Ukrainian War Has Radicalized Non-Russian Interest In Gaining Independence – OpEd
By Paul Goble
Many non-Russians were interested in gaining independence long before Vladimir Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine last year, Dankhata Khavlyg says; but the war not only increased their numbers across the board but has also radicalized these groups.
The Berlin-based Tuvin activist who conducts podcasts with representatives of six Asian national regions of the Russian Federation knows whereof she speaks. (For links to her podcasts, see email@example.com; for her background and what participants have told her, see sibreal.org/a/kak-v-imperii-zhivetsya-natsionalnomu-menshinstvu/32397528.html.)
Khavlyg says that “the Kremlin very much fears the growth of national self-consciousness in the republics” not only because the people there are very different from Russians but also because it is in the Russians that much of Russia’s natural wealth is located, even though Moscow keeps the people there exceedingly poor.
She points out that “the striving toward decolonization began earlier than the war in Ukraine, but prior to that, it was more moderate.” The invasion as it were “broke the dike” and people are now talking about it and concluding they need to take real steps toward ending the colonial rule they have lived under.
Many find it hard to accept that is happening because of the role people from these six republics have played as cannon fodder in Ukraine. But that is because they do not understand just how grindingly poor people in these republics now are and how military service offers sometimes the only hope that they can take care of their families.
Like many non-Russians, Khavlyg is very critical of Russian liberals who believe that they can unilaterally transform Russia without the participation of the non-Russians and even non-Muscovites in the process. Indeed, she is explicit: “I do not very much believe in a beautiful Russia of the future,” the term many Russian liberals use.
“When Putin leaves, and this is inevitable and then our Russian liberal opposition cohort comes to power, I am certain that the situation in our republics will not change. Everything will only get worse because it will be necessary to pay reparations, and there will be many people returning from the war with illnesses, injuries and PTSD.”
“Crime will grow and things will be hard and terrible.”
“If the opposition does not see the problems in colonialism, this means that they will not solve our problems. It means that for them, the centralization of power is OK.” The non-Russians and those in the regions understand this and that is why many of them have together to release the “Nothing about Us without US” open letter” (decolonialsolidarity.org/ discussed at.windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/04/nothing-about-us-without-us-non.html).
The regions and republics must regain the ability to make their own economic and political decisions, she continues. The capital should be moved east of the Urals to end the Moscow-centric focus of Russian politics. National languages should be encouraged. And monuments to Russian killers and colonizers must be dismantled.
At the same time, Khavlyg says, it is important to recognize that many people combine their national identity with a Russian one. Sometimes people speak about such people being half this and half this. But in fact, this should be understood as 100 percent of one and one hundred percent of another.”
“Identity multiplies and doesn’t divide. We are not a vessel but a cosmos in which these identities exist in various ways; and it is not the case that one drives out the other.”
Asked for whom she prepares her podcasts, Khavlyg says the following: “The first target group are people in the Asian republics of Russia. The second are people from other national republics. The third are native immigrants like me who are outside their motherlands. And the last is the rest of the population of Russia and of other countries.”