Staunton, November 20 – Russian civic identity “does not contradict” ethnic identities either of ethnic Russians or non-Russians, Leokadiya Drobizheva says, as long as economic and social conditions are good. But when they are deteriorating as now, ever more people in Russia connect that development with ethnic factors and the two identities begin to split apart.
At the Moscow Multi-National Russia forum earlier this week, Drobizheva, who heads the Center for Research on Inter-Ethnic Relations at the Institute of Sociology and who is perhaps Russia’s most distinguished scholar on that issue, argued that “civic identity is becoming ever more significant for Russia’s peoples.”
That identity has co-existed with ethnic identities, except when the latter grow into nationalism, she said, noting that in recent times, her researchers have found that most Russian citizens see ethnic tensions as declining as a result of the social self-confidence they have gained from a rising standard of living.
But that positive development is now at risk, Drobizheva suggested. “Ever more people now connect what is happening in their lives and in the country with the ethnic factor,” and “that means that when the social status of people will worsen, [Russia] will encounter a worsening in inter-ethnic relations” as well.
Because the risk of that is real, “preventive measures” by the government and society “will have great importance” in blocking the rise of ethnic nationalisms that would lead to the growth of nationalisms of various kinds and thus undermine the progress that has been made toward a civic identity in the Russian Federation.
Drobizheva’s words parallel those of Joseph Stalin in his 1913 Prosveshcheniye article which became the basis for Soviet nationality policy. In that article, written at Lenin’s request, the future dictator wrote that “when times are good, common interests are first and foremost, but when times are bad, everyone retires to his own individual national tent.”