Thursday, August 30, 2018

Kremlin’s Push for Civic Nation Generating a Backlash: Russian Regions Can Play that Game Too

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 30 – The Kremlin’s push to supplant ethnic identities like Russky with a supranational one of Rossiyane has offended both Russians and non-Russians as an attack on their nationhood. It has even led some to argue that this campaign will lead to the disintegration of the Russia (

            But now, it appears, there may be another negative consequence for Moscow: regions with an interest in greater autonomy or even independence may define their populations not in ethnic terms but rather as “multi-national peoples” in much the same way the Soviets did and as Moscow now wants to for the country as a whole.

            That possibility is suggested by Andrey Romanov, the editor of the Free Ural portal. He argues that when people say that Russians are “the titular nation” in the Urals, this only shows how little they know about the Urals which became truly multi-national when the Soviets moved other nations there (

                “When I studied in school,” Romanov says, “we had in our class not a few Tatars, Bashkirs, Ukrainians, Kazakhs and Jews. [But] we are then all recorded as Russians.” He adds that while his name is Romanov, he is fact his of mixed ethnicity: his mother was a Ukrainian deported from Western Ukraine during de-kulakization, while his father “was from the North.”

            If there were to be “an honest census of the population” with a nationality line, the regionalist continues, “it would turn out that ethnic Russians are not the titular nation in the Urals. Urals residents are a multi-national people, and its flourishing will begin only with its independence.”
                Such an attitude represents a dual challenge to the Kremlin. On the one hand, it means that members of all the different groups Moscow counts as separate nationalities may now think of themselves primarily in regionalist terms and are ready to work together as such, limiting the center’s ability to play divide and rule tactics against them.

            And on the other, it means that many of the regions whom many dismiss as unlikely candidates for separatist movements may be able to form them if their populations think more in these regional terms than in ethnic ones, a likely possibility given the weakness of Russian identity in many places and the number of residents of mixed ethnicity in even more.

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