Ukraine and Russia’s Non-Russians Reportedly Viewing Each Other as Allies, Disturbing Moscow

December 3, 2014
Tatar nationalist separatists supported Euromaidan

Staunton, December 3 – Increasingly frequent expressions of support for Ukraine by non-Russian peoples within the borders of the Russian Federation and similar expressions of support for these nations by Kyiv is disturbing many Russians who see this as an alliance of “Russophobes of all kinds.”

In an article on, Ufa journalist Svetlana Nurgaleyeva said that nationalist groups among the non-Russian groups, including Buryats, Chuvashes, Tatars, and Bashkirs, have come together “on the basis of Russophobia and hatred to Russia as a state.”

When the Maidan began, Tatars in Kazan held a demonstration in support of the Ukrainian movement. Then in February, Chuvash nationalists declared that the Ukrainians were not fighting non-Russians like themselves but rather “imperialist Moscow,” the common enemy of both.

And at the same time, Buryat nationalists held a round table at which participants declared that “there are no Nazis or ‘Banderites’ in the Maidan; instead, there are people ready to struggle to the end for their rights,” something that Buryats said should inspire rather than repel non-Russians in Russia.

Non-Russian nationalists, Nurgaleyeva continued, have repeated these ideas since that time. But now the situation has become more serious because Ukrainian media have responded by giving extensive coverage to and thus encouragement for such declarations and the actions that follow from them.

According to the Ufa journalist, Bashkir nationalists “should look more closely at what is happening in Novorossiya” and see that “every day Russians in Novorossiya are being killed because they want to speak their native language.” And they would conclude that if they were prevented from speaking theirs, they would do what the Russians in Novorossiya are doing.

But she says – and this is Nurgaleyeva’s most important admission – the Bashkir nationalists are not interested in language in the first instance: “Many do not want to speak their native Bashkir.” What they want is to “divide up Russia.”

She is pointing to something that is usually overlooked: Many nationalists among non-Russian groups just like many Ukrainians speak Russian, but the fact that they do does not make them any less committed to their respective nations and may even make them more so because by speaking Russian, they enter into a world where they encounter discrimination based solely on ethnicity.  And that often triggers the nationalist responses Nurgaleyeva bemoans.

But she and obviously other Russians in Russian are concerned about something else: government officials in the non-Russian republics “openly support” radical nationalist groups “and at the same time put pressure on the Russian national movement,” a pattern that she says will lead “sooner or later” to an explosion of anger among Russians.

That threat is real, but so too is another threat that is implicit in Nurgaleyeva’s article: Her suggestion about the emerging “alliance” of anti-Moscow non-Russian nationalists within the Russian Federation and Ukrainian nationalists abroad represents a clear appeal to Moscow to repress the former now before they are in a position to act as the latter already do.