Thursday, June 27, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Only Civic Nationalism Can Save Russia, Pain Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – Emil Pain, perhaps Russia’s leading specialist on inter-ethnic relations, says that only the transformation of ethnic Russian nationalism can save Russia, a country whose extraordinarily high levels of xenophobia make the modernization of the country impossible.

            This is only one of the many noteworthy conclusions, Pain, the director of the Center of Ethno-Political and Regional Research,makes in the course of a 5200-word interview with the new “Russkaya planeta” portal about the ethnic challenges facing the Russian Federation now and in the near future (

            Among the most interesting and important of Pain’s observations are the following:

**Not only are the peoples of the Russian Federation going through a process of “retraditionalizaiton,” but so too is the Russian government as shown by its passion for adopting programs like a nationality strategy document “in the spirit of the Soviet system.”

**Russia is “radically dissimilar to the greater part of nation states because it is part of a quite rare group of countries which bear the name of one of its component groups” but includes places which at one time were independent states or are radically dissimilar in other ways.

**Russia is “a continental empire”and as such cannot govern its colonies one way and its metropole another. “The regime is unified and indivisible,” and as such, “it is far more difficult to free itself from its internal colonies and become a nation state.”

**“For the majority of countries, current inter-cultural problems are the problems of an arriving population and the local one. In Russia, in contrast, the main problem is not migrants that have arrived but the local population.” There is no legal difference between the resideents ofMakachkala and Petersburg, but “arrivals fromt eh republics of the North Caucasus are called migrants, but those coming from Tatarstan, not to speak of Petersburg are not.”

**Russian “hatred toward representatives of the North Caucasus is four times greater than towards representatives of Central Asia who are the largest group of immigrants. We do not have problems with foreign non-citizzens but rather with those from within the country.” That makes Russia more similar to empires than to nation states.

**As the end of the Soviet Union showed, such an arrangement is not sustainable forever. But with regard to the future of the Russian Federation, Hegel’s observation as repeated by Marx is “just.” That is, history will repeat itself; the first time as tragedy, the second as “farce.” That is because, “an attempt to apply an old arrangement in new circumstanes is almost always comic.”

**“The less legitimate the formal head is, the more power informal leaders have.  In such regions, the real choice is not between assigned and appointed [governors] but between legal and illegal rules.” In Russia today, such people are not really representatives of the center, “they only appear to be.”

**Ethnic Russians began leaving the North Caucasus in the 1970s; their outflow only intensified in the 1990s. The beginning 40 years ago reflected “the Soviet nationality policy of korenizatsiya,” the replacement of outsiders, often Russians, in positions of responsibility with representatives of the titular nationality.

**In the 1990s, ethnic mobilization dominated the situation in the North Caucasus. In the first decade of this century, religious mobilization became the more important. “But in 2011-2012, something curious happened.” There was an increase in both, and the conflict between Russians and non-Russians became ever sharper as a result, leading to the restarting of territorial conflicts as well.

**The Caucasus Emirate is “serious” because it is “thee only international organization” in the region which includes “representatives of practically all ethnic groups” of the North Caucasus. It would become more influential and more radical if this region were independent.

**There is thus “no other path” forward “besides genuine federalization” and the modernization it would bring.

**The societies of the Caucasus are more prepared for democracy than are the Russians because the former have so much experience with elected leaders of various kinds.

**“Russian nationalism must be transformed into civic nationalism [because] thisis the only path of the salvation of the country and the resolution of a multitude of problems.” But that will be difficult because “Russia has one of the highest levels of xenophobia among the countries of the world,” and that makes modernization “even of the indigenous territories, impossible.”  

**At the same time, Russia has “extremely low levels” of patriotism and “identification with the country and its territory.” Russians identify instead either with a local area “or with the entire world.” The country itself is not the focus of their identities. Instead, Russians “have a high level of cosmopolitanism.”

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