Staunton, February 12 – Non-Russians like Ilnar Garifulllin are completely right to oppose the liquidation of the non-Russian republics, the imposition of “non-ethnic Russians” in place of “the multi-national population” of the country, and declaring the ethnic Russians to be “the state-forming people” of the country, Kharun Sidorov says.
But in an essay entitled “Multi-National for Some and Non-National for Others,” the ethnic Russian convert to Islam says that non-Russians should pay attention to the rights of those federation subjects which have an ethnic Russian cultural majority and support their aspirations for more authority and power (idelreal.org/a/30428810.html).
A major defect in the official conception of Russian federalism, Sidorov says, “was and remains its asymmetrical quality,” something that is at bottom a source of envy and anger and thus a threat to the continued existence of the country and of democratic governance. Indeed, it means that when speaking of Russian federalism, one must put it in quotation marks.
There is a fundamental contradiction in the way in which the country has been organized. “On the one hand,” it includes nations and peoples who are recognized as state-republics; but “on the other, it includes subjects “which are not state republics” and whose republics do not have the rights that those in such entities do.
“Are the later a nation?” Sidorov asks rhetorically. If not, then it turns out that the multi-national people of Russia consists on the one hand of full-fledged constituent nations and on the other with regions that are without nationality and of people the formal status of which looks to be second-class.”
And if that is the case, he continues, then one would like to know “what nation they are and in what quality they enter into that multitude, the multi-national people? One way out appears to be to adopt a definition of nationality linked to the state and independent of the nation. In that event, Russia must do away with non-Russian republics.
But it is also the case, Sidorov says, that “if within the Russian Federation are formed and retained republic nations, established on the basis of the self-determination of the peoples … then where in all this scheme is the ethnic Russian people to fit in?” Thus, its problem is that it is not so much part of a multi-nation people but rather not national at all.
There are three ways to resolve this problem, the commentator says, “two extreme and one balanced.” First, one could view Russia “as a whole as a nation state of the ethnic Russian people and the republics within it as national autonomies of the corresponding peoples.” But that would ultimately open the way to the exit of the latter.
Second, one could join together the existing ethnic Russian subjects into a single ethnic Russian “’national’ subject, a Russian Republic.” But that would be difficult given relative size and extreme dispersal of the ethnic Russian population. Over time, that would lead to depriving all the non-Russian republics of their status or cause them to leave.
Or third, one could make Russia into a country reflecting the multitude of peoples and regions. In that event, some nations would achieve their status by acts of self-determination while others would live as citizens in diasporas or as whole communities with rights as residents of a specific subject.
Clearly, Sidorov says, “the most balanced alternative to the recognition of Russia aas a single nation would be its recognition as a state of all its citizens regardless of nationality and faith and a national home of the ethnic Russians and other indigenous peoples who have achieved their status by acts of self-determination.”
As far as equalizing the status of the federal subjects is concerned, it would be easier and certainly less offensive to give rights and powers to those who do not now have them than to take away from those that do the rights and powers others do not have. Many of the predominantly ethnic Russians would gain a lot, especially if they joined together in larger groupings.
That could involve the coming together of the oblasts of Siberia, the Urals or Central Russia, of St. Petersburg with Leningrad Oblast, Moscow with Moscow Oblast and so on, Sidorov says.
Taking rights away from non-Russians who have republics would be fraught with dangers for the country as a whole, but so too would be refusing to offer them to other indigenous nations “and ignoring the rights of the Russian people to national subjectivity in its multi-national community and its federal union.”