ISSN 2330-717X

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] .

3 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.


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