We in Russia’s minorities are also endangered by Putin’s war

The author is a journalist who escaped from Russia to Finland and did an internship in Sopiva in spring 2023. By publishing the blog post, Sopiva wants to remind that Russia is not united in the war. The country consists of several states, many minorities, many opinions and countless different experiences. The article has also been published in Finnish.

Political and Regional map of Russia. From Shutterstock.

In April of 2022
I was going to the city center of Helsinki with my mother by metro. We were talking in our native language and a woman sat down in front of us. She started staring at us and asked where we were from. My answer was followed by an uncomfortable moment of silence, after which she said that minorities are doing horrible, inhuman things in Ukraine. 

At first, I didn’t know how to react to her words. Even though I am not from there, I knew exactly which republic she was referring to. I was sad that she was condemning all minorities in Russia as killers.

When there was an obligatory call for war last autumn, so many men, young and old, were sent by force from the different republics to the battlefields. After this even fear couldn’t keep people silent. Dagestan had the longest and strongest riots outside of the streets. Mothers didn’t want to send their sons to die for nothing. In the Republic of Yakutia, some 300 women went on the streets screaming ”No Genocide” and ”No War.” Even though they knew that these actions would not change anything they couldn’t just watch it happen. 

As a person of a minority nationality, I fear that Putin will remove national ethnicities from their own land by forcing them to fight in the war. Once the population has decreased, he could easily  remove the republic status. That would make it impossible to protect our cultural and ethnic heritage as well as our land. Because of this war, national minorities have started to ask more loudly, why do we have to be a part of Russia since we are obviously not human enough for them; why are our children taught only Russian history at school and not our own as well, why do we keep on sending our wealth to Moscow and why do we fight for slavs? 

This war will only bring losses to Russian minorities, and it makes me angry in so many ways. First of all, I am angry with the ignorance of my own people. I want to shake them and tell them to wake up and stop believing in this great empire where everyone is allegedly treated equally. Why are we always scared? Why don’t we protect our own people? At the end of the day, it is the fault of minorities themselves because we all allowed it to happen. Unfortunately, we became part of this system, where power, fear, corruption, and suppression solved everything.

Second of all, as long as members of minorities don’t take any actions, Moscow will keep on using us. Our way of thinking must change. We have to stop thinking as if we owe something to Moscow. We have to understand that we are equal partners and we have to start having a dialogue about our future political and financial plans for our Republic. But instead our leaders quietly try to please the Kremlin. If the president asks for more people, he will get them. Men will be sent to death for fake ideas, but no one wants to see how people are living their daily lives, or more correctly, surviving them.  third reason for my discontent: we all understand that this war will not make our lives better. The President of Russia keeps on saying that we have to save the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine from nationalists, and people fanatically believe in this idea. However, no one wants to see the real problems inside the country, which are countless.

Realizing it all is painful because we have so much to give to this world: culture, traditions, tourism, hospitality, warmth, art, authenticity, and so much more. Perhaps still something dreadful has to happen until awakening happens. Perhaps the population of minorities has to decrease by two, but even then I doubt that something will change. I can only hope that we can all unite and finally start speaking for ourselves and our own future.

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