Staunton, December 13 – The Kremlin has announced plans to make “ethno-politics” a course of study in three leading Russian universities and to quadruple the number of stipends for students in this field, an indication of Kremlin nervousness about nationality problems and of its interest in forming a new orthodoxy on how to address them.
At a meeting this week to discuss the Strategy of the State Nationality Policy of the Russian Federation, Magomedsalam Magomedov, the former president of Daghestan who now serves as the deputy head of the Presidential Administration, said that training a new generation of experts in this field was critical.
Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov said that the government was increasing budgetary support for those in the fields of ethnology and anthropology from 79 slots this year to 144 in 2015 and 320 in 2016. Moreover, he said, he has ordered the inclusion of ethnic conflict studies in all humanities disciplines as well.
Moscow plans to create chairs in ethno-politics “for the training and retraining of cadres” in the government at Moscow State University and Siberian State University, and Labor Minister Maksim Topilin said that a scientific-educational center for nationality policy has been set up in the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service and that this center will work with the branches of the academy throughout the country.
Given the cutbacks in much of Russia’s educational system, the expansion of efforts in the area of nationality policy and conflict underlines Moscow’s nervousness about problems there. And the creation of a new field – ethno-politics – suggests that the regime wants to do an end run around some of the existing academic specialists.
That in turn suggests something else: the leadership in the Kremlin wants a new orthodoxy on the nationality question, one that it will define rather than any group of scholars. That almost certainly sets the stage for new conflicts in the field as one newly-favored generation replaces another.