Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Non-Russians Increasingly Uniting against Russian Imperialism

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 1 – Viktoriya Maladayeva, a co-founder of the Free Buryatia Foundation, has launched an Instagram project to link all the non-Russians together so that Moscow can’t play one off against the other and so that these nations will be able to come together in a united front to fight Moscow’s imperialism.

            Her project thus directly challenges two tactics Moscow has long used against the non-Russians, playing one group off against another and promoting the notion that non-Russians seek the disintegration of Russia when in fact many, indeed perhaps most, want only to be treated equally and fairly. It also makes Moscow’s repression more difficult and counterproductive.

                        Maladayev’s project, which can be viewed at, is attracting attention. Her own site,, which addresses many of the same issues, already has more than 23,000 followers (

            She faces an uphill battle given the enormous diversity among the non-Russian peoples not only because of their history and culture but because of their goals. Some simply want more protection for their languages and cultures while others are already demanding complete independence from Russia.

            But one close observer of this trend, Leyla Latypova, argues that “what unites all these movements is a collective colonial trauma: the shared first-hand experience of Kremlin policies that threaten the existence of indigenous languages, cultures, and – as the rippling effects of the [Ukraine war] show – entire ethnic groups” (

            Many have been radicalized by their experiences when they move into Russian areas and are treated as despised “little brothers” of the Russians; but even more have become committed activists because of what Putin’s war in Ukraine has shown about the nature of the Russian state and its views about all non-Russians, she continues.

            Maladayeva’s effort, however, is far from alone. Other non-Russian activists are also promoting analogous agendas of inter-ethnic solidarity. Among these are the Asians of Russia (, and the Komi Daily internet newspaper (, and the Republic Speaking podcast series (

            Such groups, the Buryat activist says, “are not fighting against the Russian people: we are fighting against the colonial system in which Russians are considered ‘a state-forming nation’ [and] against a system that discriminates against our languages, cultures and histories.” That gives a basis for common action.

            Those sharing this view held two major online conferences last fall and put up almost 15 hours of proceedings on line where their messages continue to echo ( and And they have joined together to protest repression in Bashkortostan.

            “If one nation faces injustice on such a scale, then all other nations should come to their defense and support the persecuted. That should be the norm,” Maladayeva says; and that is why she is seeking “give a voice to Indigenous peoples, to promote decolonial optics because that is the key to salvation for Russia.”

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