Saturday, August 14, 2021

After 1991, Moscow Changed Nationality Policy Much Less than Almost Anything Else, Yershoff Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 8 – When communism collapsed and the USSR disintegrated, Moscow changed the bases of its nationality policies far less than it did its approach to private property, the family and religion, Yegor Yershoff argues. In that sphere, the authorities changed some terms but they have retained the underlying logic and approach the Soviets had employed.

            That was reflected in the polemics between democrats, on the one hand, and patriots, on the other, the conservative Russian commentator says in an essay for the Riga-based Harbin portal. All this discussion led to a recrudescence of the Bolshevik approach, albeit “in a somewhat different manner” (

            “If the first couldn’t think of anything more intelligence than renaming that part of the new historical community which was within the borders of the RSFSR into ‘dear non-ethnic Russians’ and forget all the rest,” Yershoff says, “the second,” responding to the democrats’ fear of the word “Russian,” came up with the super-ethnic or rather non-ethnic “Russian world.”

            In this way, “the Soviet approach to national minorities in the form of the carrots of positive discrimination and the stick of ‘counter-revolutionary nations’ (a Marxist term) continued to be present in the positions of both sides.” That was evident most clearly in Moscow’s approach to the peoples of the North Caucasus.

            Having thrown off the ballast of the union republics, Moscow, instead of becoming more ethnically Russian ideologically as it had demographically, continued to be “ever less Russian,” exactly the approach the Soviets had adopted.” That was facilitated by massive in-migration from Central Asia along with the demographic collapse of the ethnic Russians.

            And if anyone had any doubts about the unchanged vector of Moscow’s nationality policy, he had only to look at the 2020 constitutional amendments which couldn’t proclaim the ethnic Russians to be the state-forming people directly but rather had to do so, in a perfectly Soviet manner, talk only about such a people and its language.

            Once again, as in Soviet times, ethnic Russians were sent a powerful message from their government that being Russian was somehow “shameful,” that the non-Russians at the same time were “second-class” peoples, and that both the one and the other are to be mixed together into some broader but bloodless commonality.

            In sum, as in Soviet times, that was the “new Soviet people.” Now, it is the non-ethnic rossiyane. And once again, the ethnic Russians are being reduced even as the non-Russians are not being elevated. It is no wonder the former are angry and the latter are less than loyal to the post-Soviet state.

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