5,000 Bashkirs Protest Russian Mining, Putting Putin’s Plans To Make Russia Self-Sufficient In Manganese – OpEd


Some 5,000 Bashkirs have gone into the streets to demand that Moscow and Ufa end plans to continue to develop gold mining in at Middle Volga region. Ufa has not been able to quiet the protest, and Moscow is worried because the suspension of mining there could put at risk Putin’s plans to make Russia self-sufficient in Manganese.

At present, there are many proved deposits of manganese in the Russian Federation; but most of them are located far from the infrastructure needed to develop mines and then transport the valuable ore out. Bashkortostan is an exception; and so Moscow is clearly concerned that protests could delay or even block such development (nakanune.ru/articles/120873/).

Given that Moscow currently imports significant amounts of manganese from countries it may not be able to count on over the long haul, what the Bashkirs are doing has the potential to throw a wrench into Kremlin plans. It is for that reason rather than for gold that officials at the center are concerned. 

Ufa has sent its deputy prime minister to negotiate with the protesters; but as of now, he has not been able to open talks because the Bashkir demonstrators say that any mining will have adverse environmental impact on the air and water of their republic and that the only way forward must involve preventing mining there

Three years ago, Bashkortostan attracted attention because of massive protests against plans to develop soda mines on a mountain sacred to that nation, a protest that became ever more political with demonstration leaders adopting ever more political and radical positions (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/ufa-has-transformed-environmental.html).

Except for the Shiyes anti-trash dump protests in the far north, environmental protests in Bashkortostan have attracted the most attention in Moscow, largely because of the republic’s central location which means that any mining can be carried out at far less cost than at most other sites.

But before the pandemic, the number of environmental protests had risen to 500 a year across the Russian Federation (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/09/in-last-year-alone-russians-organized.html); and since the pandemic’s end, their numbers have been rising once again, often radicalized by the war in Ukraine (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/01/putins-war-in-ukraine-has-radicalized.html).

The experience of the last decades of Soviet power suggest that the authorities have much to fear from such a development because then, and it appears again now, environmental protests are the seedbeds of political movements, including ones seeking autonomy or independence from Moscow (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/11/environmental-protests-in-russian.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/11/ecological-protest-in-russia-becoming.html).

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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