Staunton, March 3 – Ethnic Russians are leaving rural regions especially east of the Urals and non-Russian republics in order to come to Moscow while, in part because of this Russian flow, non-Russians are becoming ever more dominant in the republics, a pattern that represents serious challenges to the Russian state, according to Academician Valery Tishkov.
In a major article in NG-Scenarios, the ethnographer who is one of Vladimir Putin’s closest scholarly advisors on nationality issues, devotes most of his time promoting the need for creating a non-ethnic Russian civic nation; but his comments about related issues are perhaps even more significant (ng.ru/stsenarii/2018-02-27/9_7180_formula.html).
Five are particularly important, especially given the policy consequences that flow from them.
First, Tishkov says that “the existing tendency of domestic Russian migration is leading to the depopulation of Russian territories east of the Urals. The only places of growing population will remain the Siberian autonomies (Sakha, Buryatia and Tuva) where the share of the ‘non-titular’ population will also decline.”
“Such a situation,” he continues, may open the way “not only to a foreign threat but also to the risk of regionalism of a separatist direction. For Russia, the preservation of the existing special face of the non-ethnic Russian nation is important: its members are not only residents of the center but also Uraltsy, Siberians, and Far Easterners.”
What is needed in the coming years, Tishkov argues, is multi-faceted program for “spatial development under the provisional name, let us say ‘Non-Ethnic Russian Siberia.”
Second, both because of differences in birthrates and because of the departure of ethnic Russians, almost all the non-Russian republics will be ever more “mono-nationality” in population. The only exceptions will be republics which are economically growing and political stable or where the titular groups form a minority (Tatarstan, Komi, Karelia, Adygeya, the autonomous oblast and district).
That could become the basis for nationalism and separatism, Tishkov says, dangerous trends that Moscow must fight by defending the rights of ethnic Russians, promoting a countrywide identity, and inserting Russians from the outside at all levels and opening Russian institutions in each in order to further integrate these areas.
Third, ethnic Russians from rural areas and from non-Russian regions will increasingly leave their places of birth and more to major cities like Moscow, making the latter more Russian in the process but also creating tensions between indigenous Russians and those more recently arrived.
The authorities must recognize that such tensions can become the basis of ethnic fundamentalism, nationalism and xenophobia and work to integrate the arrivals into the cities lest they become the nucleus for a Russian nationalist backlash against non-Russians and immigrant workers.
Fourth, Tishkov argues, “the concentration of the non-Russian population in the republics and of ethnic Russians in the major megalopolises and in the capital region will present definite risks of socio-cultural isolation and growth of regional autarky with an ethnic profile.” In one or two decades, this could become the defining characteristic of the country.
“Opposing it will be difficult,” Tishkov says; “but it is possible and necessary.”
And fifth, the academician continues, if the 20th century was “the century of minorities” in which ethnic groups became more assertive and were given more recognition, the 21st century will be “the century of majorities.” In the case of the Russian Federation, that means the ethnic Russians who will define “the core culture” of the population as a whole.
“Attention to the status of the ethnic majority, to its defense from so-called positive discrimination, that is reverse discrimination in favor of minorities has become the new trend of our century which promise to become “the century of the majorities.” For Russia, a multi-national country, that has particular importance.
According to Academician Tishkov, “in the coming decade, the prestige and status of ethnic Russians must be raised but in such a way that does not deny their non-ethnic Russian identity but rather via the assertion of dual identification – ethnic and non-ethnic Russian identity.”
That will involve “the improvement of the conditions of life of regions which are populated primarily by Russians through support of their social and cultural development in the Russian state,” Tishkov says, although he acknowledges that doing this could create “risks” of greater conflicts with and a chain reaction on the part of peoples living in the republics.
The ethnographer concludes: “The ethnic nationalism of the majority must not be expressed in chauvinism and xenophobia, especially in relation to representatives of other nationalities within Russia and residents of neighboring states.”