Staunton, August 29 – Vladimir Putin has given the FSB control of the composition of lists of members of the numerically small peoples of the North and Far East, thus allowing the siloviki rather than anyone else to decide who is a member and who thus qualifies for the benefits of being so and for having a voice in the economic development of the region.
The Russian constitution specifies that every citizen of that country has the right to declare the nationality of his or her choice or to declare none at all. But there is one major exception: members of numerically small nationalities whose members are granted special privileges in order to help them survive.
That makes membership in those communities something valuable and so the Russian authorities have gone to some lengths to ensure that only those who are really members of these nations are able to claim those benefits, even going to court to have individuals forced to prove their nationality or be struck off.
Until a few years ago, regional officials maintained these lists on their own. There was no all-Russian list. But as Russian corporations and the government have expanded into the North, Moscow concluded that it needed to be in control lest numerically small peoples get in the way of center-favored economic activity.
With the establishment of government monitoring of ethnic problems in 2016, the task of compiling such lists was given to the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs. But now it has been handed over to an inter-agency committee the FSB chairs, giving that siloviki body far greater powers (indigenous-russia.com/archives/7213).
Only one other country has a list like this: China, which maintains one for minorities in the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region and has used the lists to decide who is to be confined in its notorious concentration camps. There is no sign that Moscow is about to take such a radical step, but the latest move gives the Kremlin a kind of leverage it cannot be trusted to use fairly.