Wednesday, April 24, 2024

‘Sakhalar’ – Ethnic Russians Who have Become Yakuts

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 19 – It is an article of faith in the Kremlin and one for which there is much evidence that assimilation in Putin’s Russia proceeds in only one direction -- that non-Russians lose their languages and cultures and become Russianized and ultimately change their identity and that ethnic Russians never give up Russian and assimilate to a non-Russian group.

            But there are exceptions; and while they are not large in number, they are an indication that ethnic Russians when they find themselves in a situation where another language and culture are dominate may lose their Russian language, speak instead the language of the majority around them, and even reidentify ethnically.

            The NeMoskva portal calls attention to ethnic Russians whose ancestors moved to rural portions of Sakha (Yakutia) long ago, who are surrounded by ethnic Sakha, and who now know the language of the titular nationality better than they do Russian, the language their ancestors spoke when they first arrived (

            The number of such people is relatively small and may be dismissed as anecdotal; but their existence is important for three reasons: First, it shows that ethnic Russians are not exempt from the rules that govern the behavior of other ethnic communities who find themselves in an overwhelmingly different ethnic and linguistic milieu.

            Second, the existence of such people helps to explain the passion with which many in the Moscow government pursue policies of Russification, a passion driven not only by a desire to spread the Russian nationality to others but also and by fears that Russian identity could be challenged if non-Russians grow in number and retain their languages.

            And third, “the ethnic Russian Yakuts” as NeMoskva translates “Sakhalar” should remind the non-Russians of the power of their own ethnicity and language when these are maintained, a power sufficiently great to overwhelm “the Great Russian nation” that the Kremlin and its propagandists typically insist upon without the kind of pushback some might expect.


No comments:

Post a Comment