Monday, December 27, 2021

‘Kishlak’-Thinking Russian Nationalists Now Threaten Russia’s Survival, Mirzayan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 6 – At the end of Soviet times, people from the incompletely Sovietized villages came into the cities of Central Asia and, as what urban residents called “kishlak” nationalists, powered the national movements and ethnic conflicts that led to the end of the USSR, according to Gevorg Mizzayan.

            Now, the political scientist at Moscow’s Finance University, says, “their brothers in ‘kishlak’ consciousness are seeking to complete the task and destroy present-day Russia.” But there is an “ironic” difference: “the chief bearers of this kishlak consciousness aren’t from the kishlaks and auls but Russian nationalists living in the major cities.”

            The Russian “kishlak” nationalists like their counterparts in non-Russian areas a generation ago simultaneously seek to blame all problems on any group other than themselves and propose simple solutions that almost inevitably make the situation worse, Mirzayan continues (

            Among the solutions they offer are making diasporas responsible for the behavior of their members, an arrangement that undermines the principle of the state as the only legitimate user of force to maintain law and order, or to restrict where members of certain groups can live, a policy that undercuts the principle of legal equality.

            Some go further and call for ethnic purges and expulsions or for flooding areas with minorities with ethnic Russians to overwhelm the former. But neither of these policies is actually available to Russia because both would threaten the continued existence of the country. Russia, Mirzayan says, can only seek to integrate everyone into a single supernational community.

              If someone in Russia is sanctioned or discriminated against only because he or she is not a member of the dominant nationality, “this non-ethnic Russian very quickly will begin to view Russia as alien and will return to a self-identification not on a civic but on an ethno-national or clan basis,” the political scientist says.

            Some “kishlak” Russian nationalists want to deprive non-Russians of citizenship if they received it not by birth but then committed a crime. The law in fact allows this in a limited number of cases, but Mirzayan notes, nationalists want to extend the idea to almost all crimes, something that could tear society apart by creating first and second-class citizens.

            If Russia is to integrate non-Russians, the only course that has any promise of a positive outcome, much work will be required over a long period of time and many ideas far beyond “kishlak consciousness” will need to be explored and adopted, Mirzayan says.  

              First of all, any nationalism, be in Russian or any other, must be “softly” suppressed on the territory of the Russian Federation. It is “the main threat to the territorial and mental integrity of Russia” and must be eliminated in ways that don’t make it worse. Second, there must be zero tolerance for any crimes, regardless of who commits them.

            Third, Russia must adopt “total objectivity” and be honest about the situation the country finds itself in. Non-Russian immigrants commit far fewer crimes than indigenous ethnic Russians do. The nationality of criminals must not be ignored, but neither must it be reported only in the cases of non-Russians as kishlak nationalists want to see happen now.

            “It is possible that there are other methods,” Mirzayan says; and they should be considered as soon as possible. Otherwise, Russia faces risks like the ones the USSR did. And only if sensible policies are adopted “will we again live in a multi-national country where your ethnicity will have as much impact as your hair color.”


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