Saturday, May 5, 2018

Will Moscow Expand or Disband Nationalities Agency?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 4 – As the date of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration approaches, many are speculating about the fate of this or that agency and its head and about what any particular choice would portend for Moscow’ policies in the area of its responsibility.  The Federal Agency for Nationality Policy and its head have not escaped such discussions.

            The editors of the Nazaccent portal argue that the fate of the ministry will answer the question: “does the state in the future intend to be involved in nationality policy n the country or to put off that issue as insignificant to better times as was the case in the middle of the first decade of this century?” (

            Unlike in the case of larger agencies and issues, the editors say, “a particular feature of the political segment of this sector is that the number of experts in it is very small. More than that, they all know one another, have their own interests and complicated interrelationships with each other and with the authorities.”

            Consequently, they continue, “the majority of the experts of the ethno-cultural sector agreed to share their predictions only on conditions of anonymity.” But nonetheless, there are some intriguing suggestions about whether the bureaucratic structure will remain an agency or become a ministry or even disappear altogether.

            One idea that is circulating would have the Ministry for the Development of the Far East, the Ministry for the North Caucasus and the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs “optimized” can combined into a single ministry, likely headed by one of the current chiefs of the first two rather than by Igor Barinov who now heads the small third.

            Another idea making the rounds is that the Federal Agency won’t be folded into some other ministry but rather expanded and become a ministry in its own right.  If that were to happen, Barinov might be elevated; but many in the North Caucasus are “certain” that Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov would get the job.

            And yet a third is that the Federal Agency will simply be dissolved. That is likely, experts say, if Aleksey Kudrin expands his power because he “doesn’t like the nationality question” and sees any money spent on it as wasted.  Saving even the 200 million rubles (3 million US dollars) the Federal Agency now costs would for him be a good thing.

            If that were to happen, nationality issues wouldn’t go away but rather would likely to be put under the Russian Committee on Youth or the Ministry of Culture – or, according to Vyacheslva Mikhaylov, be run out of a powerful administration within the Presidential Administration that would focus on the ideological dimensions of the issue.

            Such an arrangement, the editors of Nazaccent say, would represent a return to what obtained in the late Soviet period. Then, “formally there was no organ of executive power for the nationality question but in the CPSU Central Committee, a department for inter-ethnic relations worked actively.”

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