Monday, December 9, 2019

National Cultural Autonomies Failing to Live Up to Expectations, Author of 1990s Law that Created Them Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 7 – When the Russian government created the organizations known as national-cultural autonomies in the 1990s, it believed that it was providing assistance to small and highly dispersed nationalities who could make use of such extra-territorial bodies to protect their languages and cultures.

            But beginning in the early years of this century, Vladimir Putin came to view them as a possible substitute for the non-Russian republics and even as a Trojan horse that could be used to destroy those institutions by appearing to promise a substitute, the national cultural autonomies (

            At the same time, however, the Putin regime never provided the national cultural autonomies either individually or collectively with the funding and legal arrangements they would have needed to be successful, apparently fearing that they could emerge as a parallel problem to the republics it wanted to destroy (

            Now one of the authors of the original law creating the national-cultural autonomies says that they have not worked as intended or fulfilled the tasks they were assigned, a possible indication that they may be completely overhauled and used as Putin intended or disbanded altogether as an unnecessary appendage of the state.

            Polad Dzhamalov, director of the Moscow-based Kazakh Diaspora Foundation, told the Social Chamber that “the law on national-cultural autonomies in the development of which I took part in the 1990stoday requires a radical reworking. It was initially thought up as a mechanism and institution of civic self-organization supporting the state’s nationality policy.”

            “Unfortunately,” he says, “this institution today doesn’t justify its purpose. In other words, the law isn’t working. Something must be done if we want ot have a real mechanism for the realization of nationality policy which makes use of the resources of civil society (

            Involving civil society in government operations is something that appears to be exactly the opposite of the direction in which Putin has been moving. Consequently, it appears likely that national cultural autonomies will go the way of many such institutions in the 1990s, either dispensed with altogether or transformed into something different and more bureaucratic.

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