Despite Vladimir Putin’s much-ballyhooed power vertical, Moscow has not imposed an identical approach to running the various non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation, as new statistics about ethnic representation in government positions in three Middle Volga republics, Mari El, Tatarstan and Chuvashia, show.
Indeed, these figures show that while the titular nationalities are represented in the governments in Tatarstan and Chuvashia at levels above their percentage in these republics, the Maris are largely excluded from top government posts, making that republic the most Russian occupied one in the country.
The three republics vary in terms of the ethnic composition of the population: in Mari El, Maris form 44 percent and Russians 47 percent of residents, in Tatarstan, Tatars form 53 percent and Russians 40 percent, and in Chuvashia, Chuvash form 68 percent and Russians 27 percent. But the representation of the titular nationality varies far more significantly.
The difference begins at the top: the president of Tatarstan is a Tatar, the head of Chuvashia is a Chuvash, but the head of Mari El is an ethnic Russian. And this pattern continues in the composition of the council of ministers, the leadership of key executive branch institutions, and the top figures of republic legislatures.
With regard to ministers, in Tatarstan, of the 22, there are 18 ethnic Tatars and four ethnic Russians; in Chuvashia, of the 16, 13 are ethnic Chuvash and three are ethnic Russians; but in Mari El, of the 20, only two are ethnic Maris, while 16 are ethnic Russians and two more are ethnic Tatars.
As to state committees, services and administrations, in Tatarstan, of the 14, seven are ethnic Tatars and seven are ethnic Russians; in Chuvashia, of the five, all are ethnic Chuvash; but in Mari El, where there are six, only one is an ethnic Mari, four are ethnic Russians and one is an ethnic Tatar.
And with regard to legislative leaders, in Tatarstan, of the 12, nine are ethnic Tatars while three are ethnic Russians; in Chuvashia, of the seven, six are ethnic Chuvash and one is an ethnic Russian; but in Mari El, of the ten, ethnic Russians occupy eight of the positions, an ethnic Tatar one, and the titular ethnic Maris only one.
In sum, the titular nationalities in Tatarstan and Chuvashia occupy qualified majorities in all these categories; but the Mari in Mari El form only ten percent of these key offices. And this pattern has serious consequences not only for how members of the titular nationality view their republics but also how the governments in these republics actually behave.
Not surprisingly, many Maris are angry both about the role of ethnic Russian governor Leonid Markelov in producing this situation and about the consequences of what they see as their underrepresentation in his regime. And they cite the conclusions of Mari experts that no other non-Russian republic suffers from such “an ignoring of national cadres.”
Maris believe that this ethnic imbalance in officialdom has contributed to the reduction of teaching of the Mari language in the schools of the republic, the absence of any support for the traditional religion of the Maris despite government backing for Russian Orthodoxy, and the Russianization of the architecture of the cities in the republic.
They also believe that this pattern has forced “hundreds and thousands of Mari nationality to leave the Mari El Reublic in the search for work since the socio-economic situation in the region is at such a critical level,” something that has broken families and undermined further the traditional way of life.
Source: Window on Eurasia