Monday, June 25, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Extremist Group Says Top Russian Ethnographer a U.S. Spy

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 25 – The Eurasian Union of Youth, a group that seeks the restoration of a Russian empire, last week accused Valeriy Tishkov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology, of being an American spy and organized a demonstration outside the Academy of Sciences building to demand his removal and arrest for treason.
This absurd accusation and the willingness of some at the extremes to believe it reflect the increasing sensitivity of ethnic issues in the Russian Federation, the incautious remarks of senior Moscow officials about links between Western foundations and Russian scholars, and the continuing decline in civility in Russian political discourse.
Last Wednesday, Valeriy Korovin, the leader of Eurasian Union of Youth, said that Tishkov has used the EAWARN network he created 15 years ago with American assistance to monitor conflicts in the Russian Federation not only to spy for Washington but also to destabilize Russia ({64BA18F0-740C-4C5F-A25A-30D608DBE7A5).
EAWARN, as ethnic specialists around the world know, consists of a network of scholars who track ethnic relations in various parts of the Russian Federation, provide early warning of dangers and provide advice on how local officials and leaders of ethnic communities might cooperate in order to avoid explosions.
Not surprisingly, these researchers have been most involved in and reported most publicly precisely on hotspots in the North Caucasus, Kondopoga and elsewhere – the primary basis for Korovin’s suggestion that EAWARN was behind events there or was “spying” for the Americans.
In addition, the Eurasian leader said EAWARN researchers include some who have advocated independence for some regions and Tishkov who himself has proposed dividing the northern Caucasus into Russian- and non-Russian speaking regions (
Not surprisingly, Tishkov reacted angrily, denouncing the charges as false and defamatory and suggesting that he was thinking about taking the Eurasian Union of Youth and its parent organization, which is headed by commentator and activist Aleksandr Dugin, to court for damages (
The institute director, former nationalities minister under Yeltsin, and current chairman of the Social Chamber’s commission on tolerance gave more details about these absurd charges in an interview with “Novyye izvestiya” that was published on Thursday (
Tishkov said that the Eurasian charges were the product of Dugin’s anger about Tishkov’s criticism of his works on geopolitics, and he noted that many in other countries, including Estonia and Georgia, viewed EAWARN as a agency of Russian espionage, suggestions that are equally false.
Asked whether any of the materials his group collected might be useful for foreign intelligence services, Tishkov responded that “I am not a spy and I do not know what spies can use. You should ask them this.” And he noted that “all the texts of the reports” prepared by EAWARN are publicly available on that group’s website.
But even before his interview could appear, the Eurasian youth group organized a picket outside the Academy of Sciences building where Tishkov’s institute is housed. Its approximately 20 participants carried placards carrying a wide variety of slogans representing the views of this nationalist-extremist group.
Among those reported by were “Glory to the Russian Project! Glory to United Russia!” “Gumilyov Against Tishkov!” “Glory to Putin! Glory to Munich! Down with Tishkov” “Tishkov Threatens the Russian People” and “Tishkov is a Spy?!”
And some of the placards, the Russian site reported, hyperbolically warned that Tishkov will be arrested and “convicted” for his supposed betrayal of the Russian people: “Tishkov, They Are Coming for You!” warned one, with another adding that he could expect “From 10 to 20 Years” in prison.
Tishkov, who is certainly no spy but rather an internationally respected scholar, is clearly angry, but equally clearly he has no intention of backing down from his arguments in support of civic nationalism and against a political role for ethnicity in the future of the Russian Federation.
Indeed, the day before all these charges against him were made, Tishkov published a long article in “Izvestiya” entitled “The Russian [non-ethnic] People and National Identity” in which he criticized ethno-nationalism among both majority and minority groups (
Not surprisingly, that article too infuriated his opponents. And one of them, Maksim Kalashnikov, a nationalist who has engaged in both journalism and fiction, lashed out at him, claiming that Tishkov “does not leave a place for [ethnic] Russians” ({5E74D8E2-2C45-4E3B-A79B-6561AC881430}).
Unfortunately, this kind of attack against scholars, one more typical of Stalin’s times than of even the late Soviet period, is increasingly frequent in the Russia of Vladimir Putin. Many are likely to dismiss its reappearance as an unfortunate byproduct of the Internet, three deeper causes make such a dismissal a mistake.
First, precisely because the Russian authorities have been unwilling to adopt a clear position on many ethnic and national issues, all sides are encouraged to stake out often-radical positions, including totally false and irresponsible ones like those adopted by the Eurasians.
Second, Russian officials from Putin on down have incautiously suggested that scholars and others who have received money from Western foundations are little more than “hirelings” of foreign intelligence agencies and thus a threat to Russia and the Russian people.
And third, as the electoral cycle in Russia heats up, ever more organizations in that country seem prepared to engage in the worst and cheapest form of political attack, putting out charges for which they have no evidence and watching these charges circulate through not only the Internet but the public media as well.
One can only hope that at least a few of the more responsible Russian officials and politicians will speak up on behalf of Tishkov and others like him, lest such vicious attacks send a dangerous chill throughout the intellectual life of the Russian Federation and make it that more difficult for Moscow to meet the difficult challenges it faces.

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