Since the recent events in Ukraine and, more importantly, Tsar Vladimir’s response to those events by
invading rescuing the Crimea, politicians, journalists and others have been looking around the region at other countries with Russian minorities and asking which might be the next to be invaded rescued. Here’s a good piece from the BBC website.The first map, beneath the picture of the icon-clutching and flag-waving babushka gives the percentages for ethnic Russians living in neighbouring countries. (Click to enlarge.) Some of the figures – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Latvia – are quite startling. There are reasons for these figures.
Let us consider Estonia which, with its population today of just 1.3 million – of which almost 25 per cent is Russian – is a marvel of survival. For centuries part of the Swedish empire, with a Baltic German aristocracy and upper class, and then part of the Russian empire before beating off both Freikorps and Red Army in the chaos following WWI to become independent in 1920. In 1940 the Red Army returned to ‘defend’ Estonia . . . the deportations began shortly afterwards. During the post-war period, in the process of ‘integrating’ Estonia And Latvia into the Soviet Union, more deportations took place and Russians were encouraged to move to the two countries. Yet today, despite all the talk of Russian minorities and their potential to provoke further aggression, the lack of curiosity about how those minorities got there is rather odd. We shall consider this later.
If you scroll further down on the BBC article you will come to the map showing Trans-Dniester or Transnistria (pop 500,000), snaking along the Ukraine-Moldova border. I suppose a brief explanation is required, so here goes. Moldova (pop. 3.5m), also shown on the map, is territory taken from Roumania (along with the chunk of land between Moldova and the coast) because that country, or its leaders, backed the wrong horse in World War Two. Worse, Roumanian troops took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union, and ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin was a man who knew how to bear a grudge.
With the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1990 the Russians living on the east bank of the Dniester, aided by some of the Ukrainian population, declared independence from Roumanian-speaking Moldova, and even fought a short war with Moldova in 1992. The excuses for this breakaway were that the Moldovans had stopped using the Cyrillic alphabet, had declared that the Moldovan language was in reality Roumanian, and this made the Slavs on the east bank of the river fear they were about to be swallowed up by the most easterly outpost of Latin and Romance-speaking Europe. As a result of the earlier conflict there are today Russian ‘peacekeeping’ troops based in Trans-Dniester, and due to their presence the European Court of Human Rights considers Trans-Dniester to be under Russian control. Which, as the map explains, places Russian troops close to the heart of Ukraine. Should this be a case of ‘watch this space’?
The reason I am mentioning Trans-Dniester is because yesterday’s Wasting Mule carried a piece by David Williamson headed, ‘Wales has blazed trail Transnistria can follow‘. It seems former Lib Dem Deputy First Minister Mike (now Lord) German recently visited Trans-Dniester / Transnistria with some other members of the Parliamentary Defence Committee. (Among them Labour MP Dai Harvard, whose comradely heart must have soared at the sight of those Russian uniforms.) In what I take to be an attempt to make the recalcitrant Slavs rejoin Moldova, “Lord German, who secured a coalition with Labour in the Assembly’s first term, argues that the example of Wales is ‘very relevant’ as a demonstration that a region can enjoy devolution and that the rights of a minority language can be protected.” What devolution? What protection?
If they follow his advice, and if it works out as it has in Wales, then here’s the future for Trans-Dniester. Following Moldova’s re-unification with Roumania, the parliament in Bucharest will grant Trans-Dniester autonomy. This will be an M. Mouse establishment to buy off local deadbeats too lazy to work and too proud to beg, whereas real power will be exercised by civil servants answering to Bucharest. There will even be legislation to protect the local lingo. Then Bucharest will encourage Roumanians to move to Trans-Dniester, in order to homogenise and better integrate this peripheral region with the core. Result: Local lingo killed off and Trans-Dniester fully assimilated into Roumania. That’s what would happen if Trans-Dniester followed Wales; but it won’t happen, as I shall explain.
The reason no one in the English media, no UK politician, asks when, and by what route, these Russian minorities arrived in so many other countries is obvious – the methodology and the motivatation is all too familiar to those who know their history. It’s what England did from Canada to the Cape, and from Ireland to the Malvinas, and is still doing today in Wales. It is colonisation, pure and simple. Planting your people in a country or region so as to give you a claim on that country, and a pretext for interfering if those people are ‘abused’. That might explain the silence of the Right, but what of those who claim to have seen through the smoke in Kiev to discern fascist hordes on the march; those staunch opponents of nationalism and imperialism who are strangely blind to their Russian varieties? Their silence makes it clear that even though communism is gone the Left still blinds itself to the true nature of Russia. Hypocrites all!
Lord German’s comparison of Wales with Transnistria was plain stupid. Though they are just a drop in the ocean of close on 200 million speakers of the language the Transnistrians are safe because if there were any moves on them that could be interpreted in Moscow as ‘oppression’ then Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin would intervene. When Welsh dies, that’s it, a language is gone forever; Wales has no big brother to come to the rescue. Mike German is, apparently, unaware of these glaring differences; and this ignorance encouraged him to misrepresent the position of the Welsh language and thereby mislead the Transnistrian Russians.
But you’ve got to wonder about those Russians of the Dniester sitting through a speech by the spellbinding Mike German. Were they incredibly polite? Desperate for entertainment? Did they think that German was his nationality, and he’d come with money? Was there a blizzard blowing outside? Were they all drunk? Was it a combination of some or all of the aforementioned? Answers on a post card, please, to . . .