Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Moscow’s Opposition of Integration of Ethnic Russians in Other Countries Costing It Influence, Kazarin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – At a time when it is attempting to Russianize and even Russify non-Russians living within the Russian Federation, Moscow is doing what it can to block the integration of ethnic Russians living in other countries, thereby costing itself influence and leading to more ethnic re-identification among them than anyone expected, Pavel Kazarin says.

            The Russian journalist and commentator points out that “any diaspora is always a form of soft power for the maternal state, a force which is integrated into the new motherland and thus can aspire to the role of ‘ambassador’ for the old one.” That’s been true for Ukrainians in Canada, Armenians in France and Jews throughout the world (ru.krymr.com/a/29241569.html).

            “But nothing similar has occurred among ‘Russians abroad,” Kazarin continues. “They haven’t become trend setters. They haven’t created a strategy for the future. They haven’t been able to become lobbyists even of their own interests.” And this has been the case, he says, “for one simple reason:” Moscow views them only as irredenta.

            For Moscow, the millions of ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republics are to remain as they were so that they can become “a pretext for ‘reunification’ in the framework of a single common state. And for a quarter of a century, the Kremlin has done everything in order to preserve this lever of influence.”

            Moscow has done what it can to block “the integration of ethnic Russians into the political nations of those countries in which they are fated to live. The very idea that Russians could live according to interests not of Moscow but of their new capitals is viewed as treason” in the Russian capital.

            According to Kazarin, “the Kremlin never needed the adaptation of ethnic Russians. On the contrary, it needed the maximum amount of isolation of ethnic Russians so that it could from time to time speculate about the defense of these ‘persecuted and oppressed’ people.” It opposed the idea of “Russians for Ukraine” insisting that they be Russians for Russia even in Ukraine.

            From Moscow’s perspective, ethnic Russians in these republics should remain unchanged from Soviet times, should be informed only by nostalgia for the past, and should represent a kind of “museum exponent” rather than living and breathing human beings.”

            As a result of this Moscow attitude, Kazarin says, “no Russian parties not focused on the Kremlin have appeared in the Kremlin.” Those who have tried to organize them have been denounced as “a fifth column.”  And all of this reflects the fact that Moscow “isn’t interested” in the Russians but only in itself.

            In Ukraine’s Donbass, for example, the interests of ethnic Russians are “secondary relative to the interests of the Russian leadership. Moscow fights not for them but by means of them: citizens for the empire. And not in any single case the reverse.” But Russians recognize this and that has had consequences Moscow can’t possibly want.

            “Moscow was certain that the Ukrainian east and south would fall into its embrace, that the Russian language is sufficient for its bearer to be an agent of ‘the Russian world.’ But it has turned out that all this is not the case,” Kazarin says.

            “As a result of the invasion of Ukraine, something happened which Moscow has always feared: Ethnic Russians began to integrate into Ukraine – as a result of an independent choice which they have made between their own motherland and their new one. And in this new situation, the Kremlin can’t count on them.”

            Their new identity is replacing their old one, the commentator says; and in the next census, the number of people identifying as ethnic Russians is likely to decline far more than anyone now expects. 

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