Tuesday, July 28, 2020

‘State-Forming’ Language Now in Constitution Threatens More than Non-Russians, Yudkevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Many Russians were upset that the amendments to the Constitution pushed through by Vladimir Putin refer to their nation only indirectly by speaking of the language of the “state-forming” nation, and many non-Russians are afraid that this locution will be used to attack them and their republics.

            The fears of the latter have already been proved justified following the suppression of the Mari youth organization U Viy (mariuver.com/2020/07/23/likvid_u_vij/), the first of what promises to be a string of attacks on groups that promote nations the amended Russian constitution does not view as “state-forming.”

            But IdelReal columnist Marina Yudkevich argues this newly inserted provision threatens “not only national but in general other forms of public activity.” And she suggests that the way the authorities are acting shows why this should be a concern even to ethnic Russians who think they are part of the “state-forming” nation (idelreal.org/a/30747645.html).

            That is because the powers that be believe that they alone have the right to say what constitutes support for or opposition to the “state-forming” nation and therefore view “any self-identification of citizens [by themselves rather than at state direction “as deeply suspicious.” Actions against non-Russians may come first but they already aren’t the only ones.

            Yudkevich points to the case in Omsk where the FSB charged a 72-year-old invalid with organizing an extremist community because he denies the collapse of the USSR and therefore, with only his cane as a weapon, threatens to seize power in Omsk. The pandemic has prevented the authorities from arresting his confederates.

            Apparently, all of them visited places associated with the Soviet past and thus were not fully participating in the life of the “state-forming” nation as the powers that be define it.  And thus this concept is becoming the basis for charges of extremism against anyone who does not accept its provisions as defined by those in control.

            Young people are particularly given to forming groups, and some in Moscow are now wondering how best to counter that. One idea, Yudkovich says, has been offered by that “well-known thinker,” Mikhail Leontyev, who says younger people should lose the right to vote to same the nation (sobesednik.ru/obshchestvo/20200722-inache-my-poteryaem-stranu-leo).

            The Kremlin hasn’t gone that far yet, the IdelReal commentator says; but clearly emboldened by the adoption of the “state-forming” language of the constitution, especially since it isn’t linked to Russians except as understood by the leadership, the powers that be are ready to move against any group that doesn’t fit their Procrustean bed. 

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