Monday, December 3, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Mironov Proposes Restoring Nationality Line in Russian Passports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 3 – Sergey Mironov, the leader of the Just Russia Party, today in the Duma called for the restoration of the nationality line in the Russian passport because “citizens of Russia must have the opportunity to indicate their nationality if they consider that to be necessary.”

            Doing away with line five of the passport which was often used to discriminate against Jews and other minorities in Soviet times was considered by many human rights activists as a major step forward in post-Soviet Russia. But some ethnic minorities who viewed it as a support for their identities and some Russian nationalists who want to proclaim their Russianness have long sought its return.

            Mironov’s suggestion that no one should be forced to declare his or her nationality but that anyone who wants to should be able to do so clearly would open the way to abuses by both ethnic Russians and minorities and is unlikely to be adopted however popular it may be in some quarters ( and

            In other comments to the Duma, the Just Russia leader repeated his call for the establishment of a ministry or state committee to oversee nationality policy and also “the adoption of a federal constitutional law about the state’s nationality policy,” one that would specify that “the [ethnic] Russian people is the state-forming people in the Russian Federation.”

            The Just Russia leader, who earlier called for the restoration of the nineteenth century tsarist slogan of “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality,” said today that such a declaration would “in no way” reduce the status of those in the Russian Federation who are not ethnic Russians.

            At the same time, Mironov argued that non-Russian diasporas and communities in areas with an ethnic Russian majority should have a role in drafting legislation affecting them, should be held responsible for violations of the law by their members, and should be restricted by the state to certain “enclaves” rather than allowed to develop in ways that are “out of control.”

            Mironov continued by observing that the government’s effort to attract “compatriots abroad” back to Russia was a complete failure, something Konstantin Romadonovsky, the head of the Federal Migration Service disputed and suggested that by next year, 50,000 such people will be coming back every year.

            And he sharply criticized the proposal associated with Valery Tishkov of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology and included in the new strategy document the Duma was discussing to introduce the term “[non-ethnic] Russian nation.” Such a term isn’t needed, the party leader said, because the Constitution makes things perfectly clear.

            In fact, as another Duma member made clear today, the Russian Constitution and legal system are anything but clear on that point. Gadzhimet Safaraliyev, head of the Duma nationality policy committee, said that the Russian legal system does not treat the ethnic Russians equally with other groups (

            According to the Daghestani representative, under the law, the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation belong to one of three groups: “the Russian language as the state language of the Russian Federation, the state languages of the republics of the Russian Federation, and native languages.”

            Because of that classification, he argued, “the right of choice of the Russian language as a native one is not realized by citizens.” Instead, there exists “the paradoxical situation: Russian for [ethnic] Russians is not considered to have the status of a native language.”  That should be changed both as a matter of justice and to boost the level of Russian language knowledge by all.

            Safaraliyev also called for increasing the number of hours of instruction in the schools devoted to “the role of the Russian language and Russian literature in the history of the fatherland.”

            On another issue, the Duma committee chairman called for giving national-cultural autonomies the status of NGOs and allowing them to play a key role “in the integration and adaptation of immigrants.”  Their work should be supplemented, he said, by the creation of a mixed government and social monitoring system to track ethnic problems.

            Despite his own ethnic background, Safaraliyev has long been associated with those Russians who oppose requiring ethnic Russians living in the republics to learn the local language. Indeed, that view has sparked protests and appeals in the republics of the Middle Volga and elsewhere in recent days.

            But both his comments and those of Mironov are certain to antagonize more non-Russians across the country, who are certain to view them as a bellwether of Moscow’s intentions and oppose them in discussions of the nationality strategy paper now taking place in the regions and republics even if many of the ideas the two promoted today are never carried out. 

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