Staunton, December 4 – Most commentators have focused on the foreign policy implications of Vladimir Putin’s notion about the “Russian world,” but Pavel Svyatenkov argues that its domestic consequences may be at least as great because it can help overcome a fundamental contradiction in the Russian political system.
The Russian nationalist writer says that the 1993 Constitution sets up but does not resolve the contradiction between the Russians as “a multi-national people” and the continuing existence of non-Russian republics within the borders of the country whose leaders proclaim that they are “state-forming” nations.
Moreover, he continues, “the conception of ‘multi-nationality’ does not recognize the role of the [ethnic] Russian people in history,” denying any “legal connection between Russia and Russians. [Thus,] Russia is not a state of Russians,” and “from the legal point of view, Russians are the largest stateless people in the world.”
Russians are to be replaced “by the faceless term ‘Rossiyane, a ‘passport identity,’ according to which a Rossiyan is anyone who has Russian citizenship,” and “an [ethnic] Russian who does not have Russian citizenship is thus not considered a Rossiyan,” Svyatenkov argues.
That in turn leads, the commentator continues, to “paradoxical” situations such as when “many [ethnic] Russians who are citizens of Russia root at the Olympics for [ethnic] Russians who are citizens of Kazakhstan but not for representatives of the North Caucasus who are Rossiyane.”
All this prompts the question: Can the situation be corrected without changing Russia’s borders or imposing draconian central control? According to Svyatenkov, many thought in the 1990s that Eurasianism might be the solution, but it has become clear that “it is only a version of the ‘multi-nationality’ concept which underlies the Russian constitutional order.”
Moreover, its main propagandist, Aleksandr Dugin, now elicits only “ironic smiles” not only “among ‘liberals’ but also among Orthodox conservatives.”
At the same time, the commentator points out, “the Russian political establishment is not ready at present to arm itself with the conception of Russia as the nation state of the [ethnic] Russians,” as Russian nationalists would like, out of a fear that to do so would exacerbate relations among the country’s various nationalities.
And thus, the concept of the “Russian world” has emerged “as a compromise between that of ‘the multi-national people’ and the concept of ‘nation state.”
In contrast to “multi-nationality” and “Eurasianism,” the Russian world concept is based on “the firm link between ethnic Russians and Russia, one that is cultural, historical and religious.” Thus, all who see themselves as part of Russian culture even if they are not ethnic Russians are part of the Russian world, and all who do so because of the centrality of Orthodoxy view Russia as part of Europe rather than the descendent of the Mongol horde.
The Russian world idea is thus inclusive rather than exclusive, drawing other peoples within the borders of the Russian Federation and beyond rather than pushing them away toward the formation of separate states. And it is that quality and its domestic implications which have attracted so many people to this idea and made it into what is today almost a state ideology.”