Monday, March 21, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Medvedev’s Offer to Resettle Japanese in Russian Far East Angers Nationalists and Regionalists

Paul Goble

Staunton, March 21 – President Dmitry Medvedev’s suggestion at a meeting of the Russian Security Council that Moscow should consider offering Japanese the chance to resettle in the underpopulated areas of the Russian Far East has outraged both Russian nationalists at the center and Russian activists in that region.

At the end of last week, Medvedev said that in the wake of the problems Japan has been having with the tsunami and nuclear power plant, “we now ought to think about the use in the case of necessity perhaps of part of the labor potential of our neighbors especially in the under-populated regions of Siberia and the Far East” (

This notion was broached earlier in the week by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the outspoken leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, who said bluntly that “the Japanese islandsare unsuitable” for life because of the potential for cataclysms and that “Russia is an order of magnitude more stable in this regard” (

Arguing that “the threat of disappearance hangs over the Japanese nation,” Zhirinovsky suggested that the government of the Russian Federationshould begin condultations about “resettling the residents of the islands on the territory of our country,” where, he suggested they could “learn Russian and be assimilated” and thereby gain Russian citizenship.

There is plenty of room for them in the Russian Far East, the LDPR leader suggested, even in terms of housing. Consider Magadan oblast alone, Zhirinovsky said. There, the population has declined from 400,000 to 160,000, but the housing stock has not, allowing Russia to “accept an enormous number of people.”

Not surprisingly, the idea of allowing for Japanese settlement on Russian territory, especially with the assistance of Moscow, has outraged many Russian nationalists ( as well as xenophobic groups like DPNI (

But this notion has generated particular anger among the Russian population of the Russian Far East, some of whose members are suggesting that Medvedev has so far exceeded his authority that he should be impeached and warning that such an immigration program could lead Siberians to demand independence.

In a blog post picked up by the news agency on Saturday, Sergey Kornyev, a Siberian regionalist who opposes independence for Siberia and the Far East, said that Medvedev’s proposal is so dangerous and outrageous as to constitute treason and that it should lead to his impeachment by the Federal Assembly (

Kornyev outlined five reasons for that conclusion. First of all, he noted, “the president has agreed with the idea of massively introducing in the border regions of Russia citizens of a state which up to now is formally in a state of war with Russia, has territorial claims against it, and which in 1918-1925 occupied a significant part of Siberia and the Far East.”

When Japan was in occupation of that region, Kornyev points out, it attempted to assimilate the Russian population by introducing Japanese laws, renaming cities and streets “and so on,” an indication, the blogger implies, of what a new and massive Japanese presence in that area might mean.

Second, the blogger says, Medvedev by speaking of “the insufficient population” of Siberia and the Far East thus recognized “before the entire world that Russia has ‘excess land.’” That acknowledgement will only make it more difficult forMoscow to conduct talks “with allcountries which have or may have territorial claims against Russia.”

Indeed, Kornyev argues, “many abroad are certain to understand [medvedev’slatest] declaration as an official request for the dividing up of Russia in view of its insufficiently dense population.”

Third, “by this declaration,” he continues, “the President has provoked China, a neighbor, peaceful relations with which is the single guarantee of the securityand integrity of Russia. If Russia has ‘extra land’ for Japan, then why not for China? Why should China tolerate a situation where Japanese will populate areas China itself has claims on?”

According to Kornyev, “Provoking awar with China is the most terrible crime that a leader of Russia could commit.”

Fourth, he points out, “by this declaration, the President has objectively called forth the growth of separatist attitudes among the peoples of Siberia and the Far East who populated this land before Russia.” That is because these people know the fate that the Ainu have suffered under the Japanese, a fate that could be theirs if Medvedev’s proposal is accepted.

“In essence,” Kornyev argues, “the President has said that for Russia, the lands of these peoples is ‘superfluous.’ If [this land] is ‘superfluous, so perhaps it out to return the land to these people in order that they can order it more wisely?”

And fifth, he says, Medvedev’s remarks will give support to those who want to “accuse the leadership of Russia in the conscious genocide of the civil population which is living inthese regions. Any resettlement measure must be preceded by consultations with the residents of the regions involved and a careful social-economic evaluation.”

Kornyev says that “we are waitinguntil one of the parties represented in the State Duma will attempt to start the official procedure of impeachement on the basis of charges of state treason and an attack on the territorial integrity of Russia.” In advance of the December elections, the decision on this point is critical.

That is because, in advance of the Decemberelections, it “willallow us to find out if there is in the Duma atleast one party which itself is not a party of state treason.”

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