So there is this monthly thing in Moscow. Near the monument of Mayakovsky, a renowned Russian poet, there gather poets of today, or simply people who enjoy poetry, and read it, whether it is their own poetry or someone else's. Naturally, this kind of thing attracts mostly dissenters. So cops hang around there too, in case someone decides to say something too extremist, but never was it heard that they actually detained someone for a poem.
I joined Mayakovsky readings once. There was this guy who joins every month, and, although there's no hierarchy or anything, runs the whole thing really. Just because he writes cool stuff and is around all the time, I guess. And he is this outgoing guy who just helps the readings run: it's a bunch of people who don't know each other and just came to read and listen to poems, after all, so it can become messy, or boring, or whatever. But he's there, and it doesn't.
So yeah, never were the poets gathering at the monument pressured too much. Until last time.
That guy was beaten up and raped by the cops. Another female poet was threatened with rape and they glued her mouth up.
Their crime? Anti-war poems they read. Words, that is.
Cops should burn in hell and stay conscious while their skin disappears in flames. They are not even subhuman, I don't know what they are, but they should die to go wherever the fuck their species comes from.
Over a hundred years ago, the Russian empire conscripted its Central Asian subjects to fight in the First World War. This led to an anti-imperialist uprising known as Urkun – mainly among the Kyrgyz and Kazakhs, but also Uzbek, Tajik and Turkmen people. The uprising ended in catastrophe: up to 270,000 were killed by Tsarist troops, and tens of thousands more died trying to escape to Xinjiang in China. It is estimated that 40% of the Kyrgyz population were killed in the aftermath.
History repeats itself. On 21 September, Vladimir Putin announced the “partial mobilisation” of 300,000 Russians with previous military experience. Evidence suggests that out of the reservists currently being mobilised and those who have already fought and died, ethnic minority groups – who come from impoverished communities – are overrepresented.
There are currently three major ethnic minority groups being sucked into Russian mobilisation. The first are the Russified indigenous ethnic minorities who live in regions like Dagestan, Yakutya and Buryatia and are Russian citizens. Then there are naturalised migrants (many of whom are Central Asian), who may or may not have the appropriate military training. The third are the non-naturalised Central Asian migrants who won’t be conscripted in the latest draft but who might sign up to fight for money or the chance to fast-track their citizenship process.
“Various experts and journalists refer to 1916 and say it is repeating today; that this is the time when our big neighbour in the north is trying to use Asians to prevail in its own geopolitical war,” says Dr Erica Marat, an associate professor at the National Defense University in Washington DC who specialises in security institutions in the likes of Eurasia.
“The current mobilisation campaign of labour migrants is now framed by scholars [of Urkun] as the third attack on ethnic groups. The first [was Urkun] in 1916, then Stalin’s purges in the 1930s and now under Putin in 2022.”
Zelenskyy acknowledging the Indigenous genocide in Russia. Part of his speech.
"We will also make a special emphasis. Emphasis on the fact that criminal mobilization is used by Russia not only to prolong the suffering of people in Ukraine and to further destabilize the world, but also to physically exterminate men - representatives of indigenous peoples who live in the territories controlled so far, temporarily, by the Russian Federation.
The situation in the occupied Crimea is catastrophic. The information about the Crimean Tatar people is fully confirmed: most of the mobilization letters are given there specifically to qırımlılar. This is another element of Russia's policy of genocide, another reason for the immediate and tough reaction of the whole world.
The same is happening on the territory of Russia itself. This is a deliberate imperial policy. This is a blow to the peoples of, for example, Dagestan and the entire Caucasus, to the indigenous peoples of Siberia and other territories.
And I want to repeat it once again.
Again in Russian, specially for Russian "comrades".
And this is not a kind of collection of peoples in Russia, not badges or flags somewhere on the map, no. These are not candy wrappers - these are real people.
And only now you are beginning to hear it, yet still not everywhere.
We see that people, in particular, in Dagestan, began to fight for their lives. We see that they are beginning to understand that this is a question of their lives. Why should their husbands, brothers, sons die in this war? In a war that one man wants. In a war against our people, on our land. He does not send his children to war."
