Moscow using refugees from Ukraine to shift ethnic balance in non-Russian republics, Bashkir historian Says

Photo: Yerevanci, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Yerevanci, via Wikimedia Commons 

2014/08/04 • Russia

Moscow is directing predominantly ethnic Russian refugees from the fighting in southeastern Ukraine into non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation in a transparent effort to change the ethnic balance in those republics and further Russianize them, according to Marat Kulsharipov, a historian at Bashkortostan State University.

In an interview to RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service, Kulsharipov said that those who are fleeing from Eastern Ukraine “are not sent to Rostov, Kursk Belgorod or other [predominantly] Russian regions [which are close to Ukraine] but to Bashkortostan, which is thousands of kilometers away”

Some of them, he continued, “are being accommodated in the summer camps” of local universities. Others are “being sent to different towns all over Bashkortostan, a Muslim Turkic republic in the Middle Volga. That inevitably raises the question as to “why so many of them have been sent to [the non-Russian republics] rather than distributed equally throughout Russia.”

In his judgment, Kulsharipov said, what is being done reflects a decision by Moscow to “change the ethnic mix” in the non-Russian republics, boosting the number of ethnic Russians and thus reducing the share of the titular nationalities. That is clearly part of a broader Moscow strategy to create a single “Russian” nation.

There is another aspect to this Moscow-arranged flow: it has created unfunded mandates and sparked new ethnic tensions in the republics, the historian said. “The refugees get money from the republic budget, and they get housing and jobs.” But “they’ll never take a hard and low-paying job. People who live here are insulted by that.”

The reason for the feelings of the Bashkirs, he said, is “that this is being done [by Moscow] on purpose. If the refugees were being sent to other regions as well, [they] wouldn’t be so frustrated.” The Bashkirs are angry because they view this policy as “targeting the non-Russians.” The republic president probably understands this but “can’t say anything.”

RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service reports that Bashkortostan is slated to receive up to 5,000 Russian refugees from Ukraine, a number that is not huge but one that can tip the ethnic balance were the share of the population of various nationalities is relatively evenly balanced as in many parts of that Middle Volga republic and to a certain extent for Bashkortostan as a whole.

The policy Kulsharipov points to represents a continuation of Soviet practice. When members of ethnic groups have returned from abroad, they were often settled not where they wanted but where Moscow thought this would do the most good for its policies of maintaining control.

The most notorious of such Soviet actions, of course, was Moscow’s decision to settle Armenians returning from abroad after World War II in parts of the Armenian SSR and then invoking their need for space as the basis for expelling Azerbaijanis from the region, an action that still rankles in the southern Caucasus.

But there is an equally clear case, albeit a negative one, of such policies elsewhere in post-Soviet Russia. Moscow has sought to block the return of Circassians to their historical homeland in the North Caucasus lest that shift the ethnic balance against the Russians and undermine central control of that restive region.

Source: Window on Eurasia
Photo: Yerevanci, via Wikimedia Commons

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  • George

    Refugees now; just the beginning, wait until all the residents of Crimea who chose a russian passport and thought the russian city marked inside was a mistake. No mistake, that’s where they’ll be moved to.

    • Jacks Channel

      Yeah, won’t that be a wake up call.

      Russia citizens, if you can hear me, kick your government out of office and start a new one. You will be better off.

  • Donald Casavant

    Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Stalin do the same thing back in the 1930’s and 40s?

    • Danny Smith

      yes Stalin moved the people around hoping they would lose the national identity.. it is reason why there are so many ethnic Russian living in different countries.. and why there are so many problems

      • Donald Casavant

        Yea, I thought I had read that before. That is how all these Russians arrived in Ukraine. They were all settled in the eastern part of Ukraine.

        • Danny Smith

          In East Ukraine there are many Russian descendants of those that moved there into empty homes and land owned by the people who either died from starvation or where moved to Siberia.

          I read somewhere that Stalin gave the order to remove all Ukrainians from Ukraine and this was before WW2.
          The document of his order and signature exists.. but I have not seen a copy of it yet.

          • Donald Casavant

            Thank you…Great information!

  • Jacks Channel

    All the Soviet/Russian government has ever done was interfere with other ethnic peoples countries and lives for the sake of holding together their (fake) Russian country.

    The PRC government is no better. Ask a Chinese citizen if they want democracy or communism and they will say democracy, but the Han Chinese Mongol Khans won’t allow it.