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  • Writer's pictureDmytro Levus

"The deconstruction of Russia". Trends August 16, 2023

1. Regarding the 7th Forum of Free Peoples of Post-Russia in Tokyo.

One of the questions raised by the organizers of the Forum of the Peoples of Post-Russia

On August 1-2, 2023, the 7th Forum of Free Peoples of Post-Russia was held in Tokyo. The first Forum was held in May 2022. Now the geography has expanded, with two Forums held in Poland, once in the Czech Republic, Sweden, and in Belgium, more specifically in Brussels, the European Parliament, with the participation of MEPs. The sixth Forum was held in the United States in April of this year.


Currently, the seventh Forum was held under the title: "The Day After Tomorrow. Post-Russian Space Fast Forwards: Challenges and Opportunities for East and North Asia".


Given the geography of the event, the main topics of the 7th Forum were scenarios and prospects for the states to be formed in the Asian part of the Russian Federation, the formation of their security and relations with Asian democracies. In addition, the issue of the Northern Territories occupied by Russia, which is relevant for Japan, was also raised (it is significant that not only the four southern Kuril Islands, whose problem, despite being unrecognized by Russia, is still present in the dialogue between the countries, but also Karafuto or Sakhalin Island). The first day of the Forum was held in the Japanese parliament with the participation of four current Japanese MPs. It is noteworthy that one of the main organizers of the Forum is a Ukrainian, Oleg Magaletsky. It should be noted that there is one aspect of the Forum that causes dissatisfaction among some leaders of national liberation movements. This is, in particular, the active involvement of Russian opposition politician Ilya Ponomarev in the organization of the Forum, which they perceive as a possible signal that Ukraine, which is involved in the organization of the events, is allegedly ready to negotiate with the "good Russians" at the expense of the indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation. However, it should be noted that unlike most "professional oppositionists" from the aggressor country who have left or fled to the West, Ponomarev is now systematically talking about the need for unconditional support for Ukraine and is not afraid of the possible disintegration of Russia into separate states, which is why he regularly participates in the Forums.


The event in Tokyo is also notable for the fact that a significant number of representatives of national liberation movements participated not online, via the Internet, but were directly present on the spot. Among them, a special place is occupied by Ruslan Gabbasov, the head of the Bashkir National Political Center, a member of the League of Free Nations, who lives in exile in Lithuania.


It is significant, although, of course, expected, that the event caused concern in Moscow. On August 7, 2023, the Russian Foreign Ministry handed a note of protest to a representative of the Japanese Embassy in Russia. The Russians believe that the Forum is "aimed at undermining Russian statehood and violating its territorial integrity" and "an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of our country."


The Forum resulted in a Declaration. The Declaration was signed by the participants of the Forum, both representatives of national liberation and regionalist movements and politicians of Japan, including several current members of the country's parliament. The document refers to cooperation on de-imperialization of the Russian Federation and liberation of all peoples living on the territory of Russia; final settlement of the problem of the northern territories of Japan occupied by Russia; work on the establishment of the Coordination Center for Free Eurasia in Japan.


Given the geography of the next planned Forums, which will take place in Turkey, Israel, and some of the capitals of the Arab world, the organizers are planning to familiarize the world with the realities of Russian policy toward the indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation. At the same time, attention is also paid to the Islamic world, where Putin and the Kremlin are still generally perceived positively or neutrally, but the real policy of the Russian Federation towards indigenous peoples of Turkic origin and Islamic faith cannot be perceived complimentarily if unbiased first-hand information is obtained in Turkey and Islamic countries. This may have a certain impact on the image of Russia and on the positions of Turkey and the Islamic world towards Russia, although this factor should not be overestimated.


2. Regarding the so-called "All-Russian Forum of Finno-Ugric Peoples"


On August 14-19, the pro-Kremlin "All-Russian Forum of Finno-Ugric Peoples" was held in Saransk (the capital of the Republic of Mordovia, created by Russian occupiers on Erzya and Moksha lands). This is the second such forum. The first was held in 2021 in Izhevsk (Russian-occupied Udmurtia).

