Ethnic Minorities Suffer Disproportionate Casualties in Russia’s War – The Organization for World Peace


Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, its victims have been disproportionately made up of minorities from across the Russian Federation, including Buryats, Dagestanis, Kalmyks and Tyvans. These minority groups, often from poor and remote parts of the country, make up an inordinate amount of the Russian military and, as anthropologist Gillian Tett has described it, are used as “cannon fodder” on the front lines. Although the Russian Federation has officially confirmed only several hundred deaths in its armed forces, many experts believe that this figure is now in the thousands.

It is difficult to obtain exact figures on the number of victims of the conflict, but the independent Russian media Mediazona and iStories have calculated that Dagestan and Buryatia have the highest death toll of all Russian regions, even if their populations are many times smaller than those in wealthy, predominantly Slavic regions of Russia. Well-to-do young men in St. Petersburg and Moscow can dodge conscription and take jobs away from the front lines, but less fortunate people in impoverished regions like Dagestan are forced to take the only stable income available to them. . Often these jobs are at the heart of the violence.

If economic coercion wasn’t bad enough, there are now several reported cases of the Russian military using positive blackmail, where soldiers are offered a clean criminal record or cash bonuses at the end of their term. service, to target young men in poor areas.

These underhand recruiting tactics are a sign of Russia’s growing desperation to muster enough manpower for its war, but they are not used indiscriminately; rather, they are bloody examples of the white Slavic supremacy that pervades Russian society. Russia’s leading rental site allowed owners to select a “Slavs only” option just last year. For centuries, the inhabitants of Russia’s 160 or so ethnic minorities have been subjugated, abused and continually decried as inferior. Their deaths on the front line testify to the disregard Moscow gives to the lives of its ethnic minorities.

There has been a degree of unrest in Russia at the human cost, especially for minorities, of Putin’s last war. The strongest of these actions came from a group called the Free Buryatia Foundation, which encourages ethnic Russians, mainly Buryats, to withdraw from the conflict in Ukraine by offering free legal assistance and transport. To date, the organization claims to have helped more than 150 Buryats, Kalmyks and Dagestanis to leave Ukraine and return to their countries of origin.

“We know we can’t influence Vladimir Putin directly, but the less cannon fodder he has, the sooner this war will end,” said the Foundation’s Victoria Maladaeva: a sentiment shared by many tired Russian activists. to fight. Putin’s war when so many of them are suffering at the hands of Russia’s imperialist and colonialist past.

Despite growing discontent, however, groups like the Free Buryatia Foundation are small and very limited in what they can achieve. The intense censorship and dire consequences of conflict-related dissent mean that the expansion of these groups inside Russia is nearly impossible, and as long as fighting in the conflict provides respite from poverty, the opposition to military service is not necessarily supported by the minorities themselves.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ostracized almost all of its neighbors, and by throwing its ethnic population onto the front lines, it continues to ostracize its own people. This war has sown divisions that will take decades, if not centuries, to mend, and the longer the conflict persists, the worse it is for everyone involved. Russia must immediately end its policy of violence, exploitation and racist supremacy and reconnect with the beauty and diversity inherent in its vast multi-ethnic borders.

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