Staunton, June 9 – The working group charged with preparing a draft law on nationality policy and “the strengthening of the multi-national people of the Russian Federation (the civic Russian nation)” has come up with a draft to be discussed by the Presidential Council of Inter-Ethnic Relations later this month.
In Kommersant today, Natalya Gorodetskaya reports that there is still no final agreement on what the law itself is to be called – that is just one of the controversies this proposal has sparked -- but that the working group has decided on this provisional one for presentation by the August 1 deadline Vladimir Putin set at the end of last year (kommersant.ru/doc/3320393).
“The goal of state nationality policy,” she says the draft suggests, “is the preservation of Russian society as a civic nation” along with “’the preservation and consolidation of civic unity, ethno-cultural and linguistic diversity, and the foundations of Russian Federalism.’” This draft thus stresses diversity more than some earlier ones.
To that end, the draft document defines “contemporary nations” as “sovereign civic societies under a single state power,” “the civic Russian nation as a community of citizens of the RF of various ethnic, religious, social and other memberships who recognize their historic and civic commonality, political-legal connection with the state and with Russian culture.”
It also offers a definition of “a people” or “an ethnic community” as “a state community of people which has arisen on the basis of common territory, language and culture,” a definition not too distant from Stalin’s classical definition of the nation. And it says that “’nationality’ is the conscious belonging to one or another people.”
According to one member of the working group, former nationalities minister Vladimir Zorin, the draft provides a framework “detailing the competence of each level of power.” “Native language instruction and foundations of religious knowledge are matters for local self-administration, regions must think through nationality policy, and the federal powers must coordinate this work.”
Zorin also said that no one should expect a new law soon. Even after the August 1 deadline, many parts of the government will have to weigh in, and both houses of parliament will have to participate in the drafting of the final language.
Another member of the working group, Iosif Diskin, said that the final law would have to specify on what basis the civic nation would be formed. In his view, “a single nation will not arise on the basis of ethno-confessional peace [alone because] when religious or nationality values become the chief things, unity will be destroyed.”
And a third member, Leokadiya Drobizheva, who heads the Center for Research on Inter-Ethnic Relations at the Moscow Institute of Sociology, pointed out that “Yakuts, Tatars and other peoples do not want to be ethnic groups: they consider themselves to be nations.” That’s why the draft specifies that there must be “unity of people of various nationalities and ethnic groups.”
In her view, “the united nation is not only an inter-ethnic and inter-confessional unity, but a unity of citizens of the country.” People will be unified, Drobizheva continued, on the basis of such common values as “human dignity, justice, the well-being of the people, and mutual respect.”