Staunton, April 27 – A major reason for the improvement in recent years of Russian attitudes toward ethnic minorities within the country, Leokadiya Drobizheva says, is that they now are focusing on an enemy abroad, the result of the harsh negative reaction of the West to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
Today, the head of the Center for Research on Inter-Ethnic Relations of the Moscow Institute of Sociology says, “about 80 percent of the population does not have negative feelings about representatives of other nationalities,” a dramatic turnabout from the situation “before 2013” (nazaccent.ru/content/27125-na-otkrytoj-lekcii-v-moskve-govorili.html).
With the acquisition of a foreign enemy, Drobizheva says, especially given the attention it received from the media, Russians overwhelmingly came to view those within their country as less of a problem at least relative to the external enemy they saw presented on their televisions on a daily basis.
But at the same time, she continues, this does not mean that the formation of a pan-Russian identity is proceeding without difficulties. “The Russian civic nation is a super-ethnic community. We had such a community, the Soviet people, but the USSR ceased to exist and the Soviet people as well” -- although “many even now consider themselves Soviet people.”
The Soviet people, the pioneer ethno-sociologist says, “all the same was an ideological community” while “the present day Russian nation is being formed not as ideological structure but through integration and unification and is based on the consciousness of people in the first instance of their civic membership.”
This Russian “identity” is “a constructed reality and gradually we are forming it.” Russians already have “elements of a civic nation. There is a youth movement and an electoral process … but at the same time we as sociologists know: our people do not feel responsibility for the fate of the country and do not consider that they can decide anything.”
“That is very important,” Drobizheva says; and “therefore, in order to be realists, we say that we are a state-civic nation which is only in the process of being formed as a civic one.” As people shift to a civic identity, ethnic differences matter less and people have better attitudes toward members of other groups.