Thursday, May 25, 2017

Almost Half of Muscovites Say Nationality Affects Life Chances, Drobizheva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – In the course of a wide-ranging interview with Realnovremya, Leokadiya Drobizheva, director of the Center for Research on Inter-Ethnic Relations at the Moscow Institute of Sociology, says that roughly 40 percent of Muscovites feel that their life chances and those of others depend on nationality.

            That widespread feeling reflects the influx of migrants that has made the Russian capital far more multi-ethnic than it was, the ethno-sociologist says, but it is far greater than the five percent who say they personally have experienced either favoritism or discrimination (

            Among the many points Drobizheva, who has been studying inter-ethnic relation since the 1970s, makes, the following are perhaps the most important:

·         The Federal Agency for Nationalities is underfunded and understaffed, but its head, Igor Barinov, is experienced and quite ready to listen, despite the suspicions some have about him because of his background in the security services.

·         One Russian in five for the country as a whole -- and more in large cities -- is hostile to members of other ethnic groups.

·         Kazakhstan is fully within its rights to choose to go over to the Latin script. The situation in Tatarstan is different because Tatarstan is part of the Russian Federation. But if the Tatars want to make a change, that is “an issue for lengthy dialogue.”

·         The populist nationalist wave that has spread through Europe could come to Russia and for the same reason – the influx of people who are radically different in culture. Indeed, Drobizheva says, Vladimir Zhirinovsky says he and his LDPR party reflect that trend already.

·         Because Tatarstan did not take part in the referendum on the 1993 Russian Constitution. Its relations with Moscow are special. That has resulted in the need for a power-sharing agreement between Moscow and Kazan.  Its extension or modification should be the result of negotiations between the two. Tatarstan should be able to decide on its own whether to have a president.

·         Some Tatars would like Tatarstan to absorb the Tatar portion of Bashkkortostan. That is a problem for the latter republic because the titular nationality is a minority.  In any case, such a transfer would be possible only if there was agreement not only between Kazan and Ufa but also with Moscow as well. Any such agreement is unlikely.

·         Ethnically mixed marriages can be a good thing and not a threat. There are quite a few in Tatarstan: indeed, almost a third of all marriages in the republic’s cities are mixed.  That is “a good indicator” that interethnic relations are solid.  Children will tend to take the nationality that enjoys the higher social status.

·         In Soviet times in Latvia, which Drobizheva studied before 1991, “when the situation was favorable, most in mixed marriages took Russian nationality. When conflicts began, they began to take Latvian.” 

·         The Russian problem really exists in post-Soviet states because it is “connected with the change of status of Russians,” who have “lost their status as elder brothers” and “are not ready to accept the position of minorities,” although international law and practice give them many advantages when they do.

·         A major reason Russians have not left the Baltic countries but have left the Central Asian ones is that Russians view Latvians and Estonians as people having “business qualities” that make them “an equal partner” to the Russians while in Central Asia, the Russians resent being reduced to a minority by people they do not have the same respect for.

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