Monday, June 18, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Buryats Get Mixed Messages from Moscow

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 18 – Two Russian leaders – one the outsider who has now been confirmed as president of Buryatia and the other the Presidential plenopotentiary for the Siberian Federal District – sent very different messages to the Buryats over the last few days.
Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn, the Kremlin’s nominee whom the republic parliament confirmed on Friday by a vote of 57 to 4 (three deputies did not take part) (, went out of his way to indicate that he would be solicitous of Buryat interests and concerns.
He told the deputies that “a knowledge of the Buryat language is obligatory for the president of Buryatia” -- even though the dropping of that requirement earlier had made his appointment possible -- and said that he had already found an instructor to teach him that tongue (
Nagovitsyn, an ethnic Russian who had never been to Buryatia let alone served there before last week, also said that he would follow the course of his predecessor in order that “the national dignity and culture be preserved, lest Buryatia be lost as such. Then this would be some kind of other republic.”
But if Nagovitsyn was supportive almost to the point of pandering, Anatoliy Kvashnin, the former army general who serves as Presidential plenopotentiary to the Siberian Federal District within which Buryatia is now located, appeared to be dismissive of Buryat and broader regional concerns (
Kvashnin rejected out of hand that President Vladimir Putin had appointed an outsider in order to “block national movements” interested in uniting Eastern Siberia into “a single region.” And he said that he had “not heard about such initiatives,” which he noted would require “the [as yet unexpressed] will of the population.”

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