Staunton, May 9 – Vitaly Ivanov, a former minister for culture and nationality affairs in Chuvashia, says that current efforts to promote ‘a civic Russian nation’ (rossiiskaya natsiya) are just like those in Soviet times to promote ‘a Soviet nation’ (sovetskaya natsiya) and potentially even more dangerous.
Its advocates, he tells Idealreal’s Ilnar Garifullin, “are trying to convince us that ‘a civic Russian nation’ is not an ethnonym but rather a poly-ethnonym, but we understand all too well that with time, its ethnic meaning may eclipse such a poly-ethnonym entirely” (idelreal.org/a/28469649.html).
That is, Ivanov continues, the civic Russian nation will replace national self-consciousness,” something that “for representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation is simply unacceptable.” They “will resist this trend” and insist that it be rejected as an insult to their dignity.
Other experts with whom Garifullin spoke agree. Damir Iskhakov, a leader of the World Congress of Tatars, says that under the current constitution, citizens of the Russian Federation have come to accept the idea of “’nations in a nation” as an aspect of the idea of “’a multi-national civic Russian people.”
But everyone must remember that “a federative state can exist only if the rights of numerically small peoples will be observed.” Unfortunately, Iskhakov says, this is far from the case in Russia today. And he notes that ethnic Russian national organizations are also opposed to this new term, viewing it as an attack on their identity as well.
A third person with whom the Tatar journalist spoke, Mikhail Shcheglov, the head of the Society of Russian Culture of Tatarstan, agrees. He says that the very idea of a civic Russian nation replacing ethnic identities is “fundamentally wrong.” Neither ethnic Russians nor non-Russians will ever accept it.
In Shcheglov’s view, some unknown forces in the depths of the Kremlin pushed Russian ethnographers to advance this idea for unknown reasons. It gained the backing of some Russian journalists. And Vladimir Putin was confronted with a kind of fait accompli: He had no option but to agree with it, although clearly he should see that it is not in his interests either.
The main problem, Shcheglov says is that Russia today doesn’t have a clearly defined nationality policy and all the talk of “a civic Russian nation” is getting in the way of its elaboration.
Drawing on these observations, Garifullin says that those behind the civic Russian nation have gotten the cart before the horse in that they have slyly introduced on the territory of Russia “the absolutely alien” idea of “the nation state” not directly but rather via the idea of ‘a civic Russian nation.”
“As is well-known,” he continues, the concept of an ethnic nation always and invariably presupposes the construction around it of a nation state,” a state however much some might deny it which would be based on “a single ethnos which would serve as its real foundation and symbol.”
In the case of the Russian Federation, Garifullin says, “it isn’t hard to guess which ethnic group” would occupy that status if the current borders are maintained. Nor is it hardly that as a result, “the remaining indigenous peoples [of the country] which have their own national autonomies in the form of republics in this case would inevitably lose their political status.”
But there is an even more fundamental problem with the civic Russian nation idea, he suggests. And it is this: “Political nations have been built around some common idea which is capable of unifying various ethnic groups with at times varying interests into something monolithic.”
The CPSU tried to build “a Soviet nation” around the idea of the construction of a communist society, but as history showed, that effort collapsed. And at the present time, “the sense of being attached to one country (i.e., of being a citizen of Russia) cannot by itself be a unifying idea.”
That is “a simple fact” which no one can dispute.
And that makes the arguments of those pushing for a civic Russian nation on the basis of some “historical-cultural values” problematic. What could these be for peoples of “absolutely different confessions, languages and ethnicities” that would tie them together in one country rather than simply make them part of “all the peoples populating the planet?”