Staunton, November 11 – Despite all the hullabaloo in the Russian media about the implications of a new law on the Russian nation and the management of inter-ethnic relations, Alla Semenysheva, an advisor to the head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, Vladimir Putin has not yet given the order for a draft bill to be prepared.
When the Kremlin leader does so, Semenysheva tells Darya Garmonenko of “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” then of course FADN will get to work and come up with a draft; but that has not yet happened. And she adds that the law may in fact have an entirely different title if and when it is produced (ng.ru/politics/2016-11-11/3_6857_ethno.html).
But regardless of how that may be, the advisor to the FADN director continues, the key portion of the law will concern the management of inter-ethnic relations. But no one should expect to see a draft soon given that “a law is not written in a week.” Rather this is “a long process in which all interested sides must be involved.” It may take as much as a year.
She lists those as being “scholars, society, national-cultural autonomies, deputies of the Duma and members of the Federation Council.” Perhaps significantly and certainly from their point of view offensively, she does not include representatives of the non-Russian republics who would seem to have a particular interest.
Experts have been talking about such a law since 2012 when the Strategy on Nationality Policy was adopted, Semenysheva points out. And she insisted that the idea of a Russian people [“rossiisky narod”] is “an absolutely civic identity: it is not ethnic or political.” But she does not say how it relates to “rossiiskaya natsiay” or “Russian nation,” something else entirely.
And then she made her main point: FADN believes that the most important feature of any new law should not be definitional but rather the delimitation of responsibilities with respect to the implementation of nationality policy, potentially a power grab by her agency and something likely to be opposed by other institutions now involved.
Lev Ponomaryev of the For Human Rights movement says he supports the idea that people should be united “not around ideology but around the motherland” but that means there need not be any law. Trying to adopt one as Putin wants is “voluntaristic” and could lead to “the splintering of the country because we have only the appearance of a power vertical.”
According to the activist, the powers that be are afraid now of the disintegration of the country: “everywhere we have feudal lords and local princelings who more or less sit on what Moscow says. At present, the only thing needed from them is to ensure correct voting, and they so far are fulfilling that requirement.”
“But the situation could change in an instant when they understand that the powers have weakened. In that event, the 90 percent now for Putin could be transformed into 90 percent for exiting from Russia.” The Kremlin is worried about this and sees very clearly that “there is no united nation in Russia.”
Aleksandr Verkhovsky, the director of the SOVA Center, also argues that no law is needed. Rather there should be a lively public discussion of the issues involved. He says that such debates might clarify the relationship of the Russian political nation and its supposed Russian Orthodox “nucleus.”
And Mikhail Remizov, the head of the Moscow Institute for National Strategy, says he favors a law regulating the management of interethnic relations but opposes one defining any Russian nation. “The formation of a civic nation,” he argues, “will not occur as the result of government decrees.”