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Home » Autonomous Zones, GeoNotes, Myth of the Nation-State, Nationalism, Russia, Ukraine, and Caucasus

More on “Divided Russia” Maps and Xenophobic Nationalist Views

Submitted by on May 16, 2012 – 5:07 pm 6 Comments |  
As noted in an earlier GeoNote, many Russian nationalists see the their country in the future breaking into its constituent parts rather than enlarging at the expense of neighboring states. In some instances, such as the ones discussed in the earlier GeoNote, the xenophobic worries of such nationalists focus on religious minorities, especially Muslims, as being too “foreign” for a mostly Orthodox Christian Russia. One Muslim formation, called Idel-Ural, shows up on several xenophobic maps, one of which is reproduced on the left. This map also forecasts the splitting off of the southern Urals, Siberia, the Far East, East Prussia (currently, Kaliningrad oblast), Ingermanland (currently, Leningrad oblast), and northern European Russia, leaving the core of Medieval Russia under the label “Zalesie”. The label “Kazakia” on this map refers to the Cossacks, a social rather than ethnic group. While many Cossack formations are associated with southern Russian lands, Cossacks were also instrumental in Russia’s colonization of Siberia and the Far East; Lensky Cossacks, named after the Lena River in Central Siberia, are famous enough to have been referenced in the James Bond film GoldenEye.

The authors of the map posted on Tengry.org (see image on the left) also conjecture that Muslim states would arise in the Central Volga republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, as well as in (part of) the North Caucasus (shown in bright green on the map). This map also shows “Independent Territories” (in brown) arising in parts of the Far East, in Karelia, and in Kalmykia. Most of the rest of Russia would be incorporated into other big geopolitical players: the southern parts of the Far East would go to China (in yellow); the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin, and neighboring mainland areas of the Far East would be joined to Japan (in red); and northern and central Siberia would be appended to the U.S. (in blue). Whatever is left—most of the European Russia, southern and southwestern Siberia—would remain as Russia.

A very different approach is evident in the map reposted on numerous websites and reproduced on the left. It divides the country into many more constituent parts. Most of them correspond to the current federal subjects of the Russian Federation, but the exceptions are worth considering. In the North Caucasus, a number of ethnic republics, as well as Stavropol and Krasnodar krais, would be joined into “Caucasian Confederation”. It is not clear what this proposed unit would have in common, as ethnic, linguistic, and religious schisms are rife in this region. Certain ethnic republics are enlarged at the expense of their neighbors: for example, the proposed “Kalmikia” would swallow up Astrakhan Oblast; the “Khanty-Mansi republic” would be extended to include Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and Kurgan Oblasts; and the “Federal Republic of Buriatia” would contain Irkutsk Oblast and Zabaykalsk Krai. Certain ethnic groups currently without their own titular republics would receive sovereignty, in most cases by being promoted to the titular ethnic group of a former oblast or krai. Thus, Kamchatka Krai is renamed “Koryak republic”, Magadan oblast becomes “Even republic”, and the Chukotka becomes “Ligoravetlan” (the ethnonym that encompasses the two Chukchi groups, “Maritime Chukchi” and “Reindeer Chuckchi”). “Republic of Nanay” would unify Primorie and Khabarovsk krais. Curiously, in many cases the ethnic group thus promoted would not have a majority or even a plurality in the newly formed countries. In fact, in most cases the titular group would constitute a tiny minority: Koryaks make up only 2% of Kamchatka’s population, Evens constitute only 1% of the population in the Magadan oblast, and the Nanays constitute a meager 0.3% of the population in Primorie and Khabarovsk krais. Other ethnic groups that would gain national standing include the Dolgans and Nenets: in addition to the already existing Nenets Autonomous Okrug in northern European Russia, Nenets and Dolgan would form a “Taymyr Dolgano-Nenets Federation”, whose territory would be coinciding with the currently existing Krasnoyarsk Krai. The two ethnic groups together constitute merely 0.3% of the population in the krai. Among other interesting labels on this map is “Hazaria” in present-day Rostov oblast, which refers to Khazars, a group whose proper place is on the maps of the distant past and not of the future.

Another tongue-in-cheek division of Russia cuts it into just five major parts: European Russia, labeled “All that actually matters in Russia”; northern Siberia, slated to become “part of North Pole or under Santa’s influence”; Kamchatka and Chukotka peninsulas, which would “be part of Alaska or at least visible from Sarah Palin’s house”; southern and central Siberia that would be “under Mongolian influence”; and Novaya Zemlya, which would “go to either Canada or Iceland… or maybe Easter Island”.

