Staunton, February 16 – Fewer than half of the citizens of the Russian Federation now identify themselves as “Rossiyane,” the official term, preferring instead ethnic and religious groupings, and as a result, Moscow is considering two new programs to boost the preferred non-ethnic and non-religious identification in the future.
At present, the Regional Development Ministry says that only 44 percent of Russian citizens identify themselves as “Rossiyane,” an unsatisfactory situation from Moscow’s point of view that has prompted that ministry to come up with two possible programs to increase that number (www.specletter.com/obcshestvo/2013-02-15/dorogie-nerossijane.html
Rather more is required.
“A nation is created by common values and achievements,” the two argue. Often “a decisive role in the genesis of a nation is played by war or a series of wars or lengthy armed confrontation.” Those experiencing such things share a common sense of sacrifice, a common victory or defeat, and often a common goal of revenge.
“No one would begin to dispute that the Soviet people [“sovetsky narod”] was not simply a collection of the citizens of the USSR but a people which recognized its unity and differences from others,” in many ways because of its struggle and victory in World War II. “The cult of May 9 genuinely has quasi-religious aspects.”
But even in this case, Titov and Gazov say, “the Soviet people did not become a full-blown nation, as the events of the end of the last century provide evidence.” And they point out that it is a common set of values rather than just experiences that is the basis for the formation of a nation.
Moreover, they note, different nations have different values on a whole range of issues. Some value being able to defend themselves above anything else, while others put freedom in first place. “In some cases, the unit is the individual while elsewhere it is the tribe or extended family.” And “some nations are more inclined to expansion while others back their uniqueness.”
Will it be possible to create such a nation out of the citizens of the Russian Federation? “Perhaps, pride for the most expensive winter Olympics in the sub-tropics? Or we can take pride in victory over great and powerful Georgia in 2008? … [Or perhaps it will be achieved by] censorship of the internet.
Aleksandr Zhukov, a historian and commentator, is equally dismissive of the Russian government’s current plans: “The Russian nation does not exist and therefore strengthening its unity does not have any meaning,” he tells “Osobaya bukhva.” Instead, what is taking place in Russia is a continuation of “the process of heightened nationalization of individual republics.”
Given that, Zhukov continues, “how is it possible in general to speak about the formation of a single Russian nation [“natsiya”]?” If this is going to happen, “the most important role will belong to the state” but that state will have to overcome its unwillingness to focus on the reality that such a nation can only be formed on the basis of the ethnic Russian nation.
But were the Russian government to do so, the historian says, it is almost impossible to imagine how it could proceed without taking steps that the non-Russians living in the country would find a threat to their identities. Given that reality, Zhukov concludes, it will be “impossible” to construct such an identity, at least anytime in the near future.