Staunton, May 22 – In Soviet times, citizens had to identify themselves by nationality and class in official documents because membership in these defined the benefits they were to receive or the restrictions they were subject to. That requirement ended with the USSR; but now, as Russian laws treat different groups differently, something similar is taking its place.
The justice ministry has called attention to this development by deciding on a term to designate Russian residents who do not fall into one or another of the categories laws classify the population by. As of July 1, such people will be designated in legal acts or in their own declarations as “ordinary people” [prostolyudin] (panorama.pub/37037-prostolyudin.html).
Up to now, the justice ministry says, every legislative act has had to add “a complex construction – ‘the law applies to all categories of citizens with the exception of’ followed by a long list.” Now, it will be sufficient to indicate in the preamble to any law that it applies to everyone.
“Ordinary people,” the ministry says, are all those who are not in state service, deputies at one or another level, officers of the MVD, Emergency Services Ministry, Russian Guard and Armed Services, church officials, those with scholarly decrees “not lower than candidate of science, peoples artists, or sports ranks “not lower than master of sport.”
The term, the justice ministry said in a press release is derived from the ordinary Russian words – prostyye lyudi, adding that in the Russian Federation that is “something to be proud of.” It says that there won’t be any discrimination of such people, but many are not so sure, fearful that the first such discriminatory action will be to limit what countries they can travel to.
The introduction of this term more generally represents the increasing tendency under Putin to create or restore social strata. Indeed, it is the clearest indication that despite official denials, that is exactly what the Kremlin plans to do.