Staunton, February 5 – The nationality issue after receding somewhat in recent years is now the “sharpest” issue in Russia not only because Russians are being challenged to decide who they are but because it is becoming ever more difficult for ethnic Russians to live in the country’s non-Russian republics, according to Moscow commentator Oleg Kashin.
In the course of his participation on an Ekho Moskvy talk show, Kashin discussed these problems in far more open terms than is typically the case, given the risks of criminal charges, and even hinted at the possibility of the disintegration of the Russian Federation into several new countries if nothing changes (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalnovash/1920514-echo/).
Indeed, Kashin said, citing the words of Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s foreign minister, that “Poland was ‘the deformed child of the Versailles Treaty,” today “Russia also is unfortunately a deformed child but of the Beloveshchaya Treaty” not only because of the non-Russian entities within it but because Russians are a divided people just like the Germans were.
In many ways, the commentator says, Russians face problems. The Kremlin’s drive to get ethnic Russians to accept a status as part of a non-ethnic rossiiskaya nation is a threat because no Chechen will cease to be a Chechen but an ethnic Russian in such a situation could cease to be an ethnic Russian.
And the country’s current system means that “today, ethnic Russians, unlike dozens of other ethnoses included in Russia are deprived of the political representation and statehood which Buryats, Yakuts, and everyone except the ethnic Russians has because Russia is, as it is written in the Constitution, a multi-national and multi-confessional country.”
Inside Russia, Kashin continues, “there exist some 15 quite harsh ethnocracies, ranging from the Chechen Republic, the most radical one where an individual by birth in Chechnya receives certain advantages which a Russian doesn’t have” and where an ethnic Russian cannt hope to make any sort of career.
“Approximately the same thing albeit in a softer variant exists in other regions with a titular nation,” he says. “It is impossible for a Russian to make a successful career in Tuva, for instance. It is very difficult for a Russian in Yakutia. Buryatia which is primarily populated by Russians” is the same. All this, Kashin complains, is “pure Nazism.”
Asked whether he wanted to turn things upside down and put Russians in charge of all these places, a situation his interlocutor pointed out would prompt non-Russians to ask about their rights, Kashin insists that all he is calling for is equal treatment, because in his words, “today there are no equal rights” in these places.
And when it was pointed out that there are few Buryats in the central Russian government, he says that “on the other hand, “there are Buryats in the tank forces” of the Russian military fighting in Ukraine. That alone should make all Russian citizens interested in equal treatment regardless of ethnicity.
A listener from Leningrad oblast pointed out that if Kashin’s ideas were realized, Russia would fall apart, to which the commentator responded that “it is difficult for [him] to speak about that” because of laws that criminalize any talk of secession and because ethnic Russians remain a divided nation not only within their own country but across international boundaries.
All this makes even talking about these things “a dangerous subject.” And therefore. Kashin continues, he will not speculate on what is coming an, whether Russia is going to fall apart. But he does say that “no one including Putin in fact knows” how to avoid that even though the possibility of collapse should have been the subject of discussion already for many years.