A Small but Significant Sign the Russian Federation is Coming Apart
August 5 – Almost 60 years ago, the great Russian émigré scholar I.A. Kurganov
published his book, “The Nations of the USSR and the Russian Question,” in
which he argued that the fate of that country depended less on what the
non-Russians did than on how the ethnic Russians reacted.
insight is fundamental to an understanding of why the USSR came apart as it did
and to a recognition of the forces that threaten to tear apart its successor
empire, the Russian Federation.Those
forces are now on display in a letter to a Duma deputy in Voronezh asking that
Russians be declared “the state-forming people” of that oblast.
their request is granted, it could lead to similar requests in other
predominantly ethnic Russian regions of the country, sparking not only more
efforts by non-Russian republics that do not now declare their titular nationality
“state-forming” but also a drive to insert in the country’s constitution that ethnic
Russians are the “state-forming” nation of the country as a whole.
such an ethnicization of the political formations within the borders of the
Russian Federation, a trend that the less than careful comments of Vladimir
Putin and others have encouraged, could recreate some of the same pressures that
undermined and ultimately destroyed the USSR a generation ago.
the very least, it would lead to heightened ethnic sensitivities and greater
tensions among majority and minority peoples within particular federal subjects
and the country as a whole and create a situation in which stability could be
maintained and then only for a time by ever-greater repression.
authors begin by asserting that their region has seen “terrible things” in
recent times, including a rise in ethnic crime directed against Russians and
the exploitation of ethnic divisions by the authorities as a means of keeping
everyone in check. That must end, the three groups argue.
our view,” they say, “the Russian question on the territory of Voronezh Oblasst
requires an immediate decision, but precisely the Russian people’s lack of the
status of legal subject on the territory of the region makes possible the appearance
of multi-national lawlessness.”
to the letter, “the nearest [ethnic] Russian statehood, as is well known is in
china where there exists the Enhue-Russian national district.”
the letter complains, anyone “who begins to speak within the country about the rights
of Russians will be suspected of extremism. The demand to reflect the Russian character
of Russia in the Constitution has led to accusations of working toward the
collapse of the country, despite the fact that the majority of the republics in
Russia … include their Basic laws a reference to the titular in quotes peoples –
and the defense of their rights.”
we are asking for, the Russian writers say, is that the Duma deputy begin the
process of amending the charter of Voronezh oblast so that it will define “the
legal status of the Russian people as region-forming just like has already been
done in Komi, Tatarstan, and Karelia towards the Komis, Tatars, and Karelians.”