Staunton, September 24 – Although they seldom receive as much attention, the Finno-Ugric Mordvins, Mari, and Udmurts and the Christian Turkic Chuvash of the Middle Volga region say they are more ready to support nationalist political parties than are the Tatars, Bashkirs, Buryats, or titular nationalities of the North Caucasus.
Asked whether they would vote for a party whose “main goal [is] the defense of the interests of people of your nationality,” 45 percent of the Chuvash said yes, while 45 percent said now. But the share of those saying yes among the Chuvash was higher than among the Finno-Ugrics, much higher than among the Tatars (29 percent yes -- 59 percent no), Bashkirs, Buryats and North Caucasians (irekle.org/articles/i49.html).
These figures are from the survey carried out by Politex on “the Nationality Question in Russian Social and Political Life” for the Russian Social Chamber. That survey queried approximately 900 people in the Middle Volga region, two-thirds of them from Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. The results were discussed yesterday on the leading independent Chuvash site.
Sandra Savgilda of “Irekle Samakh” cautioned against making too much of these figures. The sample size in the poll was too small, and the division between those favoring a nationalist party and those opposed was too close for anyone to suggest that there is a wave of nationalism sweeping the region.
Moreover, she pointed out, the meaning of “defense of the nation” is far from clear: It is “one thing to call for expanding the use of the Chuvash language as one of the two state languages of Chuvashia and quite another to demand the appointment to senior posts of only Chuvash.”
Nonetheless, the poll results do allow for the conclusion that Chuvash nationalism bears a civic rather than narrowly ethnic form. That is, the Chuvash do not oppose the appointment of non-Chuvash to positions in their republic as long as those involved are local people, a view that 60 percent of the residents of the entire Middle Volga region support.
In this localism, they are far more tolerant than many others. “For comparison,” Savgilda noted, “only 35 percent of ethnic Russians in Moscow and St. Petersburg do not devote important to the nationality of their mayors.”
But there are limits to this tolerance in the Middle Volga: “Only seven percent of the representatives of the ‘titular’ peoples of the Middle Volga support the possible suppression of republics” and their amalgamation into larger regional groups as President Vladimir Putin has proposed. Almost half are opposed, while an approximately equal number are indifferent.
According to the Politex survey, “a significant part of the titular population of the republics views the idea of ‘gubernizatsiya’ as a chauvinist, colonialist, and discriminatory one, even as an idea that will lead to possible ethnocide.” Such attitudes, the survey continued, reflect the notion that only within an ethnic state can the nation develop.
Indeed, such feelings are so strong that Vladimir Zorin, the deputy director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, has said that “even at the level of discussion it is clear that this is a question which can destabilize the political situation in the country,” a clear warning to the Kremlin not to push on this front anytime soon.
Even more dire warnings were issued at the Social Chamber hearings on the Politex poll results. Alla Gerber, who chaired the session, not only promised to release more data but said that the results in hand so far show that “the national pot” in Russia is “bubbling” and may even “boil over.”
This trend seems quite real in the case of Chuvashia. On Sunday, Chuvash living in Moscow staged a demonstration in front of that republic’s permanent representation in the Russian capital to protest the decision of the republic authorities to close a Chuvash lycee pending the construction of a new building (irekle.org/news/i1326.html).
About 50 people took part, carrying signs like “The liquidation of the Chuvash national lycee is the liquidation of the Chuvash nation” and “Down with the Government Which Closed the School.” This Moscow demonstration followed one earlier this month in Cheboksary (baryshov.livejournal.com/48252.html).
Finno-Ugric Nations of Middle Volga More Ready to Support Nationalist Parties than are North Caucasians, Survey Finds