Russia has annexed Crimea, and is making noises about regions of other countries, based on the premise that those regions have a majority population that is ethnic Russian. This makes me wonder, are there regions within Russia that have a majority population that is not ethnic Russian? If this racial/nationalist argument was taken to its extreme, how much territory would Russia stand to lose?

  • Well, as I know there are Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Chuvashia and Tuva regions where russians are minority. Aslo, we've got regions where russians and indigenous people population the same as Tatarstan, Mari El, Kalmyk regions. But, Russia even could lose more than that. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 5:07
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    Here is the visualisation of ethnical division in ethnical regions of Russia, based on 1989 census. It is mostly valid today, except that in North Caucasus republics the share of Russians is close to 0%. Those republics are potential losses for Russia. Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 5:16
  • important numbers are given here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatars. They clearly shows that tatars are living in crimea and elsewhere in russia. feb 26th demonstration finished with fight between russians and tatars: businessinsider.com/protests-hit-crimea-2014-2. only two persons died. if causalities would be bigger it is not clear what would hold the peace in crimea and then elsewhere in russia where tatars are living in large numbers. if that happen russia may disintegrate in few years. do you know how many nukes are stockpiled in russia?
    – lowtech
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 16:33
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    @lowtech Crimean Tatars and Tatarstani Tatars are different peoples, they speak different languages etc.
    – Anixx
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 11:58
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    and is making noises about regions of other countries — do you have some examples?
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


This makes me wonder, are there regions within Russia that have a majority population that is not ethnic Russian?

Answer is yes, according to 2010 Russian Census, there are several smaller or bigger regions where Russian ethnicity is minority.

If this racial/nationalist argument was taken to its extreme, how much territory would Russia stand to lose?

Pretty big territories. Sakha Republic is one massive land of 3103200 sqKm with 958528 of population. But the rest of territories would sum up bigger than Belarus with more inhabitants than Sakha Republic.

Wikipedia is pretty detailed in this topic

And I recommend this map to check out:
enter image description here

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    Also, there are some seprartists movements like Karelian, Ingriyan or in Königsberg Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 14:04
  • @DanilGholtsman, those looks like Texas separatist movement, it is strange to treat that as something serious Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 6:09

This is a reasonable question, given the geographic and demographic spread of the largest country in the world. But Russian policy tends to focus on citizenship rather than language and ethnicity. The Russian government gave out passports to large numbers of Ossetians and Akhazians, as well as stationing troops in Transnistria. Significant numbers of people given Russian passports are not generally considered ethnically Russian, but they do politically align with Russia and it provides a useful pretext for invasion.

While the Nazi government in the mid-20th century focused primarily on ethnicity and some sort of natural homeland for a German nation, thus justifying incursions into Danzig, Bohemia, etc., the Russians are focusing more legalistically (or imperialistically?) on citizenship. This is also more grounded in international law (though still basically just a rhetorical fig leaf) and more flexible with regard to ethnicity. Russian expansionism leans more towards nationalism (a nation is a group of people who wished to be governed in concert) rather than ethnicity (people of a common cultural identity). So it may be less divisive for internal non-Russian groups. It also does not clash with the passport-centric view of borders and interests, since their internal minorities are citizens.

  • +1 I also noticed the similarities and differences of Hitler's expansion and Putin's expansion. That would be an interesting discussion how similar are these events. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 14:53
  • I hesitated to Godwin myself, but I figured bringing it up as contrast is at least a partial exception to Godwin. The problem with discussing Nazis as regards Putin's Russia is that even discussing it brings mental associations of genocide.
    – NL7
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 15:11
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    I always try to encourage people to think more deeply than associating things automatically to racism, antisemitism etc... the recent happenings definitely have paralell elements to Hitler's actions in the interwar period. The international political actions and backgrounds are similar (lost war (WW1 vs Cold War), lost territories (Treaty of Versailles vs Dissolution of USSR), regaining territories (Munich agreement, vs the current situation in Ukraine)). Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 15:35

Suppose in 70 years the EU falls apart, and suppose that at the moment of separation each person is automatically assigned the citizenship of the country where he or she resides at the moment.

In my opinion, this is the key to understanding the post-Soviet discourse. For many years in the Soviet Union existed propaganda that encouraged being one nation, marriages between people of different Soviet republics were encouraged and happened often, also some people were forced to go to work to regions other than their home state, while their extended family remained in their home region. The usage of the Russian language across the Soviet Union was encouraged and it was prestigious to speak Russian (compare with English nowadays). Then suddenly these people became citizens of different countries. Moreover, the countries began to encourage their cultures and languages. Some of these migrants were not prepared to study new languages from scratch and to lose their jobs because of their inability to speak a different language.

To conclude, these "ethnic Russians" are not always Russians but rather people that were originally from the Russian territory, or maybe from the territory that was Russian before the Soviet Union, and whose native language is Russian. As far as I understand it, they form political groups and fight for their right to somehow move "back to their home country", which is not realistic, but this is their motivation, not the fact that they are "ethnically Russian" or "culturally Russian". Mostly they are "linguistically Russian" or have relatives or connections in Russia or have better career perspectives in Russia.

  • Welcome to Politics.SE! I'm afraid I don't see how this answers the question. Are there any regions within Russia with a majority population that is not ethnically Russian?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 16:18
  • @F1Krazy I address the error in the question. "Population that is ethnic Russian" is not correct, there are no pure ethnicities nowadays, it may be an interpretation error, in my opinion.
    – MindYB
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 16:54

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