Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Tishkov Says He’s Both Kinds of Russian – Ethnic (‘Russky’) and Civil (‘Rossiyanin’)

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 2 – Responding to recent criticism of the term rossiyanin, the designator of a citizen of the Russian Federation regardless of ethnicity, and calls for using russky, the term that has historically has mean an ethnic community, Valery Tishkov, one of the most active promoters of the term rossiyanin, says that he is in fact both a russky and a rossiyanin.

            Speaking to the Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations at the Federation Council, the former Russian nationalities minister and former director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology explains why he and millions of others have that dual identity (

            “From the moment of the formation of the present-day Russian Federation,” Tishkov says, “the elites and scholars have been occupied in the search for an idea of the nation which maintains historical succession but also asserts a new Russian identity. Three decades have passed, but the form and identity of the people has still not completely taken shape.”

            “The path of new nation formation still has not come to an end, but this must not disturb the supporters of the Russian national project,” Tishkov says, noting that he disagrees with the opponents of this project, “who as a rule, represent radical ethno-nationalists or liberal-democratic experts, however strange such a coincidence of positions appears.”

            The notion that the existence of multiple ethnic communities within a state is an insurmountable barrier to forming “a polyethnic, civic national basis” is “baseless,” he continues. Nation states can be multi-ethnic; they do not have to be mono-ethnic, as the experience of many countries shows.

            According to Tishkov, “there exist in the world two understandings of the nation: a civic/political nation and an ethnic/cultural nation.” The two interact and can transform one another, but they can and do exist together at one and the same time, despite the efforts of some in each camp to insist otherwise.

            Russia is best understood “as a nation of nations,” and that should be supported by “those who identify as Rossiyane,” he continues. “Russia is both a nation and a civilization,” and Russia is both russkaya and rossiiskaya, and neither of these excludes the other regardless of what some are inclined to suggest.

            This means that a double “or even more complex system of identities” should be recognized and even welcomed, including citizenship, ethnic nationality and religion, and regional ones. Over time, citizenship identity may grow relative to the others, but the others are not necessarily fated to disappear.

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