Kyiv Security Forum


Mykhailo Basarab, PhD in political science, Senior Fellow at the Kyiv Security Forum

Statistics on losses of the Russian military in Ukraine, available as of today, indicates that the Kremlin regime throws, first and foremost, representatives of indigenous peoples of Russia into the heat of war battles.  According to research estimates of a Ukrainian network InformNapalm, one dead military serviceman from Moscow prorates to 87 killed Dagestanis, 275 Buryats, and 350 Tuvinians. This proportion could have been explained by the startling difference in income of the Moscow and province residents, with the latter compelled to go to war to earn their living. Still, this explains the situation only partially.

Indigenous people representatives serve not only convenient consumables for the Kremlin at the front. Soldiers of “non-Slavic origin” have long become the face of Russian war export propaganda. Russian media persevere in promoting Kadyrov’s “Tik-Tok army” for the whole world, portraying them as Putin’s infantry, overbold and fierce to their enemy. Not so long ago, it was Russian social networks that disseminated a video of inhuman abuse and humiliating treatment by a Russian war criminal of a Ukrainian PoW. Propagandists were deliberate in showing the face of the war criminal. It was a Tuvinian native, incidentally, doing military service in the Kadyrov’s “Akhmat” battalion. Ukrainian researchers of Russian propaganda emphasize that disseminating brutalities of their military is done by the Russians on purpose.

By recruiting indigenous people representatives to the Russian army, the ruling regime attains several goals simultaneously.

First. Physical annihilation of young Caucasus natives, Buryats, Tuvinians, Bashkirians and others. This “clandestine” genocide leads to unification of the Russia’s demographic portrait, and decreases any future potential mutiny of these peoples against Moscow.

Second. Replenishing its army with personnel at the expense of provincial residents, the Kremlin feels free to avoid disturbing young people from Moscow, St Petersburg and other key metropolitan areas of the country. This is of utmost importance, since metropolis residents typically constitute the core of any protest wave in Russia. In case recruiting stations begin dynamic chase after metropolitan hipsters, a respective massive backlash will rise in central squares of Moscow and St Pete.  

Third, and most probably, the main thing. Putin’s Goebbellian propaganda seeks to convince the Ukrainians and the entire West that it is not the so-called “Russkie” who wage war against them, but the Chechens, the Dagestanis, the Buryats. To a degree, this aims to conceal the decisive role of the Moscow political bureau in unleashing the war against Ukraine and mitigate the responsibility burden of Russia by shifting the weight of liability to shoulders of those indigenous and native peoples who have been actually enslaved by the Russian empire. No matter how paradoxical this may sound, propaganda stubbornly shapes and forms just the very idea. Propaganda remains relentless in creating a negative attitude towards these peoples in general. It is to this very purpose that the Kadyrovtsy have been posed as the major actors of the Russian war export propaganda. The Kremlin knows full well that it is the Chechnya that will lead the way in resuming its fight for freedom in the waning Russian Federation, therefore they deliberately discredit the whole Chechen nation through the Kadyrovsty. The latter remain firmly at the foreground of the Russian war propaganda. Kadyrov himself constantly utters threats not solely to Ukraine, but to the whole of NATO. If all the Chechens are ruthless Kadyrovsty, then their entire nation can deserve neither support of their aspirations for freedom, nor a grain of sympathy. This very response on our side is expected by the Kremlin.

This is the triple benefit gained by packing the Russian army with native people representatives. Indigenous peoples play a role of serving both cannon fodder and a countenance of aggressive propaganda, with the latter aiming to engender hatred toward them across the entire world. Hatred not toward Putin and Russia, but toward indigenous peoples. At the same time, native people representatives fill in the soldier quota instead of Moscow and St Pete residents, allowing the Kremlin regime to sustain the harmony of halcyon and carefree existence in Moscow and other key metropolis areas of the country.

*Opinion articles express the views of the authors, but not necessarily of the team of the Kyiv Security Forum.

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