Thursday, February 4, 2016

Moscow Expects Parties and Regional Elites Will Play Ethnic Card in Run Up to Elections

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 4 – Although some independent experts do not expect that nationality question to be an issue in the upcoming elections (, Igor Barinov, head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, says that the likelihood that republic officials and political parties will use it is “unfortunately only growing.”

            In an interview to mark his 10th month on the jobs and the 10th month of the existence of his agency, Barinov says that this reflects both the desire by leaders and parties to exploit issues of concern to win votes and the country’s current economic situation (

            He says that  his agency “predicts there will be attempts to intensify negative processes in society and to receive political dividends by the destabilization of the inter-ethnic and inter-confessional situation” and that it has already asked the country’s major political parties to avoid playing up this issue.

            Two such parties – and he doesn’t name them – have “already promised not to do this.”  As for the others and as for individual leaders, Barinov continues, he will work to ensure that laws against “such dishonest methods.”  But “the law works only when it is strictly executed.”  Barinov says he will work with prosecutors and the Central Election Commission on this.

            Barinov suggests that the monitoring his agency has already put in place in some regions has allowed Moscow to intervene in a timely fashion, but he makes one intriguing remark in this regard. He says that “the massive distribution of destructive initiatives can achieve their goals only if they are put in the language of inter-ethnic communication – Russian.”

            Although he does not say so, this implies as does the size of his agency – whose staff of 100 was recently cut to 90 because of budget stringencies – that the Russian agency overseeing nationality issues is focusing almost exclusively on Russian language materials. If that is the case, then it is almost certain that Moscow is missing a large amount of what is going on.

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