Vladimir Shtygashev, the longstanding head of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Khakassia, a constituent region of Russia located in the south of Eastern Siberia, has laid himself open after voicing his opinion on the problem of deportation of the Kalmyks, a Mongol ethnic group living in the southern reach of the Volga River, after World War II. Shtygashev’s words have provoked indignation among the residents of Khakassia. Notably, it was not the first case of his statements producing a public stir.
Vladimir Shtygashev, 80, has been in charge of Khakassia's legislative branch of power for 30 years. His rising through the ranks is very typical of an official of his level -- from the secretary of the Khakassia district committee of the Soviet Communist Party to a member of the Khakassia regional political council of United Russia. Shtygashev has already outlived six leaders of the republic. Valentin Konovalov, the incumbent head of the republic, is the seventh one during his time at the post. In terms of age, he is young enough to be Shtygashev’s great-grandson, not just a grandson.
The scandal surrounding Shtygashev occurred in late January. Delivering a speech in the Supreme Council of the Republic of Khakassia, he touched on the very complex historical issue such as the deportation of some ethnic groups in the USSR at the end of WW II, when the tidal wave of repressions swept the Chechens, Crimean Tatars and Kalmyks for their alleged cooperation with the Nazis during the occupation of the Black Sea area and North Caucuses by Hitler’s forces. In fact, Shtygashev alleged that the deportation to Siberia had been aimed to save the deportees from vigilantism on the part of those who had returned from the battlefields. He is not original, though. Such claims have existed for a long time, albeit officials did not voice them. However, at present, conflicts in the community tend to arise almost out of nothing. Besides, also mentioned.
Representatives of Kalmykia and politicians from the Caucasus accused Shtygashev of justifying genocide and sympathies for Stalinism – the set of policies and ideas that were developed in the Soviet Union from the early 1930’s through the mid-1950’s and included rapid industrialization, the theory of socialism in one country, the rise of the totalitarian state, collectivization of agriculture, Stalin’s personality cult and subordination of the interests of communist parties abroad to those of the Soviet Communist Party. It should be mentioned, though, that Vladimir Shtygashev recorded several videos where he said that his words should be viewed in context, and he himself does not justify the forced displacement of people.
However, that was not his first reckless statement. In 2014, he caused almost an international scandal when he spoke out on the subject of the territorial structure of Kazakhstan. He said that some areas in the north of the republic had always been Russian. After that, the Russian Foreign Ministry had to offer explanations to the Kazakhstani Foreign Ministry. This time, the United Russia party had to make some clarifications. Shtygashev himself was just criticized and rebuked a little. According to the press service of United Russia’s branch in Khakassia, Shtygashev was issued a caution. His words were considered unethical: "Vladimir Shtygashev, who was present at the session, agreed with the decision of the presidium.”
It looks like Shtygashev’s "Kalmyk" blunder will be forgotten outside the region quite soon. However, in Khakassia itself, the political opponents continue to fuel interest towards him. There is a common perception that Shtygashev has doing the speaker’s job for too long. And in the United Russia itself, too. According to the regional communists, it is his fellow party menmbers who he should expect to get a hit from first of all. Besides, the caution is not likely to end the conflict. In order to create an anti-Shtygashev group, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) may be of great help – they really continue to throw more wood into the fire. The LDPR representatives have already made public their plans to seek Vladimir Shtygashev's dismissal.
“We see attempts to smother up the scandal surrounding Shtygashev. He has already received formal punishment. We are led to believe that he will get away with it. In addition, Shtygashev made an appeal in which he -- no, does not apologize to the offended Kalmyks -- remembers his postwar childhood years and informs us that we should live together in friendship. Meanwhile, a spontaneous protest action has already been held in Kalmykia. The protesters made it clear that statements of this kind targeting a whole people are unacceptable. The LDPR will seek his dismissal," said the representatives of the party’s Khakassia branch. The LDPR ordered its own linguistic expert analysis of Shtygashev's words and detected "elements of inciting interethnic hostility and justification of genocide of an entire ethnos” there.
As for Valentin Konovalov, the head of the Republic of Khakassia, he clearly tried to abstract himself from the incident. Konovalov said in the social networks that Shtygashev voiced only his own opinion, not that of Khakassia’s authorities. "Certainly, there are many people who want to "strike down Akela,” Yevgeny Mamayev, the head of the All-Russia People’s Front executive committee in Khakassia said in an interview with wek.ru. “Many believe that the era of Shtygashev has already ended, and it's time for him to step down. There are enough people willing to take his place. Probably it seems to them that if they wait a little longer, they will achieve their goal. However, Shtygashev has outlived a lot of his political opponents.Chances are this is not his last game."