Despite the silliness of these maps, a possible future division of the Russian Federation into several independent states is not a purely xenophobic nationalistic idea or a laughing matter. Much serious discussion among Russian economists, politicians, philosophers, culturologists, and writers revolves around the possibility of dividing the country. Economic, political, cultural and demographic factors are seen as driving Russian regions apart. Vladimir Bukovksy, Russia’s most famous dissident, now living in Britain, has long predicted that Russia will eventually fall apart into 7-8 independent states, which may later join together into a confederacy. Those states would correspond roughly to the present-day federal districts, as shown on the map on the left. According to Bukovsky, the only force currently keeping Russia whole is the authoritarian centralized government fed by the oil and natural gas revenues. If the prices of oil and gas fall, Moscow’s hold will weaken and the central government will no longer be able to keep its grip on the far-flung regions. Here is how Bukovsky describes the eventual dissolution of the Russian Federation (translation mine):

“Well, what does the Far East need Moscow for? So some evening the local governor will sit with the local military district commander, drinking whatever it is they drink there. Their conversation: Ivan Ivanovich, does Moscow give you anything? No, only taxes must be paid. And you? They don’t even send us boots for the troops. So why are we fooling around, let’s I be the government and you the head of the army.—What will Russia do? Send in the troops? They won’t have enough oil. Everything will fall apart when the center will weakened, and this will happen when the prices of oil will fall.”

Authoritarian government is also seen as the main factor for the dissolution of the Russian Federation by such pundits as the director of Institute for Globalization Problems Mikhail Delyagin, writer Mikhail Veller, and controversial psychic healer Anatoly Kashpirovsky. Economic factors, such as the uneven development of central Russia and the more far flung regions, the unfair funneling of profits from Siberia to European Russia, the technological backwardness of certain regions, and the disintegration of transportation and communications infrastructure, are seen as crucial by such varied people as Alexander Nemets of Science Applications International Corporation, futurologist Sergey Pereslegin, mathematician Georgy Malinetsky, and the head of the Singaporean company Rogers Holdings Jim Rogers. Many other respectable pundits, including culturologist Igor Yakovenko, publicist Sergey Kurginyan, writer and culturologist Andrei Burovsky, former presidential advisor on economic issues Andrei Illarionov, political commentator George Freidman, president of the Institute for Near East Studies Evgeny Satanovsky, and Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, focus on cultural, religious, and ethnic divisions, much like the xenophobic nationalists discussed above.

Currently, Moscow’s hold on Russia is relatively strong, but should the price of oil and natural gas drop, a very different situation could quickly emerge.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-T-Wilson/682045086 James T. Wilson

    Is it xenophobia if the other in question is not foreign?  In any case, I doubt that Tengry.org is xenophobic if by that you mean Russian xenophobic.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      It’s a good point. Still, I would say that these nationalists are xenophobic in that the other is “foreign” in one of the senses listed in my dictionary: “not organically belonging”. Muslims and others are perceived as being foreign to the mostly Orthodox Christian Russia, in that sense. Also, although these regions are part of the Russian Federation, many are autonomous in one way or another.

      Whether the Tengry site is xenophobic in any sense, the map that they’ve posted in xenophobic in: (1) separating out the Muslim areas, and (2) the hatred/fear towards China, Japan, and the U.S. (the latter because the map represents not what the authors think ideal, but what they think the “bad Chinese, Americans, etc.” will do to Russia).

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-T-Wilson/682045086 James T. Wilson

        My question about the word xenophobia was sort of a linguistic one.  For instance, I think of anti-immigrant feeling as xenophobic, but anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism don’t feel like the word xenophobia to me.

        The Tengrianists, to use their term, sound like early 20c Turianianists to me.  I haven’t really looked very much at their site, but just from the use of the theonym Tengri, I would have guessed that Slavic Russians were the object of their greatest ire.  Of course, their feelings about foreigners and maybe even adherents of Abrahamic religions do sound like xenophobia to me.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          You’ve got some excellent points here, James, as always.

          Re: the word “xenophobia”, I guess I’m using it in a wider sense of “hatred of “other”, of anyone foreign or strange”. To me, anti-Semitism is xenophobic. Having grown up in Russia, I perceive anti-Semitism (there) as part of a larger psychological complex. I am sure there are different uses of the term and perhaps mine isn’t correct.

          As for the Tengrianists, you are probably right. I am not sure the map was produced by them, though, as many of these maps circulate from blog to blog… It was hard to find out who the real authors of some of these maps are, but since they are so widely blogged/chatted about, I wanted to bring them up.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-T-Wilson/682045086 James T. Wilson

            That makes sense.  I would have expected a site called Tengry.org to have some sort of Greater Mongolia or independent Kalmykia or Altyn Orda or something.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Well, they do have independent Kalmykia…