Staunton, June 6 – The economic crisis is leading to the de-industrialization of parts of the North Caucasus and that in turn is contributing to the flight of ethnic Russians from the region, a departure that is fundamentally changing the ethnic balance in many republics in that region.
That trend can be clearly seen in Karachayevo-Cherkessia where the departure of Russians has reduced their share of the population since the end of Soviet times from 42 percent to 31 percent, while the shares of the two titular nationalities, the Turkic Karachays and the Circassian Cherkess have gone up from 31 to 41 percent and from 10 to 12 percent respectively.
Russian activists, like Nikolay Khokhlachev of that republic’s “Rus’” movement, acknowledge that “the outflow of Russians is connected…above all with the deep social-economic crisis…[which has meant that] major industrial enterprises have ceased to operate”.
In the city of Cherkessk alone, the number of industrial workplaces has declined by 25,000, and many of the ethnic Russians who had occupied them have moved to neighboring portions of the Russian Federation, including Stavropol, Krasnodar and Rostov, in the hopes of finding work.
But like many other Russian activists, Khokhlachev blames the actions of the now dominant local ethnic community, the Karachays, and the tendency of its members to give jobs and money to members of their own ethnic community rather than anyone else, something that Russians not surprisingly find offensive and another reason for leaving.
In many government offices, there are simply no ethnic Russians left, he says, and consequently, there is no one Russians can feel entirely comfortable appealing to. The situation is especially serious in the courts where the titular nationality has taken over many positions Russians used to occupy.
According to Khokhlachev, the number of Russians remaining has declined to the point that there have been few scandals about the replacement of Russians by others in recent years. But that is evidence of the problem rather than evidence that no such problem exists, he tells Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
The situation in government offices is paralleled, he continues, by the situation in the economy. Private firms controlled by Karachays or Cherkess are given contracts; those owned by Russians are not. The consequences of that are that the Russian firms contract or close far more often than do the others.
At the same time, however, Khokhlachev admits that he cannot complain that the republic government was not providing funds for remaining ethnic Russians. “In that regard,” he says, “I will not complain. Our regions receive just as much as the others.” But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hard feelings among Russians.
On the one hand, he says, Russians resent the often grandiloquent statements of Karachay teachers about the importance of that Turkic people and suggestions that the Karachays live “from Africa to the Arctic.” And on the other, Russians are angry about how the authorities commemorate anniversaries.
Republic officials, he says, have refused to commemorate those from the republic lost in World War II because most of those who died were ethnic Russians. Given the deportation of the Karachays – Khokhlachev simply says they “didn’t live there” at the time – the share of losses suffered by Russians is much larger than that of others.