Saturday, February 22, 2014

Window on Eurasia: More Russians See Crimea as Russian than Think of Chechnya or Daghestan That Way, Poll Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 22 – More than most peoples around the world, Russians have problems accepting the borders of their country as legitimate and permanent, for as a new poll shows, a majority of Russians think that a portion of Ukraine is Russian while sizeable minorities do not think that Chechnya or Daghestan is.

                According to a VTsIOM poll reported in “Izvestiya” yesterday, 56 percent of Russians view Crimea as a Russian territory, even though it is part of Ukraine, while only 41 percent of them consider Daghestan Russian and only 39 percent consider Chechnya in that way even though they are within the borders of the Russian Federation (

            And this lack of acceptance of borders is paralleled by a lack of acceptance of members of other ethnic groups even if they have lived in the Russian Federation for many years.  Some 44 percent of Russians are prepared to “recognize as Russians” Ukrainians and Belarusians; 30 percent, Tatars, Bashkirs and Kalmyks; 16 percent, Sakha, Khants, and Chukchis’ 10 percent, Armenians, Georgians and Azerbaijanis; 8 percent, Uzbeks,Tajiks and Kyrgyz; and 7 percent, Chechens, Daghestanis, and Ingushes.

            Reflecting and powering such attitudes, theVTsIOM poll found, is that 45 percent of Russians back the slogan “Russia  for theRussians!” and 51 percent agree with one saying that it is time to “stop feeding the Caucasus!

            Over the course of the last 20 years, the Moscow paper says, “a [non-ethnic] Russian civil nation has to a large extent taken shape. But the main danger for the unity of the country consists of speculations on ethnic self-consciousness which are especially clearly manifested in the conflicts between the North Caucasus and ‘the rest of Russia.’”

            According to “Izvestiya,” the VTsIOM poll found that 57 percent of Russians identify as citizens of Russia, of whom 63 perent are proud of their citizenship.  Only 35 percent identify with a city or locality. And in third place, smaller percentages identify themselves in terms of generation or nationality, 16 percent in the case of the latter.

            Thus, the paper says, “by their political identification, the residents of [Russia] are above all [non-ethnic] Russians.”

            Leonty Byzov, a researcher at VTsIOM, told the paper that “contemporary nations are built on all-civic foundations and not by ethnic sources.” Russia is among them, he said.  As far as nationality is concerned, 35 percent of Russians view as Russians “those who were born in Russia and raised in the traditions of Russian culture. Sixteen percent say blood defines Russianness, and 14 percent say the Russian language does.

            “Distrust and fear of citizens of Russia from the North Caucasus republics on the part of residents of the esident of Russia and their lack of willingness to consider as [non-ethnic] Russians Chechens, Ingush and Daghestanis is the main mine under the integrity of the Russian Federation,” VTsIOM director Valery Fedorov added.

            “Our politicians who speculate on slogans like ‘Stop feeding the Caucasus!’ are only helping the destruction of civic [non-ethnic] Russian identity and a return to ethnic self-consciousness. Today Daghestan and Chechnya are considered non-Russian; tomorrow Sakha and Tatarstan could be.”

            Neither the VTsIOM experts nor the Moscow paper offered any discussion of the impact on the future of Russia as a country or as a member of the international community of the large share of Russian citizens who view parts of foreign countries as properly theirs. But the experience of other countries where that has been the case suggests it will not be positive.

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