Friday, December 10, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Opposition to Cuts in Social Services Greater in Non-Russian Republics than in Russian Regions

Paul Goble

Staunton, December 10 – Opposition to reductions in government support of social services, cuts required by changes in the rules for budgetary institutions, is greater in many non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation than it is in most predominantly ethnic oblasts and krays, according to a survey of developments around the country.
That is because, Yury Sukhanov argues on the “Svobodnaya pressa” portal yesterday, in the predominantly ethnic Russian areas, these changes are viewed as “purely social” but in non-Russian ones, they are seen as the latest manifestation of “a colonial policy” and even a form of “genocide” (
And while Sukhanov does not make this point, this pattern shows how ethno-national concerns can reinforce social class ones especially during times of crisis and at the same time how social class issues can easily acquire an ethnic dimension in non-Russian communities around the country – or in short, how ethnicity and class can reinforce one another.
The “Svobodnaya pressa” journalist begins by noting that “in recent weeks, circumstances in Tatarstan have become more tense,” with various Tatar nationalist organizations organizing demonstrations and denouncing the Russian state as “the metropolis” and “a Russian empire” which has held the Tatars in “colonial dependence” for centuries.
Then Sukhanov publishes his interviews with Ramay Yuldashev, one of the leaders of the Tatar national movement, and Layd Shemiyer, a leader of the inter-regional movement Mari Ushem of the Union of Maris, a Finno-Ugric people who live next door to and intermixed with the Turkic Tatars in the Middle Volga.
The two make clear that the demands of the Tatars are “political,” but both of them point out to Sukhanov that recent changes in government programs have only intensified the nationalist feelings of the Tatars as well as those of “other republics, above all in the Middle Volga region.”
That leads Sukhanov to conclude that “the unpopular measures which the federal government is taking, starting with the elimination of elections for heads of regions and ending with all possible ‘monetarizing’ of recent times, are viewed not so much in a social but rather in a national aspect.”
Indeed, he says, many in the non-Russian regions and some in the predominantly Russian regions view this as yet another move by “’Moscow occupiers.’” In this, at least for the non-Russians, Sukhanov continues, the situation is like the Ukrainian view of Stalin’s collectivization campaign: they see it not as social policy but as an act of genocide.
In some cases, the Moscow journalist points out, those negatively affected can find money of their own or money from supporters to compensate for federal cutbacks. But in others, they can’t either because they are too poor or too small to do so. And when they can’t, they will, like the Tatars, view this as an intentional act by the central powers that be.
Consequently, as Moscow seeks to monetarize ever more benefits or to reduce them in the face of rising budgetary problems, the non-Russians of the Russian Federation appear likely to become ever more angry, viewing them not as policies applied to all citizens of the Russian Federation but directed explicitly against non-Russian communities and republics.

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