Saturday, March 4, 2017

Putin-Tishkov Push to Define Civic Russian National Identity Collapses

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 4 – The working group headed by Academic Valery Tishkov that Vladimir Putin charged with coming up with a law defining a civic Russian national identity and identifying all residents of Russia as rossiyane has admitted defeat and will instead produce draft legislation on “the basic principles of the state nationality policy of the Russian Federation.”

            Tishkov, the former nationalities minister and longtime head of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology who has long championed the idea of creating a common civic Russian national identity admitted defeat in an interview with on Thursday (

            In addition to the draft law on nationality policy, the academician said, his working group also plans to adopt “a declaration on national unity,” although he acknowledged that so far there is as yet no agreement on just what that might contain beyond general terms concerning “our all-Russian patriotism [and] our all-Russian national identity.”

            According to Tishkov, that document will also discuss “mechanisms of overcoming various risks, domestic and foreign and destructive influences.”  And he expressed the hope that the law and the declaration might be adopted in this year, “the centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917.”

            This is a somewhat inglorious end to what began with such pomp and enthusiasm on October 31, 2016, when Putin expressed his support for the adoption of a law on the civic Russian nation and named Tishkov to head the 16-member working group to come up with a draft.

            To the apparent surprise of the Kremlin and Tishkov, the idea of creating a civic Russian national identity ran into near universal opposition. Both Russians and non-Russians saw it as a threat to their distinctive ethnic identities. Liberals opposed the idea both because it recalled the Soviet period of Soviet times and because it was going to be imposed top down.

            And many suggested that the attempt to create such a civic national identity at the present time would put Russia at risk of a color revolution  like the ones in Ukraine given that the Ukrainian government has promoted a civic national identity as well.  Only Tishkov and a few of his acolytes supported the idea.

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