Staunton, November 14 – Instead of transforming the Federal Agency for Nationality Policy into a nationalities ministry as many have sought, Vladimir Putin has created a corporate-state style structure to work with the Agency and other parts of the Russian government to coordinate the planning and implementation of policies in this sector.
Yesterday, the Kremlin leader created the Assembly of Peoples of Russia, which he described as “an all-Russian societal-governmental organization” that will include both officials and NGOs from non-Russian groups and from the ministries of culture, higher education, and enlightenment (nazaccent.ru/content/34485-putin-podpisal-ukaz-o-sozdanii-n.html).
On the one hand, such an arrangement reflects a fundamental problem with nationality policy: it touches most sectors and therefore any ministry powerful to deal with all of them would be overwhelm others, becoming a super-ministry whose leadership could challenge the rest of the system as Stalin did with the original Soviet nationalities ministry, Narkomnats.
That is why there has always been strong resistance to calls to create such a ministry and why those involved in nationality policy have sought a variety of other structures that will allow them to influence those areas they care most about without upsetting the powers that be in other ministries.
But on the other hand – and this may be the more important aspect of this development – the creation of this Assembly is yet another manifestation of Putin’s increasing turn to corporatism, to the structuring and ordering of the political system on the basis of corporate groups rather than official government structures.
Many governments use such corporate arrangements to interact with society, but these structures recall first of all Mussolini’s fascist corporate state in the 1920s and 1930s and thus represent in the case of Russia today another example of Putin’s use of ideas from the fascist toolbox.
Clearly, this is only a testing of the waters. Officials have indicated that the Assembly will not be that active: its budget in the coming year will be less than a million dollars and in succeeding years even less, hardly enough to make it a threat to the system by itself (nazaccent.ru/content/34372-obshestvenno-gosudarstvennaya-organizaciya-v-sfere-gosnacpolitiki-poyavitsya.html).
But it is a testing of the waters and may become a model for other corporate-style arrangements as the Putin regime seeks to re-institutionalize itself for the future.