Staunton, July 19 – Ever since Moscow banned the “nationality line” in internal Russian Federation passports, the notorious “paragraph five” of Soviet passports, some non-Russians and a few Russians as well have sought to restore it as a way of defending or advancing the interests of their respective nations relative to others.
Despite repeated appeals to the Duma, they have been unsuccessful in doing that, but three republics – Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Sakha – have secured the right to insert special pages in the passports of their citizens in their national languages which identify the bearer as a member of the titular nationality of those federal subjects.
Now, activists in a fourth republic, Chuvashia, a Christian Turkic republic in the Middle Volga, are seeking the same thing, citing the experiences of the other three and provisions of Russian passport law and asking that the Chuvash be treated in the same way (moygorod-online.ru/society/society_20433.html).
The Irekle National-Cultural Rebirth Society has called on the acting head of Chuvashia, Mikhail Ignatyev, to take this step and to order the inclusion of a four-page insert for the internal passports of Chuvash residents. Their demand is the latest in a series of actions by the group for the wider use of the Chuvash language.
The first page of the insert, the group says, should feature the state shield of the Chuvash Republic specifying in Chuvash that the document is a passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation. The second should indicate who issued it, presumably the Chuvash authorities. The third should provide data on the bearer. And the fourth other information in the Russian passport.
In all cases, the Irekle Society says, these pages should be in the state language of Chuvashia which is Chuvash.
While it is uncertain whether the authorities will grant this request – Irekle has been successful in some efforts to promote the Chuvash language but far from all – this action is important for three reasons:
· first, it shows that what one republic does can become a model for others;
· second, it highlights the ways in which non-Russians are seeking end runs around Moscow’s increasingly Russian-dominated approach;
· and third and most importantly, it is certain to spark a reaction among ethnic Russians not only in Chuvashia where they number approximately a quarter of the population but more generally.