Staunton, February 7 – One of the most notorious features of Soviet officialdom was the use of the nationality line in passports to discriminate against or for particular groups. It was eliminated after the fall of communism, but now Valery Rashkin, the KPRF deputy chairman of the Duma’s nationality affairs committee, says Russians want it back.
The KPRF has been pushing for this for a decade, the deputy says; but now the Russian government has set the stage by creating a special list of representatives of the numerically small peoples of the North who get benefits and possibly inserting in their passports a record of their being on it (newizv.ru/article/general/10-02-2020/valeriy-rashkin-ubrali-grafu-natsionalnost-iz-pasporta-nachalas-voyna-v-chechne).
“I consider that this is the first step toward having the nationality of all citizens listed” in passports, especially because polls by the Center for Research on the Political Culture of Russia, show that “more than 80 percent” of citizens want that, Russians and non-Russians alike. The former object to the non-ethnic term Rossiyane; the latter want to save their identities.
Many object that the restoration of the nationality line violates international practice and would create new tensions. But the first objection is irrelevant, Rashkin says; every country has its own traditions. And the second is exactly backwards: tensions have increased when the nationality line has been eliminated and nationality downplayed.
He notes that he had to go to non-Russian areas to calm them after Moscow eliminated the nationality line and again when some in the Russian capital pushed for declaring everyone a non-ethnic Russian as their primary identity. There was so much backlash that the powers that be had to pull back.
And Rashkin adds that there is a particular reason for restoring the nationality line now. Ever more people live outside their home ethnic area; and those in the diasporas that have arisen have a more difficult time maintaining their nationality, language and culture. A nationality line in the passport will help them defend their rights.