Friday, January 24, 2020

Right of Ethnic Russian Areas in Post-Soviet States to Join Russian Federation Should Be in the Constitution, Bezpalko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 21 – An example of why a Constitutional Assembly could easily open the doors to disaster – and why Vladimir Putin has rejected that approach – is provided by some of the proposals members of his constitutional amendment working group have made, at least one of which could trigger disaster.

            Bogdan Bezpalko, a member of the Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations who serves on that working group, says that the right of ethnic Russian lands that are now within the non-Russian post-Soviet states to join the Russian Federation should be declared in a new version of the country’s basic law.

            He declared that such a right, contained within the constitution, would make the assembly of the entire Russian world easier and help Russia solve its demographic problems.  If this right were included in the Russian constitution, he says, then any ethnic Russian region in Ukraine and Belarus could join “and not just on the basis of the right of nations to self-determination.”

            Two Duma deputies reacted negatively to Bezpalko’s ideas, one, Yegeny Fedorov of United Russia, and a second, Oleg Smolin of KPRF -- the first because such an idea might limit Russia’s ability to reabsorb the former Soviet space and the second because it could trigger serious conflicts with Russia’s neighbors and the world (

            Fedorov, who is the coordinator of the National-Liberation Movement, says that it is a good thing to have such ideas put forward because they show that the process of constitutional revision is not a one-time thing as many imagine but rather a process which will involve many steps  and modifications just as the end of the USSR did.

            But Bezpalko’s proposal is “revisionist” and thus unacceptable because it changes the principles of state building “which for more than a thousand years have been developed by our Russia and our ancestors.”  The Russian world is broader than only ethnic Russians: it includes non-Russians and especially non-Russians who identify with the Russian state.

            What those who are talking about constitutional reform should be talking about is the fact that the Russian state should include “all the space of the Soviet Union at the end of World War II, that is, about the borders of 1945 in the framework of which everything can be restored, Fedorov continues.

            Bezpalko’s proposal instead of leading to that could have the effect of “putting a stick in the wheels” of moves in that direction, the United Russia deputy concludes.

            Smolin, who serves on the Duma education and science committee, says that his party had earlier proposed something similar at the time the USSR was falling apart.  But he adds, introducing such a provision now would trigger conflicts with Russia’s neighbors and perhaps with the international community.

            “Crimea literally fell into the embrace of Russia,” Smolin continues, and one “must not exclude the possibility of a repetition of such situations. But we cannot and must not fight with the former Soviet republics over territory. This is a question of voluntary unification if the need in such arises.”

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