Ethnic Minorities Form Increasing Share Of Putin-Era Emigration – OpEd

The rising tide of emigration from the Russian Federation as a whole has attracted significant attention in Moscow and the West, but this flow has generally been presented, with a few notable political exceptions, as a search by citizens of that country for greater economic opportunity.

That makes this “fourth Putin wave” in many ways very different from the so-called “third wave” in the last decades of USSR when most of those who left, Jews and Germans, did so for reasons related to the ways in which their communities were treated by the Soviet authorities.

But there are exceptions to that explanation, involving those suffering because of who and what they are. As Yevgeniya Baltatarova and Mariya Khankhunova pointa out in Buryatia’s “Respublika,” “national minorities, gays, journalists and activists are [now] a major part of the political emigration of the Putin wave” (respnews.ru/news/specreportazh/bezhency-21-veka).

They do not provide statistics, but they do suggest that while gays, journalists and activists who leave have attracted a great deal of notice, members of non-Russian nationalities generally have not, something they say should be corrected because ever more of the latter are moving abroad and willing to talk about the repression that drove them there.

In a 2,000-word article, the two journalists provide examples from the growing Buryat diaspora not only in the United States but elsewhere and provide information on which countries offer the easiest path to asylum, information that may lead even more Buryats to consider leaving as well.

The kinds of repression that the Buryat emigres describe to them will be familiar to anyone who tracks developments among them and other non-Russians: attacks and loss of jobs and income because of views and actions that the Russian authorities consider unacceptable such as insisting that their nations were absorbed by Russia in anything but a voluntary way.

But one aspect of this situation that Baltatarova and Khankhunova do not mention may be especially important: The Russian government may be especially pleased to see such activists go because it lowers the temperature in and the organizational potential of nationalist movements in the non-Russian republics.

That in turn should lead analysts in the West to view the non-Russian emigres as an important source of information about what is going on outside Moscow’s ring road. The testimony of such people already suggests that at least in some places, nationalism is again growing, and that Moscow, however much it denies the fact, is frightened by it.


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Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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