Ukrainians and Buryats share a history of Russian abuse

Dayne Goodwin

The Republic of Buryatia: invasion of Ukraine is an extension of
Russia’s domestic dominance over the country's ethnic minorities
Ukrainians and Buryats share a history of Russian abuse
by Roman Shemakov, Global Voices, June 30, 2022

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russia’s
poorest regions have faced disproportionate losses in the war. Both
within and outside of Russia, the people of Buryatia and Dagestan,
primarily because of their non-Slavic appearance, have become
overwhelming associated with the war. As the families of the soldiers
in Ulan-Ude (the capital of Buryatia) wait for their sons to return
from one of the few jobs available in the region, the Russian
government continues to emphasize national unity — all the while
refusing to invest in education, heritage preservation,
infrastructure, or economic opportunity.
. . .
Despite ending up on opposite sides of the war, Ukrainians and Buryats
have been subjected to the same imperial treatment: erasure of
language, history, and political self determination. The Republic of
Buryatia is located in Russia's far east and on the shores of Lake of
Baikal. Historically tied to the Mongols, the region was incorporated
into the Russian Empire in the 18th century. In 1923, it became an
autonomous republic within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist
Republic. With a total population of 970,000, two-thirds of the
Republic of Buryatia is made up of ethnic Russians; ethnic Buryats
constitute a minority 30 percent. According to the official government
census, there are 461,389 ethnic Buryats spread across Siberian

The Russian Federation’s losses in Ukraine continue to be veiled in
secrecy. While definitive estimates remain impossible, many of the
ongoing counts note the war’s disproportionate impact on Russia’s
poorest regions. Mediazona, in collaboration with the BBC, has
estimated Russian casualties at 3,798, based primarily on “publicly
available reports–including social media posts by relatives, local
media reports, and local authorities’ statements.” The overwhelming
majority of the soldiers were under the age of 23. Russia’s poorest
and most distant regions, particularly Dagestan and Buryatia, have
suffered the greatest losses, 207 and 164 respectively. Based on
Mediazona’s analysis, both Moscow and St. Petersburg only have 34
casualties. [St. Petersburg/Moscow combined population about 17
million, dg]
. . .
Public displays of support for the Russian invasion in Ulan-Ude have
been continuously met with vandalism. A Russian flag with the letter
“Z,” a nascent national symbol of “special operations” in Ukraine, was
cut in the middle of the night. On April 26, a woman demanded the
letter “Z” be removed from the public minibus, before being taken by
the bus driver to the police station. A lawyer in Chita who wrote
critical posts on social media and wore a green ribbon in opposition
to the Russian invasion was fired from her job and charged with three
offenses: dissemination of fake news, discrediting of the Russian
army, and promoting Nazism.

All the organizations and individuals that have spoken out against
Russia’s war in Ukraine have been prosecuted into silence. Thus, vocal
domestic opposition has remained in the shadows. Simultaneously, the
Buryatia diaspora has become a vocal opponent to the war.
. . .

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