Staunton, Oct. 21 – Putin’s war in Ukraine has made people from other former Soviet republics who have been living in the Russian Federation increasingly conscious of their own ethnic backgrounds and identities and prompted some of them to leave Russia and return to their homelands, according to Arpi Bekaryan.
“Before the war,” the Yerevan journalist says, many such people “didn’t think much about who they are, but now they ever more often ask themselves that question,” creating an identity crisis for some and the ethnicization of many (russian.eurasianet.org/бежавшие-на-кавказ-россияне-испытывают-кризис-идентичности).
She draws that conclusion on the basis of conversations with Armenians and Georgians who have returned to their titular homelands after living in Russia. Some of their comments are suggestive of the complexities of this process, one that has attracted relatively little attention up to now.
One factor Bekaryan’s interlocutors point to is the increasing attention to Russian ethnic identity, but another and more intriguing one involves the differences in understanding of nationality among Russians and Ukrainians. Russians usually think of nationality in ethnic terms, but “for Ukrainians, this is usually citizenship,” as it is for most peoples around the world
As a result, Ukrainians view Armenians, Georgians and others living in Russia as Russians and hold those groups equally responsible for Russia’s war. To avoid being identified in that way, many of these minorities focus on their ethnic identity more, distancing themselves from Russians and even moving to their homelands.
Such shifts may seem subtle but they are likely to have long-term consequences not only for these non-Russian nations but for relations between them and the Russian Federation even after the war is concluded.
Window on Eurasia — New Series