September 25th, 2022
The cries for help of Russia's national minorities: "We will stop existing"
"In small villages, with two or three streets, they have taken all the men" • Putin's draft mobilization punishes regions like Yakutia, Buryatia and Dagestan.
On the day after declaring partial mobilization in Russia, a member of the Duma [Russian Parliament] and ex-mayor of Jakutsk, in Siberia, protested that the number of reserves that each region has to send to the front [of the war in Ukraine] didn't match. She asked why regions like Novosibirsk only mobilize 0.27% of the men between ages 20 and 59 and, at the same time, Yakutia has to mobilize 1.66%. In addition, she added, why are precisely the most disadvantaged towns of the north of Yakutia where the proportion of men called to war is higher? "In villages of the Artic, with 300 inhabitants, they take 47 men. I know what it means to live in the north at -55°C [-67°F] and, without the men, families will have a very hard time. What is the logic behind these numbers? What kind of proportionality are we talking about?"
Yakutia, located north of the permafrost and almost 8,500 km away from Moscow, is a land rich in natural resources (diamonds, uranium, hydrocarbon...) and the immigration of workers for the extraction businesses has left Yakuts and Evens, the indigenous peoples, as a minority in the cities of the centre and south of the Republic. On the other hand, they are the majority in the towns of the north, from which they are now being sent en masse to the frontline.
We have talked to Aanis, a girl from a town of 500 inhabitants where 35 men have been called to war: "They've taken almost all young men from the town, of local ethnicities (Evens and Yakuts). It was very unexpected, nobody could have seen something like this coming. Before the mobilization, people from the town were not interested in the war, it's hard enough to survive. We were worried about everyday problems: hunting, how the vegetables were growing... Now everything has changed, we are shocked."
Nikolai, a man from a village in the north of Yakutia, answers resolutely when we ask what has happened: "We had never seen before what is happening now, not even in the Second World War. They have sent all the native men to the front." I ask him for more details: "My village is inhabited only by Yakuts and Evens. We're less than 500 people, out of which only 154 are of working age, including women. They have called to the front 65 people, almost all the men between ages 18 and 60." He adds that families don't know how they will survive this winter. "It reaches -60°C [-76°F], and we don't have centralised heating or water pipes. We use ovens to warm up and it's usually men who take care of that. We live from hunting. Who will hunt now? What will we eat? Nobody knows."
I ask him why does he think the authorities have decided to take them and not others: "Because we live in remote and very small villages, with no Internet; there are no lawyers here or organizations that defend us. Many of us don't speak Russian or English. They probably calculated that mobilizing us would have little repercussion: very few people would notice the absence of some minorities, even if they disappear completely. In fact, there's already few of us left.
Poster calling for a protest of the Free Yakutia Foundation: "Yakutia! Don't cry! RESIST!"
In Yakutia, women have taken the streets to protest. They stand their ground. And they have done so, shouting "no to genocide!"
General mobilization in Buryatia
In Buryatia, a republic in the south of Siberia, bordering Mongolia, with a 35% native population of Mongolian origin (Buryats), their situation is just as harsh. "The mobilization in Buryatia is general, not partial", declares Aleksandra Garmazhapova, founder of a local NGO. Viktoriya Maladaeva, coordinator of the Free Buryatia Foundation, confirms it: "They're not calling up only reserves: they mobilize students, disabled people, and people who have never had any relation with the army. In small villages, with only two or three streets, they have taken all the men. There are families where they've called up the fathers and sons." She explains that many men were taken to the recruitment points during the night: "Then people started calling each other, and those who could drove their car to Mongolia. Others have hidden in the forests, in the taiga."
To answer to this situation, the ex-president of Mongolia (2009-2017) Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj published the following message: "I know that since the beginning of this bloody war, the ethnic minorities that live in Russia are the ones that have suffered the most: the Mongols of Buryatia, of Tuva and Kalmykia have suffered. They have been used as cannon fodder. We, the Mongols, will welcome you with open arms and hearts. Our borders will stay open."
