Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Basic Laws of Regions and Republics Speak of Their Roles in Forming the Russian Nation and State

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 5 – Numerous Russian politicians and commentators are pressing for language in the Russian Federation Constitution specifying that the ethnic Russians are the “state-forming nation” of the country. What is often missed is that many basic laws of the regions and republics already speak of their role in forming the Russian nation and state.

            In an article entitled “The Special Role of the Russians,” IdelReal journalist Ramazan Alpaut calls attention to some of these and also to the language in the basic laws of many federal subjects about the role of the Russian language as compared to other languages on their territories (

            Vladimir Oblast’s basic law, he notes, refers to the region as “an historic center of the formation of the Russian nation.”  Krasnodar’s describes itself as “the historical territory of the formation of the Kuban Cossacks, the immemorial place of residence of the Russian people which forms a majority of the population of the kray.”

            In Arkhangelsk Oblast, the basic law says that among that region’s responsibilities is the supportand protection of “the traditions of the Russian Pomor North” and the protection of the rights of the “indigenous numerically small peoples” and “the defense of their immemorial milieu and traditional way of life and economic activity.”

            Many more, often with exactly the same language, specify that Russian is the state language and that the use of other languages is governed according to federal law. Among those which do cited by Alpaut are the Transbaikal Kray, Krasnoyarsk Kray, Amur Oblast, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

            The references by regional constitutions to the way in which their territories contributed to the formation of the Russian nation are intriguing not only because they highlight the matryoshka-like nature of the Russian nation but also because they suggest that the more Moscow stresses the centrality of the Russian nation, the more predominantly ethnic Russian regions are likely to emphasize this fact.

            And that could easily have the unintended consequence of emphasizing regionalist and federalist ideas, exactly the reverse of what those in Moscow who are now pressing for the inclusion of words about the state-forming role of the Russian nation intend.

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