Russia's Bashkian nationalists make their voices heard
Opposed to war with Ukraine independence activists very active abroad, but stifled by authorities at home. Individual protests continue amid multiplying arrests of those promoting the Bashkian cause.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Bashkian politician Ruslan Gabbasov, who from exile in Lithuania continues to support the independence cause of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan's Tatars, published in Idel.Realii an assessment of the growth of the nationalist movement since the attack on Ukraine.
Many Baškir activists have spoken out against the invasion this year, and the authorities' crackdowns have intensified against them. Gabbasov himself has been charged with terrorism and attacking the integrity of the state.
From Vilnius he leads the "Baškort" movement to champion the cause of peoples' autonomy and true federalization of Russia, to be achieved "by democratic means."
The year 2022, according to Gabbasov, will go down in history not only as the year of Russia's catastrophic war with Ukraine, but also as the beginning of the rebirth of the national movements of the many peoples of the Federation, beginning precisely with the Baškars.
Authorities in the republican capital Ufa outlawed the Baškort, arresting some of its representatives such as Airat Dilmukhamedov and Ramilo Saitov. They then instructed various trials against all forms of independence, but the association of "Patriots of Baškortostan" is still active on the territory.
The best attended public demonstration took place on February 20, 2022, before the invasion, when it was not yet so dangerous to protest in public. It was a flashmob with more than 1,000 people expressing support for the Bashkian beekeepers against the sale of the "Išimbajsky" zoological reserve to foreign investors, who intended to switch to mass honey production. The French interested in such a purchase later withdrew, due to war operations.
After the beginning of the war, any form of public demonstration was prevented, even if it was only local matters. There were attempts in Ufa to organize pacifist protests, but they were also unsuccessful because of police vigilance.
So protesters turned to individual pickets, formally permitted by law without the consent of the authorities, but all demonstrators were immediately blocked and arrested. In general, the Bashkir nationalist movement, with few exceptions, has been openly against the war in Ukraine.
Since before the military operations, "aksakal" (community elders) and leaders of the Bashkir national movement have made appeals to Russia's leadership to prevent aggression. In contrast, some pro-government associations, such as the World Kurultay of the Bashkiri, has openly supported Moscow's initiatives, inserting itself into federal propaganda.
The president of the republic of Bashkortostan himself, Radia Khabirov, has gathered battalions of "volunteers for war" named after war heroes of the Stalin period, or other historical figures such as Salavat Julaev.
While some members of the Ufa administration went to "fight" in Ukraine, activists of the autonomist movement were arrested on several occasions, as was the case with Fail Alsinov, who has been in and out of Republican jails all year. Among the best-known names of autonomy advocates who have suffered arrests and repression are Rustam Amanov, Ilnur Kinisarov, and Rail Abkdirov.
They were blamed by the authorities for organizing a drug trafficking network in Karmaškala in November 2020 and instigating a violent conflict with a group of Armenians in the area.
All of those arrested later protested against police arbitrariness and violence, but were eventually locked up in solitary confinement cells and even psychiatric asylums, only sharpening calls for their release.
Opposition to the power caste in Bashkortostan is now being led from abroad, particularly from Lithuania. This reinforces the opposition rhetoric, which increasingly turns to European and Western nations to support the idea of complete independence of Bashkortostan from Russia.