Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Russians’ Lack of Ethnic Unity Makes Them Less Competitive than More United Non-Russians, Emil Pain Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 2 – Many have focused on the problems of integrating people from the Caucasus into Russian life, Emil Pain says; but they should be focusing on the more significant problem of competition between ethnic Russians who remain internally divided and non-Russians who in order to survive have become far more united and capable of success.

            In a speech to a conference in Daghestan, head of the Moscow Center for Ethno-Political and Regional Research, says that “the ethnic majority [in Russia] is internally divided,” and ties among its various components are “weakening” at a time when the relative size of the Russians to the non-Russians is changing (kavpolit.com/articles/oni_musulmane_no_pochti_svoi-27330/).

            Moreover, as more non-Russians and especially people from the North Caucasus move into traditionally Russian areas, they “strengthen their internal ties and thus have indisputable competitive advantages as can be seen by considering who has the greater success in forming businesses in the country and so on.”

            “As long as the Russian ethnic majority is not horizontally integrated,” that is, integrated by itself rather than by the state, “no one will unite it,” Pain says, adding that he “does not want to justify nationalism, but [he] understands its sources and today, the central problem of nationality policy is the Russian problem.”

            Many think that Russian nationalism is receding now given that its high point as measured by the polls was in 2013-2014 when two out of three Russians said they supported the slogan, “Russia for the Russians.” But there is every reason to believe that it will reemerge and intensify given the underlying social conditions, the ethnic expert says.

            Today, he says, “Russian nationalism is growing against the background of a decline in the number of ethnic Russian citizens, a reduction in the fraction of young people among the Russian population.”  Consequently, once a little time passes, “Russian nationalism, which has created not a few problems in many cities, will grow again.”

            Pain says that Russia must “form a civic self-consciousness” that will include within itself ethnic and other identities, but that will take a long time, he suggests, given that much of the population remains “passive” and that the state still acts as if its powers reside in itself rather than in the population.

            “The dynamic of civic consciousness in Russia now rises and now falls,” the scholar says. “According to the Levada Center,” Pain continues, “the share of respondents who consider that the people must force the state to serve its interests has fallen by a factor of three over the past 25 years.” Now, “only nine percent” think that should be the case.

            Until such a civic consciousness does emerge, he argues, the country needs to adopt “new approaches in its strategy of state nationality policy,” approaches that are directed at resolving conflicts not only between the center and periphery as was the case earlier but also among ethnic communities residing in the same city or region.

            At the same time, Pain stressed that “the development of the consciousness of people as part of the country only on the basis of their place of residence is an incorrect approach to nationality policy … People must have the opportunity to take part in the life of the country so that they will feel themselves to be citizens of their own state.”

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