Friday, July 30, 2021

Duma Considers Restoring Nationality Line in Passports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 24 – One of the most infamous provisions of Soviet law was the existence of the so-called “fifth paragraph” in passports which fixed the nationality of a Soviet citizen in almost all cases for all times and which was used to discriminate in the first instance against Jews. And the elimination of this line in 1990 was welcomed by most.

            But two groups of officials are now pushing for its restoration, those like Russian nationalist Vitaly Milonov, who view it as a way to promote official Russian nationality, and those like Ildar Gilmutdinov, who see the nationality listing as the last line of defense for numerically small nations.

            Milonov has appealed to Justice Minister Konstantin Chuichenko to restore the nationality line for all residents of the Russian Federation, apparently believing that if it were restored now, many non-Russians would elect to identify as Russians in order to conform to the Kremlin’s goals (

            But Gilmutdinov, the deputy head of the Duma’s committee on nationalities, seeks the restoration of the nationality line only for and as a protection of numerically small nations who could use such documentation to ensure that only they get the benefits that Moscow has allocated for them (

            Neither proposal appears likely to take off anytime soon, as representatives of the ruling United Russia Party have declared that their Duma membership has not discussed raising it ( But Milonov and Gilmutdinov’s proposals are certain to attract attention and spark discussion as Russia conducts its decennial census in October.

            What makes the possibility of the restoration of a nationality line in Russian passports now especially fraught is that Moscow has pushed through an arrangement according to which for the first time, residents of the Russian Federation will be able to declare that they are of mixed nationality (

            Fixing official nationality again in passports could undercut that. Indeed, that may be one of the reasons United Russia is opposed, although in the past some of its members have pressed for the restoration of the fifth paragraph ( and

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