Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pan-Mongol Sentiments Re-Surfacing among Buryats

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – It has long been an axiom of Eurasian analysis that pan-Mongolism emerges only when Russia and/or China are weak. That has certainly been true in the past, but with Mongolia now a much more independent country than ever before in modern times, it may be time to modify the assumptions underlying that approach.
            Three recent developments suggest that: First, Moscow has forced the liquidation of the office of the plenipotentiary representative of Buryatia in Ulan Bator, apparently fearful that it was promoting the restoration of closer ties between the two Mongol peoples than the Russian government is prepared to tolerate.

            Instead, it has concentrated any ties between the Buryat Republic within the Russian Federation and the Mongolian government through a single official in the Russian embassy in Ulan Bator, an individual who is known to be a vocal opponent of Buryat national causes (

            Second, despite this, Buryat officials and Buryats more generally are intensifying their contacts with their Mongol counterparts, seeking Moscow’s permission for expanded ties with Mongolia and urging the Buryat government to promote Mongol language classes in the republic’s schools (

            The latter if successful could lead to a rapprochement between the two Mongol languages, Khalka and Buryat, and thus help promote the view widely held by many Buryats to this day that they are part of a broader Mongol nation, something that already informs the statements of some Buryat activists (

            And third, the self-described Pan-Mongol Party in Emigration based in Baku is using the Internet to reach out to Buryats in particular. It has become more active following the decision of the Buryat Republic parliament to disband the republic’s supreme court in order to save money and increase efficiency (

            Arguing that this move is but the latest step in Moscow’s campaign to destroy Buryat statehood, the party calls on all Buryats “to struggle with all their forces until complete victory.”  Specifically, it declares that “we do not recognize the collaborationist powers in Buryatia as legitimate” and declares that Russian government is “an occupation administration.”

            “We appeal to the world community to recognize Buryatia as an occupied territory, we consider that the Buryat-Mongol ethnos is being subjected to political and cultural genocide,” and, it declares, “activists of the Buryat national-liberation movement in emigration are the only legal power on the territory of Buryatia.”

            The party makes clear its final goal: “Buryatia will be independent!”

UN Now Taking Russia’s Regional Diversity Seriously in Its Demographic Projections

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – A United Nations’ prediction this week that Russia’s total population will decline by 12 million by mid-century has attracted the most attention, but a far more important aspect of the UN study is that it discussed Russia’s demographic future in terms of its diverse regions rather than treating the country as a whole.

            That approach contrasts sharply with the one the United Nations, Russian analysts and many outside observers employ in which Russia like other countries is treated as a single whole rather than as one where demographic developments and problems in some regions are very different from those in others. 

            The UN study notes first of all that Russia’s cities are going to continue to grow, albeit by only three million people before 2050, with the number of Russians living in urban centers rising from 107 million now to 110 million by mid-century (

                Rural Russia in contrast is going to see its population fall by “almost 40 percent,” the UN report says, from 36.8 million now to 22.1 million in 2015. Urbanization is characteristic of most countries, the UN says; but in Russia, this process is exacerbated by the decline in the number of women in prime child-bearing cohorts and a fall in preferred family size.

            GDP per capita rates also vary widely across Russia, from European levels in the central cities, to those of Bhutan, Honduras or Papua New Guinea in Tyva. Indeed, the report suggests that large segments of the Russian Federation now have a standard of living corresponding to that of third world countries.

            The results are inevitable: the population of Murmansk Oblast has fallen by 34 percent since 1989, Sakhalin Oblast by 31 percent, and by more than 25 percent in Arkhangelsk, Pskov, Amur and Kirov Oblasts, all predominantly ethnic Russian regions.  Infant mortality in such regions is also far higher than elsewhere.

            The UN predictions, Tatyana Malyeva of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service are “close to the real situation” as reported by the Russian state statistical agency which acknowledges that Russia’s population after a brief uptick has begun to fall again, with births falling in 84 subjects, and deaths exceeding births in 17 regions by more than 50 percent. 

            What makes the UN report significant is that when an international body approaches Russia not as a single whole but as a conglomerate of very different parts, it makes it easier for many both in Russia and in the West to take the diversity within Russia more seriously and focus attention on how Moscow is or is not promoting equality.

            And that in turn, as was the case at the end of Soviet times, has the effect of making it easier for people in Moscow and the West to appreciate and take seriously the complaints and programs of regional elites, experts and political movements rather than as often happens now treating the Russian Federation as a single homogenous thing. 

North Caucasus Violence Continues Shift from Ethnic to Islamist – But with Enormous Ethnic Consequences

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 20 – Yesterday’s attack on an Orthodox church in the capital of Chechnya reflects a continuation of the trend away from ethnically based violence to that motivated by Islamist groups, the result of Moscow’s downplaying of ethnicity in contrast to earlier efforts to use ethnicity to undermine Islam and of efforts by Islamic groups to fill the vacuum.

            But such religiously-based attacks have enormous ethnic consequences, given that religion in most cases follows ethnic lines, leading ever more ethnic Russians to leave the North Caucasus republics and investing the nationality of the peoples there with greater religious content. (See
            The Grozny attack in which four militants and congregation members and two policemen died, Kavkaz-Uzel reports today, “recalls the attack in Kizlyar and thus becomes the second case of an attack on Orthodox in the North Caucasus since the beginning of the year.  In the earlier attack in Daghestan, five people died (

                ISIS took responsibility for the earlier attack but it has not yet done so in the current one, although suggestions by Ramzan Kadyrov and others that the attack was directed from abroad suggest that in the view of the authorities at least, ISIS bears responsibility for the current act of violence as well.