Moscow’s Nationality Policies Must Focus on Regions as Well as Republics, Zorin Says
June 5 – The 47-member Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations should
devote “more attention to the regions and the level of local self-administration”
rather than just to the non-Russian republics and specific ethnic communities, according
to Vladimir Zorin, the deputy director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and
would even create a group of federal experts on issues of nationality policy.
There is experience of that kind, for example, in Perm kray where there is an
individual with the status of the kray expert on issues of the state’s
nationality strategies.”And the federal
group should include representatives not only from Moscow and St. Petersburg
but from “many regions.”
words may seem unimportant, but they in fact mark a double breakthrough as far
as Moscow’s nationality policy is concerned. On the one hand, his suggestion
that experts from the federal subjects should be involved in any Moscow
discussions challenges the hyper-centralized approach that has long dominated
this and other fields.
thus provides an opening for experts from both non-Russian republics and
predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays to participate in the formulation
of ideas rather than simply having them presented to them as the decision of
on the other – and this is the far more important aspect of what Zorin told the
Nazaccent portal today – his call for those formulating nationality policy to
focus on all regions and on local self-administration in particular suggests
that Moscow may be expanding the definition of nationality policy to include
elements that are usually left to others.
most of Soviet and nearly all of post-Soviet Russian history, Moscow has
operated with a very restricted definition of what is included in nationality
policy and that means that other agencies define outcomes more than they should
and that Russian oblasts take decisions on ethnicity without Moscow’s input, often
tilting the field in them against non-Russians.
how underfunded and understaffed the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs is
and given the difficulties of expanding its writ to include all issues that
ethnicity affects, it is far from certain that Zorin’s suggestion will be
accepted. But the fact that he is pushing for this redefinition of nationality
policy may open the way to change.
the very least, his words will allow officials and ethnic activists at various
levels the occasion for the kind of discussion that might allow for innovation
and for taking ethnic issues more seriously than Soviet and latterly Russian “nationality
policy” has done up to now.