Udmurt scientist Albert Razin's protest before self-immolation

It should be noted that for the Russian Federation, the Finno-Ugric dimension of humanitarian and foreign policy has always been perceived as an opportunity to conduct actions to influence the world. The Finno-Ugrians of Russia, who are clearly perceived by the Kremlin as a demographic reserve for the formation of "Russians" and the expansion of the "Russian world" through outright assimilation and destruction of the Finno-Ugric identity, are at the same time a convenient tool for the Kremlin to promote its policy. In doing so, the Kremlin relies on the fact that most Finno-Ugric peoples are indigenous to the territory of the Russian Federation, and the vast majority of these peoples live in Russia. Only three Finno-Ugric peoples have independent states: Finland, Estonia, and Hungary. Thus, the Kremlin, with the help of the Finno-Ugrians under its control, demonstrates to the world its "wise ethnic policy" and "respect for the rights of national minorities." Interestingly, with the help of the Finno-Ugrians, the Kremlin is creating positions of influence in Estonia and Finland, where representatives of these peoples go to study under Finno-Ugric programs and often stay for permanent residence, having relatives in Russia as hostages of the Kremlin, remaining in the Russian information field and, at the same time, the Kremlin is throwing out potential rebels.


The creation of this forum two years ago took place against the backdrop of Russia's closure to the world. For the Kremlin, the forum is becoming an alternative to the global Finno-Ugric movement. The World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples, which meets regularly in different countries and regions, is the main event for Finno-Ugrians in the world. Despite Russia's occupation of Crimea, the 7th Congress was held in Finland, organized by the Finland-Russia Society. The next one was supposed to take place in 2020 in Estonia, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was canceled and postponed to 2021. It should be noted that, given the escalation of Russian aggression against Ukraine, questions were raised about the possibility of Russian officials' participation, but the then President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, did everything possible, even at the expense of losing face, to ensure that Putin himself attended the event (the Russian president has also attended the opening of the event, for example, in June 2008, Medvedev attended an event in Khanty-Mansiysk, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Russia). Putin, who had set a course for a full-scale war, did not participate in the Congress, Russia voluntarily turned into a "besieged fortress" and openly opposed itself to the civilized world, later announcing that it was at war with the West. In such circumstances, the First Forum of the Finno-Ugric Peoples was held in Russia. It is noteworthy that Izhevsk (Izhkar) was chosen as the venue with special Chekist cynicism, where in 2019 Udmurt public figure and scholar Albert Razin committed self-immolation to protest against the assimilation of Udmurts and the oppressed state of the Udmurt language.


The current event, which included the youth festival of national cultures "We Are Together" (We Are Together), was openly imitative in nature, designed to demonstrate that Finno-Ugrians exist, that they have virtually no problems, and that those that do exist do not threaten the existence of their identity and are confidently solved, that Finno-Ugrians fully support Russia's aggressive policy, in particular the so-called "SVO". The event was attended by representatives of 35 regions and a delegation from Kazakhstan, which demonstrates both the "international" nature of the forum and, in the spirit of Russian policy, the deliberate exclusion of Kazakhstan from the Russian information field. To demonstrate the success of the life of Finno-Ugrians in Russia and their alleged full inclusion in the modern world, Senator from Mordovia Petr Tultayev proposed to expand the presence of Finno-Ugric languages on the Internet, to use the experience of the Republics of Komi and Mari El. It is worth noting that a certain presence of Finno-Ugric languages on the Internet is by no means a merit of the leaders of these regions, but rather a success of activists and evidence that there is still some resistance to Russian assimilation.


Given the frankly terrible situation of the Finno-Ugric peoples, their languages and cultures, the organizers of the forum failed to completely isolate themselves from the problems and build a Potemkin's shithole. Certain hints of these problems were heard in the speeches of some participants, such as the Sami woman Domna Khomyuk: "We have our own Sámi language, but unfortunately, like all languages of indigenous minorities, it is disappearing. This is a very important and painful topic for us. Young people simply do not speak Sami because it is not taught at school, although we are trying to correct this situation." However, this cry of the soul does not change the general mood shaped by the Kremlin organizers, who successfully used the Finno-Ugric theme to further legitimize Russia's aggressive policy among its population and even to further Russify the Finno-Ugrians of Russia.


As the deputy head of the presidential administration of the Russian Federation, Dargin's Magomedsalam Magomedov, said, the main goal of the forum is "the formation of a strong unified Russian identity as a superstructure based on the diversity of the patchwork ethnic consciousness of Finno-Ugrians scattered from the Baltic to Altai." The head of the Federal Agency for Nationalities, Igor Barinov, noted: "Our contemporaries, the members of the SVO, are heroically fighting neo-Nazism and its Ukrainian henchmen, performing feats worthy of universal respect. Work has already begun in the regions, especially in the newly annexed ones, to immortalize the memory of the fallen. Men of different nationalities are now defending our homeland side by side, so all interethnic and interreligious differences are fading into the background. I believe that the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Finno-Ugric peoples and the respect for traditions provide the basis for the development of the tourist attractiveness of our great Russia, national harmony, and are the source of the indomitable spirit of our Russian people. This is our strength, the strength of all Russians."

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