Monday, July 18, 2022

Russian Government Rejects Call to Limit Compatriots to Ethnic Russians and Russian Speakers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – Following but not necessarily because of withering criticism from Circassians about the negative consequences of such a move, the Russian government has come out in opposition to a proposal by Konstantin Zatulin to limit the category of compatriots to those who are ethnic Russians or who speak Russian.

            Zatulin’s proposal, had it been adopted by the Duma and signed into law by the president, would have excluded many Circassians in the Middle East from being able to claim the status of compatriot and thus be in a position to receive Russian Federation citizenship on the expedited basis that status claims.

            The Russian government said that the Duma deputy’s proposal divides peoples into categories and thus “does not correspond to the principle of the equality of peoples” that is enshrined in the Russian Constitution. It expressed the hope that the Duma would reject Zatulin’s proposal (

            This follows withering criticism of his suggestion by Circassians but may not be because of that but for larger reasons (

            On the one hand, the Russian government has already demonstrated that it has all the powers it needs to discriminate against Circassians wishing to return to the homeland without taking a legal step that would certainly add to the criticism of Moscow’s increasingly nationalistic approach to many issues.

            And on the other, there are likely many in the Russian government who are concerned about setting a precedent in this area that some like Zatulin would like to extend well beyond citizenship law to other legal arrangements, steps that would only further deepen the divide between the dominant Russians and the increasingly frustrated non-Russians in Russia.

            That the Kremlin is moving in the direction of Russian nationalism in many regards is beyond question; but it is characteristic of its denizens that they want to regulate that process rather than lose control of it – and so opposing Zatulin’s proposal, especially when such opposition can be clothed in constitutional niceties, is an obvious step. 

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