Friday, March 10, 2017

Moscow Still Can’t Define One of Putin’s Key Terms – ‘Compatriot of Russia’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 10 – In ten days, the Duma will hold a discussion on Russia’s relationship with compatriots living abroad; but if the past is any guide, Fyodor Yakovlev says, there won’t be any real progress made at that meeting because there is still no agreed-upon definition of what a Russian compatriot is.

            Since 1999, when the first compatriots law was adopted, almost everyone agrees that Russians with Russian passports living abroad are compatriots; but there is no broader agreement concerning who else might fit into that category, with individual officials routinely changing their estimates and the basis for them (

                Thus, the Regnum analyst says, the numbers included in this category range from a low of 20 million to more than 150 million, haven’t changed with the annexation of Crimea, sometimes include descendants of tsarist subjects or Soviet citizens and sometimes not, and often but not always are related to Russian-language knowledge or identification with Russian culture.

            Yakovlev’s 6,000-word article is one of the most detailed discussions of this subject available; and it is devastating for pointing out the fundamental inconsistences of Russian statements on this subject, including shifts of as many as five million in as few as ten days by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

            And the commentator makes clear that the absence of a clear definition in this area as in so many others not only is reducing Russia’s influence beyond its borders but also guaranteeing that Russian institutions, including the foreign ministry, charged with working with such people often do not know what they are doing.


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