Monday, February 1, 2021

‘Russia World Shrinking’ But Russians in Russia Becoming More Deeply Attached to Their Identity, Tishkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 31 – The Russian world, in terms of language, is “shrinking, Valery Tishkov says, having lost between 50 and 100 million speakers over the last 20 to 30 years. But within Russia itself, as a result of Vladimir Putin’s mobilization efforts, Russian self-consciousness has been intensifying.

            A small number of ethnic Russians have shifted over entirely to the non-ethnic category Rossiyane, the former director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology says, but most continue to identify as ethnic Russians as well as civic ones (

            Tishkov adds that while he favors this shift to civic identity, he is not in favor of “liquidating nationality in the ethnic sense and making everyone a Rossiyanin. These are not mutually exclusive forms of self-identification,” but the balance between them varies widely across Russia.

            On the whole, he suggests, “civic Russian identity is moving to first place for Russia.” But “in Tatarstan, certainly, the relation between the two is 50-50, but in Chechnya, more put in first place that they are Chechens and only then civic Russians. We have a large and varied country and there cannot be a single recipe.”

            This is just one of the many observations Tishkov makes about the state of ethnic identity in the Russian Federation and the upcoming census in the course of a 6,400-word interview he gave to Elena Kolebakina-Usmanova of Kazan’s Business-Gazeta.  Among others worthy of note are the following:

·         “People who retain mixed nationality are many fewer than those who are products of mixed marriages.”

·         Many will change their nationality over the course of their lives.

·         Changing language doesn’t mean changing identity. “Peoples, the majority of whom with us now speak Russian, for example, the Mari, Mordvins, Buryats and even the Kalmyks, do not cease to be that as a result.”

·         Ethnic Russians will remain the dominant nation in the Russian Federation for the rest of this century and beyond.

·         Peoples “from the Islamic tradition” will increasingly be the second largest community in the country and will increase their share slowly over time because the Muslims of the Middle Volga now have birthrates close to the ethnic Russian rather than higher like those in the North Caucasus.

·         “From the point of view of self-consciousness,” Tatars, like the Russians, are “strengthening.”

·          “The assimilation of Tatars to other peoples happens rarely because this is a major people with a powerful culture.”

·         Tatars and Bashkirs need to stop trying to sign up members of the other to boost their numbers. Before elections, there is “a quiet day.” There should be a similar arrangement before the census.

·         Products of mixed Tatar-Russian marriages who live in Tatarstan tend to become Tatars while their counterparts who live elsewhere tend to become Russians.

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