Vienna, February 8 – In a comparison certain to attract attention among many Russian leaders, a United Russia ideologist says that the recent “’Kronstadt revolt,” a reference to street where ethnic clashes took place in Moscow recently, raises the issue of “a NEP,” the acronym in the current context for a New Ethno-Political Policy.”
In an interview posted on the “Russky zhurnal” portal, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, United Russia’s coordinator for nationality policy and relations with religious organizations, makes this historically charged comparison to the events of 1921 to underscore the urgency of change in this sector (www.russ.ru/pole/Kronshtadtskij-myatezh-zhestko-postavil-vopros-o-NEPe).
In the 1990s, Sultygov says, “there could not be any talk about a [non-ethnic Russian political nation and state community.” That became possible, he suggests, “only after the restoration of the political-legal space and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation in 2003 with the constitutional referendum in Chechnya.
Immediately after that, then President Vladimir Putin “first used the words ‘all of us are one, united, powerful [non-ethnic] Russian people,” an idea he developed in a speech in Cheboksary the following year by saying that “we have every basis to speak about [the non-ethnic] Russian people as about a single nation.”
Such usage, Sultygov argues, “only returns us to pre-Soviet history” when those terms were widely used, and “in this sense, the Russian power is articulating the idea of ‘[the non-ethnic] Russia exclusively in the format of the construction ofa super-nbational civil society, of a [non-ethic] Russian political nation.”
Such an entity, he continues, in no way represents an attack on non-Russian nations, and Sultygov cites with approval ethnographer Valery Tishkov’s proposal to the effect that “Russia is a nation of nations.”
While a great deal has been accomplished since 2003, Sultygov says, “a mature civil nation is the obverse of a mature civil society,” and consequently, there is a great deal more to be done, not only on migration issues which have attracted the most attention because of the clashes they have provoked but elsewhere.
There is “a serious contradiction between the policy for the formation of all-civic identity which is primarily only declared and the policy of ethnic nation building which is really being carried out … [And] in these conditions, citizens who are not member of the so-called ‘titular nations feel themselves de facto victims of discrimination.”
That is why, Sultygov says, President Dmitry Medvedev recently said that “all state employees in whatever post and in whatever region they serve must act in the interests of the people as a whole and not of its individual groups,” something that would suggest that he expects them to behave as [non-ethnic] Russians rather than as members of one or another ethnic nation.
The recent “’Kronstadt revolt’” – as he describes the events on Moscow’s Kronstadt boulevard – raises the question about the need for “a NEP – a new ethno-national policy directed at the formation of a post-Soviet [non-ethnic] Russian identity” because “obviously, the situation when things are ‘already not Soviet but still not completely [non-ethnic] Russian is mortally dangerous for the country.”
Like Medvedev, Sultygov dismisses the need for a new nationalities ministry by pointing out that nationality issues in late Soviet times were decided “not by the Ministry of Nationalities but by the CPSU which organized systematic work of all organs of power, institutions, organizations, enterprises, and public groups in this sphere.”
What is needed now, he continues, is the development of “a renewed Conception of state nationality policy,” as has been proposed by Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin and which is likely to be adopted at an upcoming session of the presidium of the Russian State Council.
And in his view, Sultygov says, it would also be useful to create a permanent commission of the presidium of the State Council on Questions of the formation of a new [non-ethnic] Russian identity, the [non-ethnic] Russian nation, and the realization of state policy in the sphere of inter-ethnic relations.”
This body would be headed on a rotational basis by the leaders of the subjects of the Federation who would thus have a greater opportunity to advance their views on a federal level. And at the same time, he added, there should be an inter-agency government commission on national construction and “the coordination of the NEP.”