Sunday, February 16, 2020

Calls to Refer to Russian Nation in Constitution’s Preamble Discriminatory and Dangerous, Mirzayan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 10 – In many respects, the most consequential and dangerous proposals for changing the Russian Constitution are not those Vladimir Putin has made and that will certainly be adopted but those made by others that are unlikely to be but that signal where important elements in Russia stand and what they want in the future.

            Among the latter, Gevorg Mirzayan says, are calls to change the preamble, dropping the reference to “the multi-national people” and inserting instead the words “ethnic Russians in union with other fraternal peoples who are united into the multi-national people of the Russian Federation by a common fate on their land” (

            Besides the clumsiness and grammatically problematic quality of this formulation, as offered by Konstantin Zatulin, the Snob commentator says, there are real problems and even dangers. Not only does the deputy choose to use the word for ethnic rather than non-ethnic Russians, but he thereby creates two classes of people, the Russians and “the Untermenschen.”

            The grammar might be corrected, Mirzayan says, but the message can’t be, especially as many of Zatulin’s supporters want exactly what his words entail, the division of the population of the Russian Federation into two classes, the first, which includes only the ethnic Russians, and the second, which includes everyone else.

            Moreover, the problem is that Zatulin is not some marginal figure but “an extremely influential federal politician and Duma deputy. And now he must take responsibility for his poorly thought out amendment which as a result of Zatulin’s status has received support from a number of government media outlets” and encouraged Russian nationalists.

            A large part of the latter is “certain that the rights of ‘racially poor ethnic Russians’ on the territory of the Russian Federation are not only not respected but are under attack. As a result, they absolutely support Zatulin’s amendment precisely in the form in which he offered it, as a sign of the priority of Russians over other ‘lesser peoples.’”

            Numerous commentators have come out in support of Zatulin’s words and condemned any criticism of them as Russophobia. And that represents a problem and a threat even if as seems certain there is absolutely no chance that his formulation will in fact be adopted and included.

            The only positive aspect of Zatulin’s initiative, he continues, is that it may attract the attention of the authorities to the dangers of “aggressive nationalism,” Russian and non-Russian alike. If the authorities continue to shut their eyes to this threat, they will soon see clashes like those now in Kazakhstan (

            And in the Russian context, those “could lead to the disintegration of the country.”

            To prevent that, Mirzayan says, the powers that be need to take four steps: First, they must block those with radical views on ethnic questions from access to the federal media and remove such people from institutions involved with inter-ethnic relations, including Zatulin’s Institute for the CIS Countries.

            Second, they must continue to press for the adoption by all residents of Russia of the super-national identity of Rossiyane while not forcing anyone to give up their own ethnic identities at the same time. Third, they must involve religious groups like the Orthodox Church and the Muslim leadership in this effort.

            And fourth, “in the struggle with aggressive nationalists must be included the Rossiyane themselves, the masters of the multi-national country of Russia where any aggressive nationalists mentally (not by passport but precisely in their minds) are only guests” rather than full-fledged members of the community.

            That is because “if we allow the guests to impose their order in our house, then we will lose our home just as we did as a result of the actions of these very same guests 30 years ago.”

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