Many Incorrectly And Unfairly Classify Buryats As Loyal Soldiers Of Putin’s War In Ukraine – OpEd


Because the Russian defense minister is half Buryat, because Buryatia is known to have excessive crimes, and because individual Buryat soldiers have been involved in atrocities in Ukraine, many there and elsewhere are inclined to classify them as totally loyal foot soldiers in Putin’s war in Ukraine, Feliks Shvedovsky says.

That is perhaps not surprising at a time of war when there is a widespread tendency to paint everything in black and white and to ignore nuances, the longtime Russian Buddhist activist who is a political émigré from Russia and a refugee from Ukraine says. But it ignores some important realities (

Most Buryats are Buddhist, Shvedkovsky says, and those who are not are nonetheless infused with Buddhist values, including opposition to the use of force. Consequently, although this doesn’t get much attention now, many Buryats, as well as other Buddhists in the Russian Federation, are very much opposed to Putin’s war in Ukraine and have in fact protested the war.

He acknowledges that there are a disproportionate number of Buryats in the Russian forces in Ukraine but points out that most are there because they are trying to escape the horrible poverty they experience at home and see time in the military as the best or in many cases only way to escape.

Some may have committed atrocities in Ukraine, but they did so not as Buryats but as Russian soldiers, Shvedkovsky says. That makes them different than the pro-Moscow Chechens with whom they are sometimes conflated who do in fact act independently and with impunity because of Kadyrov’s relationship with Putin.

But it is important for all concerned that both Ukrainians and people of good will elsewhere not fall into a propaganda trap laid by Moscow which is only too happy to see Ukrainians place more blame on the non-Russians in its military than on the Russians who are after all the dominant component of the invaders.

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] .

5 thoughts on “Many Incorrectly And Unfairly Classify Buryats As Loyal Soldiers Of Putin’s War In Ukraine – OpEd

  • May 22, 2022 at 12:16 pm

    What nonsense to split hairs like this. They joined the military while being Buddhists. Some are not in favor of war just like many other Russian soldiers. Some have committed war crimes just like many other Russian soldiers. To say “Oh they are different” is nonsense “Oh their not like Chechens,” is bogus. They are Russian soldiers, they joined and now fight..or flee..or commit war crimes…or cry in a foxhole like all soldiers. Not special, not blameless, and certainly not above the politics.

  • June 22, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    Hi! Mistake, Russian defense minister is not half Buryat, he is Tuva!

  • June 22, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    Let’s not forget, that it’s Ukrainian Ex Ombudsman Denisova was spreading news about buryats, and now was fired because of unverified claims.

  • September 6, 2022 at 11:18 am

    “Buddhist values” :-) Cool story bro! Even if I could believe Buryats are forced to fight, nobody forces them to notoriously rape Ukrainian women.

  • September 28, 2022 at 9:58 pm

    Actual facts to be mentioned.
    1. the russian defense minister is not buryat, he is Tuvan.
    2. Buryat militarymen are scattered within the ethnic Russian-based units taking up maximum of 20%. They mostly serve in 3 brigades from buryatia where all the commanders are Russians and Ukranians by origin. Ethnic Buryats can be less than 20% of all soldiers in the units if not less, all the rest are Russians, Ukranians and other nationalities.
    3. Buryats were not stationed in those towns where rapes took place. By now the investigators identified the regiments as 64th brigade from Khabarovsk where most of the soldiers were ethnic ukranians who were born in that ukranian-based region of Russia. This is the fact that Ukraine was eager to conceal by blaming buryats and they succeed in it. This myth was readily used by Russians who in their turn accused buryats in their own crimes. By now we know that Russians from Pskov city to the north of Moscow and 64th brigade of Russian Ukranians were committing crimes, theft and atrocities, Their names are known, you can see them on photos with parcels sent to Russian not Buryat cities.
    4 Denisova. a former ombudsmen of Ukraine. was fired because of lies and improper behaviour as a human rights commissioner> She was the first to start telling made-up stories about Buryats and trying to whitewash ethnic Ukranians from Russia.


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