Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russian Nation Said to Have Lost Its Ability to Assimilate Others

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 6 – For most of modern times, ethnic Russians have assimilated members of other nations living among them because they represented a more advanced community, but now, a Moscow blogger says, they have “lost the ability to assimilate other peoples,” something that makes the influx of non-Russian migrants even more disturbing and threatening.

            “Contemporary Russia,” the blogger says, “recalls the descendants of the Aztecs and Mayas who walk around the pyramids and shrines built by their ancestors and do not understand where all this came from.” As a result, they do not comprehend what is happening or what nee to be done (

            According to him, “multi-national states cannot be constructe don the principle of friendship among various peoples. Legally of course, there should be equality among them, but in fact, as long as one people is civilizationally higher than the others, there are no problems in a multinational state.” Once they become equal, such a state will collapse “like a house of cards.”

            “While the [ethnic] Russians were higher, Russia remained an empire. As soon as they degraded to the level of other peoples, Russia began to dissolve. The national minorities coming to Russia no longer are assimilating. They will remain forever Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Daghestanis, and their children will never be Russians.”

            “The time has come,” the blogger continues, for Russians to stop deluding themselves on this point. Such “stories only help [them] die peacefully.  It is time to look truth in the eyes and return to the arena of the clash of civilizations.”

            Many people think, he says, that “all post-industrial societies are dying out” and therefore bringing in immigrants. In most cases, the culture of the receiving countries is still at a “higher” level and thus assimilating. But “the Russian people for the last two decades has been degraded to the level of the peoples living in Russian colonies” and no longer assimilates their residents.

                When a Mexican comes to the United States, he points out “with time, he becomes an American and his children will be Americans.”  But in the Russian Federation, an Armenian or even the children of an Armenian who has come to work and live in Moscow “will forever remain an Armenian.”

            This anonymous blogger does not back up his conclusions with data from sociological studies, but he reflects the fears of many Russians about what immigration today means compared to what it meant only a few decades ago.  And these fears are being exacerbated by the arguments some Moscow experts in this area are making.

            In comments to the NovyRegion2 news agency yesterday, Yevgeny Satanovsky, the director of the Moscow Institute of the Near East, said that “Russia is dying” and it has no choice but to attract even more immigrants despite the fact that they will increasingly “take the place” of ethnic Russians (

            Because those coming to Russia are doing to so work rather than to receive government subsidies, immigration in Russia constitutes less of a problem than it does in Western countries, but “at the same time, the situation will deteriorate” as there are 2-2.5 million Uzbeks, 1-1.5 million Tajiks, and 400-800,000 Kyrgyz already inside the Russian Federation.

            There would be no particular reason to worry if the Russian authorities developed an effective system of adaptation in which such people would learn Russian and “peacefully marry.”  But unfortunately, Satanovsky said, he has strong doubts that the Russian government is capable of coming up with one.

            “Are the actions of the government effective? Were the actions of the government ever effective?  Since the time of Boris Godunov, who of course was an effective manager,” the scholar added, “I don’t know of any. Today, [in fact], this problem isn’t even being seriously discussed.”

            Instead, Satanovsky argued, there is a superficial argument between those who want to defend the needs of employers for more and cheaper workers, on the one hand, and those who want to defend the rights of the immigrants, on the other.

                With understanding and good will, he suggested, “the immigration question” could be resolved, but the Moscow scholar expressed his doubts that “the present-day Russian state could do so.” There are specialists “who are capable of evaluating the situation,” but “will anyone [in a position of power] listen to them?”

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