies that will promote the linguistic and cultural rights of their members (

            Russians have taken to social media and expressed concerns that this a plot by persons unknown to destroy Russia from within. But legal specialists point out that national cultural autonomies have existed in Russia since 2006 and are carefully regulated by law. They argue that there is no reason to think they could be used against Russia’s territorial integrity.

            Such associations have the right to promote the linguistic and cultural rights of their members and to open schools and other institutions toward that end. And they even have the right to seek financing from the government in support on the same basis as do other non-governmental organizations.

            But they cannot take any action that threatens the interests and rights of other nations, including ethnic Russians, these legal specialists say; and the Russian government carefully monitors what these institutions do and reins them in whenever it appears they may have crossed that redline.

            What makes this story important is not what the non-Russian immigrants are doing but what it shows abou just how sensitive any move by non-Russians has become among the indigenous Russian population and how willing and able the latter are to turn to social media to express their anger and fears. 

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