To the question of why she thinks Buryatia is disproportionately affected by the mobilization, Maladaeva answers without a doubt: "Because we are an ethnic minority and for Putin we are worthless [...] And that's the same in other "ethnic republics": right now we're getting calls from activists from Kalmykia, Chuvashia, Yakutia, Tuva... On the contrary, in the Irkutsk region (where there is a Slavic majority without notable minorities), there's silence, even though it borders us. Why?"
Dead in combat
"Russian victims in Ukraine". Data compiled by Mediazona.
We must highlight that, until Putin signed the decree to mobilize reserves last Wednesday, going to fight in Ukraine was voluntary and paid. Those interested signed a contract with the Russian army and got paid a monthly salary between 130,000 and 200,000 rubles, depending on the region.
These salaries might not be much in Moscow, but they are a fortune in the most deprived areas. In the Russian capital city, the average monthly wage is about 115,009 rubles, three times the average monthly wage in Buryatia. If we look at unemployment rates, we see how it's 1.5% in Saint Petersburg while in Northern Caucasus republics, such as Ingushetia, it's as high as 30%. In the context of these economic inequalities, a result of highly centralized policies that center the economic wealth around the cities where political power resides and regulate the periphery to misery, it's no surprise that Buryats and Caucasians see an opportunity in an army wage, and knowing that in the worst of cases, if they die in combat, their families will receive (in theory) a compensation of 7 million rubles and a pension.
These economic reasons explain, in part, why the two regions with the most soldiers who died in combat in Ukraine are Buryatia and Dagestan (in the northern Caucasus). According to official data compiled by the Russian news portal Mediazona, 6,219 Russian soldiers have died in total in the war in Ukraine. From Buryatia, 256 have died (out of a total of 1 million inhabitants), and from Dagestan, 292 (out of 2.5 million inhabitants). These numbers contrast highly with the 17 dead soldiers from Moscow (12 million inhabitants) or the 49 deaths from Saint Petersburg (5 million inhabitants).
"We are the empire's trash"
Another factor that deepens the marginalization of minorities in Russia, that could have contributed to their disproportionate enlistment, is the prevailing racism in Russian society. Maria Viushkova, analyst of the Free Buryatia Foundation, declared in an interview: "The best alternatives in Buryatia for finding a job are either emigrating to South Korea or joining the army. For us, it's difficult to find work in other regions of Russia, where Buryats have to face discrimination and racism: they don't hire them, they don't house them, they limit their education. Often, Buryats who have tried their luck in other regions of Russia are forced to come back."
Aslan is a man from Kabardino-Balkaria, near Dagestan. He confirms that racism towards Caucasians is noticeable in Moscow, where he worked in some years: "It's constant. At work, first they looked badly at me, it took them a while to trust me. And when they knew me well, sometimes they spoke badly of Caucasians using a slur that they use to define us, "chernojopie" (black butts), not even realising I was there. In the subway, I have had problems with nationalists because of my looks. And my child has had quarrels with his friends for not being "Russian".
I ask him why he thinks it's them and Siberian minorities who are the most affected by this war. He's resolute: "Because we are the empire's trash to the Kremlin, and this is a way to get rid of us." And he adds: "But I don't understand why the Northern peoples don't rebel against Moscow, the empire has also wanted to destroy them. I think mobilization hasn't been as numerous in our republics in the Caucasus as it has in the Far East because they don't dare to, they know we'll stand up to them."
Aslan is probably right. The Caucasus is a potentially explosive region, where there was for years a Jihadist armed group made of young radicalized people with no hopes for the future. Authorities are not interested in feeding discontent and rage among these young people.
But in the Far East and in Siberia the situation is different, and the natives make a request of us. When I asked Nikolai, from the village in Yakutia that has been left with no young men, how could we help them, he said: "Please, report about the minority nations. If all men go to war, the genetic reserve of our people will be gone. In 20 years, or 40 years, our language will also go extinct. We will stop existing."