Staunton, April 7 – At a meeting of the Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations, an ideological dispute broke out between Vladimir Putin and ethnographer Valery Tishkov, a dispute that wasn’t about some “petty matter” but rather about the very future of Russia, Mikhail Aleksandrov says.
The MGIMO political scientist says he is very pleased by Putin’s position as reflected in the meeting’s title “On the Strengthening of All-Russian Civic Identity” because he views this as “a movement by our powers toward political realism” (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=39579; for the speeches at the meeting, see kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65252).
In recent years, the notion of “a non-ethnic Russian nation [rossiiskaya natsiya]” had dominated talk on the nationality question, a term promoted by Tishkov and “the cosmopolitan grouping standing behind him.” That notion, Aleksandrov says, was based on the communist conception of ‘a new historical community’ in the form of ‘the Soviet people.’”
“But,” the political scientist says, “the leaders of the CPSU were sufficiently smart enough” not to lose contact with reality and “therefore they did not decide to introduce the concept of a single ‘Soviet nation’ and limited themselves instead to a quite flowery formulation.”
However, “the pro-Western cosmopolitan democrats who came after them discarded all decency and began to actively introduce into public consciousness the concept of ‘the Russian nation.’” Tishkov who became nationalities minister in 1992 was the leader of this group which objectively seeks “the destruction of the ethnic Russian nation [russkaya natsiya].”
The ethnic Russian nation has always been a problem for some people. The Bolsheviks dismembered it by setting up union republics and creating autonomous republics within the RSFSR. Hitler killed millions, and then the leadership of the CPSU “in agreement with the West” dismembered the USSR and left 25 million Russians cut off from their nation.
Because all these efforts weren’t enough, now some Russians like Tishkov have come up with another way to destroy the ethnic Russians, by submerging them into “an illusory community,” the non-ethnic Russian nation, so as to put them on course for the adoption of “the values of globalism.”
At the March 30 meeting, Putin put a stop to this and in effect “sent the conception of ‘a non-ethnic Russian nation’ to the archives. Instead of it, the concept of ‘all-Russian civic identity’ was advanced.” According to Aleksandrov, “this is a good thing” because “it does not exclude the existence of the ethnic Russian nation” or other ethnic nations in Russia.
Tishkov clearly does not like this development and at the meeting, he laid out his reasons for maintaining his position rather than Putin’s. But his arguments collapse upon examination because they are offered without evidence and are based on a confusion of terms, Aleksandrov continues.
There were thus “for naught. V.V. Putin did not support him.” When the Russian president did respond, he ignored all of Tishkov’s arguments and said nothing about “’a non-ethnic Russian nation.’” And other speakers, including the head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs followed Putin, not Tishkov.
In Aleksandrov’s opinion, this should be enough to remove the idea of a non-ethnic Russian nation from public discussion and allow for Russia to move forward with a common civic identity and both an ethnic Russian nation and non-Russian nations as well.