Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin Wants New, More ‘Politically Correct’ Terms for Migrants and Ethnic Minorities

Paul Goble

            Stauton, November 6 – Experts working on the Presidential Council for Inter-Ethnic Relations want to drop the use of terms like “internal migrants,” “native peoples,” and “national minorities” and use instead “more consolidating terms, “Izvestiya” reported today, citing sources on that body.

            According to that paper’s Denis Medvedev, the sources say that experts on that body believe that it is would be “correct to find ‘more consolidating’ replacements” for such terms because each of the existing terms is often used in a manner offensive to those so described thus exacerbates conflicts rather than helps overcome them (izvestia.ru/news/539012).

            “In the first instance,” the sources said, the Presidential Council would like to do away with the term “’internal migrant’ when applied to those [non-ethnic] Russians who come to work from one region of the country to another.” Such people should be labeled with the emotionally neutral term, “’mobile citizens.’”

            Experts at the Council would also like to do away with terms like “’native people’” and “’national minority’” because each implies a relationship between the members of those categories and others whose families may have lived in the same region for centuries and thus each can trigger conflicts.

            The Presidential Council sources said that the Russian Constitution speaks about “’the multi-national people’ but not ‘the national majority’ or ‘a mono-national country.’”  The language used by officials should reflect that reality and thus create “a consolidating” element to adapt our citizens who arrive” from elsewhere in the country.

            Aslambek Paskachev, who heads the Council’s Commission on Migration Issues, notes that it is a matter of world practice to speak of “’internal’” and “’external’” migrants, but this can have unfortunate consequences. “Our society equates the word ‘migrant’ with the word ‘alien,’” he continued.  And he called for describing such people as “mobile citizen[s] of Russia.”

            None of these terminological sleights of verbal hand has yet been agreed to, according to Anatoly Fomenko, the deputy head of the Federal Migration Service, who pointed out that “the question is not in the term itself but in what is needed to solve the problem.  Naturally, if something is going to be changed, it must be approached very carefully.”

            Aleksey Zhuravlyev, head of the Congerss of [Ethnic] Russian Communities, was more outspoken in opposing such ideas: “I do not see in all this a big problem,” he said, “and I don’t know who it could offend.” Instead, the authorities should focus on the following realities: immigrants from abroad “are much better prepared to become part of Russian society than are internal ones.”

            Not mentioned in “Izvestiya” but certain to become an issue in the future is the attitude of people now labeled “indigenous” populations.  Moscow is signatory to many international accords which use that term, and dispensing with it, if indeed the authorities could enforce such a ban, could create problems for those communities.

            And in addition, whatever the Presidential Council comes up with to replace “ethnic minorities,” both ethnic Russians in the country as a whole and members of the titular nationalities in the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation would quickly invest that term with connotations of their own.

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