Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Russia Must Dispense with Soviet Nationality Arrangements or It Will Disintegrate Just as the USSR Did, Kaplenkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – If Russia is to avoid a repetition of the disaster of 1991 when the Soviet Union came apart, it must reverse two Soviet decisions, Valery Kaplenkov says. On the one hand, it must eliminate the autonomous ethnic republics within the country; and on the other, it must reunite the three Slavic and, in his mind, Russian republics, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

            The Rex news agency commentator has been pressing for the elimination of the non-Russian republics ( But now he has expanded that to include the elimination of Belarus and Ukraine (

            His linking of the two may be a sign of how some in the Kremlin view the issue, with calls for doing away with the non-Russian republics within and outside the Russian Federation becoming increasingly fused into one issue as Moscow marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the USSR when the ethno-territorial structures of today were created.

            Kaplenkov’s arguments are not new. With regard to the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation, he cites with approval Stalin’s objections to Lenin’s ideas. Indeed, he quotes Stalin’s reported remark that Lenin was a genius on many things but didn’t really understand the nationality question.

            And he points out that in most of the non-Russian autonomies today, the titular nationality does not form the two-thirds of the population that the United Nations says is required for the creation of such entities and that these territories cannot support themselves but exist on subventions from the center, a real burden on the Russian nation.

            And with regard to the need to do away with Belarus and Ukraine as independent states and do away with the name Russian Federation for Russia, Kaplenkov argues, as does Vladimir Putin, that the titular nationality of these three were created by the Soviets for short-term political goals in violation of what had been true in the Russian Empire.

            To the extent that these two issues, one domestic and one foreign, are being combined in the thinking of Kremlin leaders, it is likely that moves in one area will be accompanied by moves in the other, with Putin’s efforts to unite Belarus with Russia and his pressure on Ukraine being paralleled by new moves to amalgamate out of existence ethnic autonomies in Russia itself.

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