Staunton, October 7 – In another example of Russian government policy coming into line with Vladimir Putin’s oft-expressed view that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are not three peoples but one, a Russian government commission backs a plan that would not require Ukrainians and Belarusians who seek to become Russian citizens to take a language exam.
Instead, it would be assumed that they already speak Russian and thus qualify for permanent residence and citizenship on an expedited manner as “bearers of the Russian language” (rg.ru/2019/10/08/ukraincy-i-belorusy-poluchat-status-nositelej-russkogo-iazyka-bez-ekzamenov.html).
Vladimir Gruzdyev, president of the Association of Jurists of Russia, approves this step. He says that “there is no need to organize some kind of formal procedures for representatives of fraternal peoples who not only speak but often think in Russian.” All others, of course, will continue to have to be tested.
Since Moscow introduced the concept of “bearers of the Russian language” into its immigration procedures, he continues, some 80,000 people have taken these tests. Of these, 47,000 were Ukrainians and 800 citizens of Belarus. Once the new measure is adopted, immigration officials can accept Ukrainians and Belarusians without formalities.
On the one hand, this change will simplify the work of Russian immigration officials. But on the other, it is likely to disturb two groups of people, Ukrainians and Belarusians who don’t want to be grouped as part of the Russian nation and their national governments, and Russian nationalists who view their nation as different in more than linguistic ways.
The most important consequence of this is likely to be that some Ukrainians and Belarusians may be put off by this Muscovite presumptuousness and choose not to become Russian citizens; and their respective governments may view this as yet another step toward the restoration of an empire, this time a “Slavic” one rather than anything else.