Friday, April 24, 2015

The Russian Question Must Not Remain Only Something for Export, Svyatenkov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, April 24 – The Russian government has made it clear that it will defend Russians beyond the borders of the Russian Federation, “enormous progress” compared with Moscow’s approach in the recent past, Pavel Svyatenkov says; but the question remains open as to whether it will defend Russians within those borders.


            In a commentary for, the Russian nationalist points out that both Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have declared that the Russian government will defend the rights and interests of ethnic Russians abroad as in Ukraine and devote more attention to them than it has in the past (


            Such an approach, Svyatenkov argues, is “absolutely normal” for “all nation states” But for the Russian Federation, their pledges represent “enormous progress” given that this means that “the Russians have a state which can defend our people from genocide and this state is Russia. A sensation!”


            Until recently, such declarations would have been unheard of given that the Russian Federation “positioned itself as a ‘multi-national’ state,” that its constitution doesn’t say anything about Russians and that “the closest thing to Russian statehood was in China where there exist the Enhue-Russian National District.


            But “despite the loud declarations about the defense of Russians abroad, the Russian Federation continues to position itself as a ‘multi-national state’ when domestic policies are concerned. Putin emphasized this when he declared that “nationalism is a very harmful and destruction phenomenon for the integrity of the Russian state” which has been formed as “a multi-national and poly-confessional country.”


            However, Svyatenkov points out, “the policy of supporting Russians abroad is a nationalist policy.” Is it thus the case that with Russians “nationalism is an export commodity like oil and aluminum,” something we don’t need “within the country and thus is “exclusively” for other countries?


            Anyone who begins to speak about the rights of Russians within the country “will be suspected of extremism,” and calls for having the Constitution specify “the Russian character of Russia” lead to “accusations that one is working for the disintegration of the country,” despite the fact that the majority of republics within Russia “include in their basic laws references to ‘titular peoples’ and the defense of their rights.”


          “It turns out,” he says, that in Russia whole states of titular peoples of  the national republics perfectly peacefully exist. No one is agitated by this and no one makes charges about extremism because of it. But Russians somehow are deprived of this legal status,” the Russian commentator says.


            “Why is the ‘multi-national’ state of Russia involved with the defense of Russians beyond the borders of the country but is not defending them on its own territory?” This mystery is “the source of ‘the Russian question’ which has become ever sharper in recent years. How has it happened that the Russian world ends today at the Russian state border?” 


            “If Russia is the defender of Russians, Russian language and Russian culture, then it must say so,” Svyatenkov argues. “This should be in the Constitution of Russia. Then the lawful rights of our people will be defended and foreign aggressors will know that an attack on Russians is an attack on Russia.”


            But as long as the Russian authorities try to take one position for Russians abroad and another for Russians at home, there are going to be problems, he says. “Is it not time to open the door and allow the Russian world to come into the Russian Federation itself” – especially given that the rights of Russians in certain regions are “under question.”


            As Foreign Minister Lavrov correctly said, Svyatenkov concluded, “’one should have more actively defended the rights of Russians’” but “not only outside but inside the country as well.”


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