Create an Official Double
In some non-Russian republics, officials are trying to destroy the national movement by an open and direct attempt to declare it extremist and thus make illegal, but in others, they are using a more indirect approach by creating spoilers.
That term refers to the creation of government-controlled organizations often with the same name as the most important national groups not only to create confusion among the residents of the republic but also among those who track developments there but also to justify any crackdown on the latter by pointing to support for the former.
That is now happening in Mari El, a Finno-Ugric republic in the Middle Volga, where officials, long infuriated by the growing influence of the independent-minded Mariy Ushem (Union of Maris) have created a pocket group with a name that varies by only one letter, Mari Ushem.
The new group is the work of the republic’s ministry of culture, the media and nationality questions and is headed by a United Russia loyalist. It has already gained registration, and it is seeking to displace the older group.
To judge from the comments on these three stories, many Mari nationalists are outraged by what Yoshkar-Ola has done. That may make it very difficult for the powers that be to displace the existing national movement in this way; but the authorities clearly hope for confusion and a ready defense if they now move more harshly against Mariy Ushem in defense of Mari Ushem.
Staunton, February 5
Source: Window on Eurasia