NEWSWATCH: “If Russia’s minorities are excluded from national political life, then why are they the most “loyal” on paper? By rejecting popular support in Russia’s national republics, you can win more votes than you lose.” (Excerpt) – OpenDemocracy/Badma Biurchiev

Russia Regions Map

(opendemocracy.net – Badma Biurchiev – March 1, 2018)

[Full text opendemocracy.net/od-russia/badma-biurchiev/If-russias-minorities-are-excluded]

Badma Biurchiev was born in Kalmykia in 1973, and has worked as a journalist since 2003. He currently works for Kavpolit, where he covers Dagestan and Kalmykia. He has previously worked for Bolshoy Kavkaz and Caucasian Knot.

On 20 February, Alexey Navalny, banned from standing as a candidate in Russia’s presidential election, turned to civic activists in the country’s national republics. The opposition politician called on them to prevent the authorities from fabricating voter turnout in the presidential election on 18 March (the Putin administration is planning to achieve record turnout). Navalny believes that unbiased election observing in these regions “is more important than the rest of Russia”, as these republics regularly report incredibly high turnouts and almost unanimous support for the government in power.

Turnout in the national republics, particularly in Russia’s North Caucasus, is definitely an important issue. But it goes much deeper than the crude sleight of hand practised by local leaders that Navalny discusses here.

In the national republics, the “attachment to large numbers” is ultimately the result of the social exclusion of ethnic minorities from Russia’s political life. Against the background of Russia’s new pariahs – some members of the “unofficial” opposition, “non-traditional Muslims” and so on – the exclusion of entire ethnic groups can be imperceptible, and take place without any extrajudicial executions, arrests or torture.

This process takes place at the level of mainstream debate, fostered by the powers that be. The signals are easy to read by Russian politicians and public, so even novices in the president’s election campaign have no scruples about reminding smaller ethnic groups that their real place is on the margins of the country’s political life….

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Caucasus Map of Chechnya and Caucasus Environs