Seat of government in Ufa, Bashkortostan, known as the "White House". Photo by Ilmira at tourister.ru
Ethnic Russians Displacing Representatives of Titular Nationalities in Non-Russian Republic Governments
Staunton, VA, February 14, 2016 — Moscow’s moves against non-Russian language education and the prerogatives of non-Russian republics have generated a great deal of anger among non-Russians and attracted widespread attention. But the center’s effort to install ethnic Russians in government positions that had been held by non-Russians in the past has not.
That may be about to change thanks to a protest lodged by officials and activists in Bashkortostan, who see the creeping Russianization of the bureaucracy of that Middle Volga republic as at least as threatening as language reforms and the limiting of the powers of the republic government as such.
Their findings laid out in two letters to Vladimir Putin are likely to spark similar investigations in other non-Russian republics and even provoke a nationalist outcry over this trend.
Earlier in February, members of the Bashkir public organization Arkadash held a meeting at which its members discussed the conclusions of a study of the ethnic composition of officials at various levels in the republic. That study found that over the last five years, there has been “a planned driving out of the indigenous population from administrative posts.”
In their letters to Putin, these Bashkir activists say that as a result of dismissals over the last five years under republic head Rustem Khamitov, there isn’t a single Bashkir among the leaders of the eight most important agencies of the republic government.
Moreover, they point out, more than 2,000 officials have been dismissed from middle and lower levels of the bureaucracy, and “the overwhelming majority” of those removed have been Bashkirs. Their replacements come from outside the republic and are quite often ethnic Russians, the study found.
In one district, whose population is 45 percent ethnically Bashkir, “among the 37 municipal employees there are only four of the indigenous nationality,” and “among the deputy heads and heads of departments there wasn’t and isn’t a single Bashkir, except for the district’s architect,” the authors of the investigation found.
The Bashkirs are especially upset about this trend in the law-enforcement agencies of the republic. According to Valiakhmet Badretdinov, one of the vice presidents of Arkadash, “among the leaders of the force structures there is not a single Bashkir although earlier the federal agencies in agreement with the leadership of the republic considered the nationality factor in the assignment not only of leaders but also specialists.”
According to the Bashkir journalist who reported on the release of the letters, “even in the most wild Soviet times, purges in the republic sought to maintain an [ethnic] balance. Soviet power, while with one hand subjecting to repressions representatives of the Bashkir elite for ‘bourgeois nationalism’ … with the other embedded the indigenous population in Soviet government bodies.”
“There existed even an unwritten rule: the party leadership, the executive power, and the republic council were divided among representatives of ethnic Russians, Bashkirs and Tatars. Today, however, activists say, “the nationalities of top officials … violate this balance.” And that creates tensions.
The authors of the appeal to Putin also point out that underlying developments may make this unfortunate trend even more prominent. In the name of saving money, the government has cut back on the number of schools, with a disproportionate share of those being cut being rural Bashkir-language schools.
At the level of higher education, only one school has a Bashkir head – the one that trains people for the agricultural sector. As a result, the educational system in the republic is prompting ever more people from the republic to leave. In 2014 alone, “almost 50,000” left to work elsewhere.
Bashkirs are getting upset. Marat Kulsharipov, a republic historian, points out that “the patience of people is not unlimited. We now are talking not about emotions or personal passions. We have specific statistics not only about cadres but also about the general social-economic situation in the republic.” Something needs to be done and soon.