Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Moscow’s Nationality Policy Must Focus on Ethnic Russians, Barinov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 17 – Moscow’s nationality policy is about “preserving the unity and integrity of Russia and supporting inter-ethnic peace,” Igor Barinov says; and as such, it must focus not only on the national minorities as nationalities ministries typically have in the past but also on the ethnic Russian people and on their language as the language of the country.

            The head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs says in an interview with TASS that those who talk about “the oppression” of the Russian majority because it does not have its own republic, however, are wrong, because “it is very difficult to ‘oppress’” a group which forms “more than 80 percent of the population” (

            “If one were to establish some kind of ‘Russian republic,’” Barinov continues, “it would at a minimum appear somewhat strange” because it would extend “from Kaliningrad to the Kurile Islands.” But that doesn’t exhaust the issue as far as nationality policy is concerned, and Moscow must and is focusing on other Russian issues.

            Among them, he says, are the following: “the social-economic development of those territories” where Russians predominate, “the defense of Russian speakers abroad,” and the problems ethnic Russians face in non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation where they are a minority.

            The problems ethnic Russians face, he continues, did not arise yesterday. “They are the consequences of the bestial disintegrative processes of the 1990s when an outflow of Russians from a number of the national republics was observed, and certain local leaders played on the nationalist theme.” Now things are better as some republics are seeking to have Russians return.

            Among Barinov’s other comments are the following:

·         Coping with the problems of peoples deported in the past remains an “unresolved” question.

·         The Soviet people is one stage of a much longer history of “the positive experience of ‘living together’ of various peoples, cultures and religions,” something that “hardly has been exhausted by the Soviet period.” 

·         Ethnic relations really are better now; that is not just the product of media choices: According to Barinov, “it is simply impossible to keep quiet” when ethnic clashes break out. If the central media don’t cover them, the Internet will. 

·         “The escalation of a large segment of conflicts takes place via the Internet.” That is why his agency monitors the Internet so closely as well as conducts regular opinion polls.

·         Immigrants must be legalized and integrated into Russian society both so they do not offend Russians and also so they do not become radicalized as a result of feelings of exclusion and mistreatment. 

·         According to Barinov, 77 percent of Russians do not have any prejudices about people of other nationalities; but 17 percent “almost one in every five,” acknowledge that they do.  In some places where there are more migrants or more ethnic mixing, that figure is far larger. 

·         Young Russian citizens are going to fight for ISIS largely because “in certain republics the corrupt clan system of power still exists.” Young people see no prospects or justice  and thus are easy prey for ISIS recruiters.  Those that do go, Barinov says, must be destroyed, preferably where they are abroad.  “I do not believe,” he says, “that it is possible to rehabilitate people who commit crimes in the ranks of terrorists and kill women and children.”

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