Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Russia’s Federal Subjects Cautiously Developing Their Own Nationality Policies

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – The federal subjects of the Russian Federation have very little room to articulate their own specific policies on almost all subjects give the centralization in Russian political life that Vladimir Putin has promoted; but there are exceptions and these thus take on added importance.

            One exception is in the area of nationality policy, and this week Magadan Oblast became the fourth federal subject to article its own conception of nationality policy – Ingushetia, Pskov Oblast and Leningrad oblast preceded it; and others are expected to follow (

            The range of the permissible in this area as in many others is clearly limited, but these documents are important in a double sense. On the one hand, they do show that different regions have different problems in this sector and different views on how the governments should go about solving them.

            And on the other, such discussions serve as a reminder of the amount of discretion Moscow has taken away from the regions in this and other areas over the last 15 years and thus may spark discussions about how the regions might reclaim powers that they have lost and thus promote the development of federalism from below.

            Officials in Magadan came up with a draft nationality policy statement two days ago.  They declared that relations among that Far Eastern subject’s nationalities and religion were good but that more must be done with migrants, an indication that even in Magadan that group of the population, which in this case would include Chinese, may be a problem.

            Yakov Radchenko, the chairman of the Social Chamber of the oblast, said that it was important that the document address the issues of “preserving the language, culture and traditions” of the numerically small peoples of the north. And Aleksandr Orekhov, head of the regional council on national-cultural issues, said it needed to take into effect the impact of the extreme environment of the region on “the ethno-psychology” of the population.

            The draft, which still must be approved by the deputy governor, consists of five parts, which define the goals, tasks, mechanisms for realizing nationality policy, and also “expected results,” according to the report in, which provided links to discussions in the other three regions which have come up with nationality policies of their own.

            Pskov oblast adopted a document of this type last December.  It focused on the special problems that region has because it is on the border with Baltic countries, and it also talked about the need to address the problems of the smallest ethnic communities there.  Those groups, it said, should be involved in the distribution of government grants (

                Leningrad oblast also adopted a nationality strategy document in December 2014. It was discussed at all levels of the government there and was designed, its authors say, to “promote the unity of peoples of the region” by establishing common approaches to the resolution of nationality problems (

            Ingushetia’s nationality policy strategy might have been expected to be the most interesting, but in an indication of the sensitivity of these documents, even though lists a URL for this in its report on the Magadan document, one cannot now retrieve the document, apparently because someone decided it was not something others should read.

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