Nothing about us without us. An Open Letter from russia’s ​Indigenous and Decolonial Activists

Russia’s invasion of sovereign Ukraine opened the eyes of many to the imperial nature of the russian state. The expansion of the empire and strengthening of the “russkiy mir” ideology are, without a doubt, the key reasons for the Kremlin-perpetrated bloodshed and genocide in Ukraine.

The colonial and imperial nature of this war, in turn, amplified the voices of indigenous peoples of the lands colonized and appropriated by the russian state who have been subjected to racial discrimination and other systemic discriminatory barriers. 

In defiance of these obstacles, many of us are getting involved in anti-war activism, uniting into foundations and movements and helping conscientious objectors to return home. We also work to fight propaganda in our regions where political repressions often prove to be far more rigorous than elsewhere in russia, but yet remain largely unnoticed by the general public. 

Unfortunately, both the russian regime and the so-called liberal muscovite opposition treat the indigenous activists the same: they either choose to ignore us or try to use us as the pawns in their political games. While trying to be heard by the regime is no longer viable, to the liberal opposition we would like to say: 

Nothing about us without us

— 1 —

WE, the indigenous and the decolonial activists, DEMAND to be included in all public discussions about our possible futures.

We understand that no one ethnic, national or decolonial initiative can solely represent the will of its peoples. But all such movements, without an exception, have an inextricable bond with their peoples and their land, which makes their expertise unique and essential. 

The indigenous peoples and/or natives of national republics among us remember our histories. We remember that political decisions made without the involvement of the people in question always brought about political repressions, discrimination and colonial violence. 

We consider this decision-making model to be undemocratic and deeply vicious. 

— 2 —

WE ARE CONVINCED that a simple representation is not enough. Representatives of indigenous peoples, national republics and decolonial initiatives must be included in all decision-making processes and processes of distribution of material and social capital. 

We consider the sudden interest in the decolonial agenda expressed by certain representatives of the liberal muscovite opposition to be a symbolic gesture rather than a sincere act of solidarity and support. We don’t want to become puppet activists whose presence is required for nothing more than a pretty picture. 

True representation is not just a simple inclusion. True representation means participation on all levels of decision-making. True representation is much more than listing someone with a non-Russian name among your allies or having a person with non-Slavic facial features at a negotiation table. 

— 3 —

WE ASK to speak of indigenous peoples without racist tropes, cliches, generalizations and exoticization. Here, we are not only talking about blatantly racist language but also about the words that reinforce colonial hierarchies, including using the word “minorities” when speaking of indigenous peoples or addressing people as “russkie” (ethnic Russians) instead of “rossiyane” (russian nationals regardless of ethnicity), etc. 

We also ask to refrain from portraying the indigenous peoples as mysterious and exotic others who need to be civilized, enlightened and ridden of their savage habits. 

We love our national dress and other elements of our material culture and ask those in question to do away with appropriating them for the exoticization of content they produce. 

— 4 —

WE CALL for solidarity.

We ask to show solidarity with us not only through verbal condemnation of, but also by halting cooperation with any entities, organizations, initiatives or individuals (politicians, bloggers etc.) who systematically refuse to follow the principles outlined above and turn a deaf ear to public criticism. 

We believe that providing those people and entities with material sponsorship or a platform or amplifying their voices in any other way increases the pressure on indigenous activist movements and makes their representatives ever more vulnerable. 


Please share this letter and image sets on your social media. You can download them from @decolonialsolidarity Telegram channel.


Open letter authors:

A. Choybsonov, Buryat activist
A. Erendzhenov, Oirat activist
A. Gomboeva, decolonial researcher
A. Yangulbaev, Chechen lawyer and human rights defender
B. Matune, activists, Asians of Russia
D. Badmaev, Oirat activist
D. Khovalyg, Tuvan activist
L. Latypova, Tatar activist
L. Mongush, Tuvan activist
S. Kondakova, Yukagir activist
S. Jigjitova, Buryat activist
V. Maladaeva, Buryat activist
Asians of Russia
Beda Media Editorial
Buryad Global
Free Kalmykia
Free Yakutia
New Tuva


M. Alexeeva, activist, creative producer, author
A. Arsenian, theatrical producer and curator
M. Vjushkova, scientist
M. Rafail ulı Ganeyev, Tatar language and queer activist
V. Dambaeva, accountant
D. Tsyui, journalist and Buryad activist
M. Zakharov, writer, film curator and translator
A. Zueva, journalist from Buryatia
A. Diudina, Suomen Inkeri-liitto
E. Ishchenko, curator and researcher
A. Kim, product designer
V. Kravtsova, researcher at Feminist Translocalities
M. Kurilov, curator and researcher
M. Nasybullova, Tatar-Siberian artist
V. Nore Mähäbbät, activist
A. Makichyan, climate activist
S. Manakina, activist
N. Mendyaev, Oirat-Kalmyk activist of Free Kalmykia
D. Mityushin, developer
A. Mongush, activist
N. Mongush, activist
A. Kugasova, Sakha activist
V. Dzhunko, Sakha activist
Ğ. Ğaliev, Bashqort activist
E. Ochir, Oirat-Mongol activist
V. Petrova, activist RDS
P. Rapoport, molecular biologist
D. Rasuleva, Tatar writer and poet
V. Son, activist of Invisible Rainbow
M. Tay, Tatar trans activist
A–M. Tesfaye, activist of Queer Svit
D. Torokhova, activist of Vsio Odnoznachno
V. Choinova, Sakha activist,
S. Shestakova, researcher
A. Shevchenko, activist of Voice of free Russia
A. Vogel, German leftist and queer activist
Zh. Batuev, citizen of Buryad-Mongolia
D. Dugarova, doctor
M. Kruchinski, curator at Typography Collective, researcher
V. Charniauski, decolonial activist from Belarus
A. Takkeze, researcher from Tatarstan
B. Takshina, Altai-German musician
Y. Tannagasheva, Shor activist
G. Konstandi, founder of the Voices from the Drina project.
M. Sarycheva, Bashqortostan-born researcher and cultural worker
A. Bogomolova, feminist
Z. Bocheeva, activist
N. Shamgunova, Tatar researcher of history of empire
A. Saifullin, researcher
E. Atlasova, Sakha activist
L. Zhirkova, Sakha activist
P. Zherebtsov, curator
S. Atlasova, Sakha activist
I. Dzhunko, activist from Republic Sakha
V. Kondakov, Sakha activist
A. Burliuk, curator
T. Baktemir, Astrakhan regionalist
G. Iakhiaev, Tabasaranian, software developer
m. irekleh, queer and decolonial analyst of russian cinema and tv
C. Pislari, activist, designer
H.Otchyk, Belarusian/Turkmen activist, poet
A. Khachikian, journalist
Decolonize Russia solidarity network @decolonize_russia
Feminist Transclocalities
Indigenous Peoples Movement global coalition
Invisible Rainbow
Queer Svit
Voices of Indigenous People of Russia
International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia (ICIPR)