Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Nationality Strategy Fails to Discuss Key Issues, Russian German Leader Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 14 – The Kremlin’s draft nationality strategy paper, set to be confirmed on December 1, has been the subject of much criticism over the last  few weeks, but now a leader of the Russian German community says that what the draft paper does not discuss may be among the most important aspects ofnationality policy.

            Those who took part in the drafting of this document have described many of its provisions, but as Eduard Popov, the head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center for the Russian Institute for Strategic Research, points out, neither they nor anyone else has provided a complete text (

            That makes any final evaluation of the paper extremely difficult, all the more so because it appears, Hugo Wormsbecher, vice president of the National Cultural Autonomy of the Russian Germans, says, that those who wrote this draft have failed to address three key issues (

 First, as far as one can tell, he says,”there is nothing said” about the continued existence of national-territorial formations.  Given how much talk there has been about “liquidating” them in recent weeks, “the silence of the Draft on this question cannot fail to generate concern among a whole number of peoples of our country.”

Often viewed as an unnecessary survival of the Soviet past, these “’national apartments’” are vital for the peoples involved “not only as a common home but also as a condition of the preservation of their national culture, native language, customs and traditions.” They are “a roof over the head” that helps secure “a national future.”

“Without them,”Wormsberger says, “the peoples would very quickly be transformed into non-national people without a permanent place of residence,” what Russians calls “bomzhi.”

Sometimes it is suggested, he continues, that these “’national apartments” interfere with the state and that it was “’because of them’” that the USSR fell apart. But Wormsberger argues that was not true. Instead, he says, Moscow was not “concerned about the content of the all-Russian house” and sought to blame the non-Russians for its shortcomings.

Is it realistic to call the response of the non-Russians – and ethnic Russians as in the case of the proposals to create a Urals Republic” -- “separatism”?

            Second, Wormsberger continues, the new draft strategy paper fails to talk about the continuing importance of dealing with those peoples who were repressed iin the past.  Obviously, this problem can and should be addressed in a new way given all that has happened. But ignoring the issue altogether is troubling.

            Indeed, it suggests that those who wrote the draft or those behind them appear to think that this problem “does not exist” and that “repressed peoples today are also only a source of undesirable problems.”  That view ignores the fact that the pain and suffering these peoples experienced very much “remains” and must be dealt with by the government.

            Wormsberger, himself a Russian German, notes that many of his co-ethnics lost faith in Moscow’s rommises and 2.5 million of hem “left for Germany,” costing Russia far more than it would have to restore the rights of this deported nation. 

            And third, he argues, it would be a good thing if the draft paper dealt in detail with another aspect of nationality relations the strategy appears to pass by in silence, the relationship of nations inside the Russian Federation with their co-ethnics abroad and especially in the post-Soviet space.


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