Staunton, October 18 – The new Russian Nationalities Policy Strategy, which is to replace one in place since 1996, drops references to the state-forming role of the [ethnic] Russian people” and refers instead to their “unifying role” in producing “a unique socio-cultural civilizational community, the multi-people [non-ethnic] Russian nation.”
That change among others has already outraged many Russian nationalists who resent that Russia is not a nation state, “a Russia for the Russians,” but instead a federation in which the ethnic Russians may be first among equals but whose government, in their view, in an effort at “political correctness,” defers too much to the non-Russians living among them.
Today’s “Kommersant” provides a summary of the new document, one that President Vladimir Putin in August called on his Council of Inter-Ethnic Relations to prepare and that the paper said “completely satisfied the Kremlin and will be subject to an all-people discussion” in the near future (www.kommersant.ru/doc/2047014
The draft document was prepared, the paper notes, by four former nationalities ministers – Valery Tishkov, Vyacheslav Mikhaylov, Vladimir Zorin and Ramazan Abdulatipov, with the participation of Presidential Administration and government officials. And it “looks more politically correct that the previous draft which was prepared by the Regional Affairs Ministry.”
Removed from the earlier document is any reference to “the state-forming role of the Russian people,” a phrase that is highly offense to many in the republics. Instead, it says that: “thanks to the unifying role of the [ethnic] Russian people, the many centuries of inter-cultural and inter-ethnic interaction on the historic territory of the Russian Federation has been formed a unique socio-cultural civilizational community, the multi-people [non-ethnic] Russian nation.”
“Thus,” “Kommersant” continues, “citizens of the Russian Federation recognize their all-Russian civic identity.” But the authors acknowledge that “’negative factors conditioned by Soviet nationality policy and the weakening of statehood in the 1990s’ became the cause of ‘an outburst of ethnic mobilization, ethno-territorial separatism, and religious-political extremism.”
Also playing a definite role in producing “the threat of disintegration,” the authors say, Russia has experienced “a high level of social inequality in society and regional differentiation, ethno-politicization of various spheres of life,’ and also ‘corruption, failings of the law-enforcement system, and the distrust of citizens in the organs of power.’”
The new document calls for “concrete” efforts to achieve greater income equality among the regions, “the equality of citizens before the law and the courts,” and transparency in the treatment of “’situations connected with international conflicts’ and ‘the constant monitoring of the situation’” to prevent things from getting out of hand.
Vladimir Zorin, one of the members of the working group, told “Kommersant” that the reason that Russia needed a new nationalities strategy document is that “the world has changed [since 1996], and there are new challenges.” And Vyacheslav Mikhaylov, another member, said that the strengthening of the state opens the doors for improving federalism.
Although “Kommersant” says that the Kremlin like the document, not everyone in the Russian Federation does. Mikhaylov said he had already received “about 40” emails about it. He said “not one was negative,” but he said these were “stylistic” corrections. One of the biggest objections, he reported, is that the document did not define “a national idea.”
But as the discussion of the document spreads, others are likely to object vigorously. Dmitry Dyomushkin, a Russian nationalist, has already objected to what he calls the document’s overly “politically correct” treatment of non-Russians, something he said Moscow is often guilty of (www.nr2.ru/moskow/interview/408820.html).
By pandering to the non-Russians and denigrating the ethnic Rusians, Dyomushkin continued, the Russian government, while saying it is trying to “avoid the disintegration of the country in fact may achieve exactly the opposite results,” with many ethnic Russians deciding as a result that their country would be better off if the non-Russians were jettisoned. Indeed, “if there were a referendum now, a majority would call for separating the Caucasus from Russia.”