Staunton, November 20 – Because Russian legislation extends special benefits and subsidies to members of the numerically small peoples of the Russian North and Far East, Moscow has sought to limit the number of people whose claims of membership in these peoples will be acknowledged.
On the one hand, the central government has demanded that those who make this claim but who live in cities and do not engage in traditional activities like reindeer herding prove their claims in court. One who was denied that identity has appealed to the Russian Supreme Court (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/11/saami-activist-appeals-to-supreme-court.html
If the measure is passed, this will be a rare victory for the numerically small peoples and their constitutional rights. The Russian Constitution specifies that any citizen is entitled to identify as whatever nationality he or she wants, and that specification is likely why the amendment on nationality laws has gotten as far as it has.
The Russian government is certainly within its rights to extend subsidies to groups who engage in traditional activities, and it could easily come up with a measure that would say that only those members of numerically small peoples of the North and Far East who do should get them.
Insisting as current Russian government practice does that all members of these peoples must get subsidies and that those who don’t engage in traditional economic activities cannot be members of them is absurd. Worse, such an approach suggests that it arose not to save money but rather to put the continued existence of these groups at risk.