The Presence of Absence: Ethnicity Policy in Russia

  • Peter Rutland
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


Even though nationalism as an analytical category and political practice has been widely condemned in recent decades, the nation-state remains the predominant form of political structure throughout the world. The break-up of the Soviet Union led to the emergence of 15 states, which began actively promoting national identity as a building bloc of their newly-won independence. The Russian Federation is something of an exception to this trend, since it faces difficult and unresolved questions arising from its multi-ethnic composition. Russian nationalism played an important though somewhat ambiguous role in the break-up of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin used appeals to Russian sovereignty to undermine the position of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. But Yeltsin never subscribed to a clearly-articulated concept of Russian national identity. For Yeltsin, the most important symbol of the new Russian state was — Yeltsin himself. (He was officially described as the ‘first president’ of Russia.)


Ethnic Identity Liberal Democratic Party Russian State Nationality Policy Russian People 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Alexei Miller, ‘The Nation as a Framework for Political life’, Russian Politics and Law, 47, 2 (March–April 2009): 8–29, p. 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Emil Pain, ‘Russia Between Empire and Nation’, Russian Politics and Law, 47, 2 (March–April 2009): 60–86, p. 82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    For example, Dmitry Gorenburg, Minority Ethnic Mobilization in the Russian Federation ( New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006 ).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For example, Cameron Ross, Federalism and Democratisation in Russia ( Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002 ).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Among the exceptions: Bill Bowring, ‘Austro-Marxism’s Last Laugh?: The Struggle for Recognition of National-Cultural Autonomy for Rossians and Russians’, Europe-Asia Studies, 54, 2 (March 2002): 229–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Sven Gunnar Simonsen, ‘Inheriting the Soviet Policy Toolbox: Russia’s Dilemma over Ascriptive Nationality’, Europe-Asia Studies, 51, 6 (September 1999): 1069–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 6.
    This complaint was frequently raised by North Ossetiya President Alexander Dzasokhov. See: Natalia Ratiani, ‘A Generation Growing up amidst Conflict’, Izvestiya (31 March 2005 )Google Scholar
  8. at the national conference on ‘The state’s ethnic policy in the 20th and 21st centuries’, in Perm: ‘Shadow Ethnicity’, Izvestiya (31 October 2002).Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Konstantin Smirnov, ‘Dolgii put’ Minnats ot MVD do MVD’ [The long road of the NatsMin from MVD to MVD], Kommersant-Vlast (23 October 2001 ).Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Virginie Coulloudon, ‘New appointment may presage changes in Russia’s nationalities policy’, RFE/RL Newsline (19 December 2001 ).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    On the origins of this system, see: Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nation and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939 ( Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001 ).Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    Andrei Okara, ‘O subetnicheskoi, etnicheskoi i sverkhetnicheskoi gordosti velikorossov’ [Sub-ethnic, ethnic and supra-ethnic pride of the Great Russians], Politicheskii klass (18 August 2007 ).Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    There are now 45 recognised ‘indigenous small-numbered peoples’, each with less than 50,000 members. Brian Donahoe et al, ‘Size and Place in the Construction of Indigeneity in the Russian Federation’, Current Anthropology, 48, 6 (December 2008), 993–1020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 13.
    Julia Kusznir, ‘Russian Territorial Reform?’, Russian Analytical Digest (17 June 2008): 8–11.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    Donna Bahry, ‘Ethnicity and Equality in Post-communist Economic Transition: Evidence from Russia’s Republics’, Europe-Asia Studies, 54, 5 (July 2002): 673–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dmitry Gorenburg, ‘Nationalism for the Masses: Popular Support for Nationalism in Russia’s Ethnic Republics’, Europe-Asia Studies, 53, 1 (January 2001): 73–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. For pro-nationalist views see: Rafael Khakimov, ‘Path Forward for the Russian Federation’, Network on Ethnological Monitoring and Early Warning of Conflict, Bulletin, 2 (2 June 1995 ), Scholar
  18. 15.
    Nationalities Minister Valentin Zorin, quoted in RIA Novosti (13 June 2004).Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    Gulnaz Sharafutdinova, ‘Chechnya Versus Tatarstan: Understanding ethnopolitics in post-communist Russia’, Problems of Post-Communism, 47, 2 (2000): 13–22Google Scholar
  20. Dmitry P. Gorenburg, Minority Ethnic Mobilization in the Russian Federation ( New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 17.
    Christopher Marsh and James Warhola, ‘Ethnicity, Ethno-territoriality and the Political Geography of Putin’s Electoral Support’, Post-Soviet Geography and Economics 42, 4 (2001): 1–14. In 2000 Putin also won a plurality in every ethnic region except the Altay Republic.Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    Matthew Evangelista, The Chechen Wars: Will Russia Go the Way of the Soviet Union? ( Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2002 ).Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    Vera Tolz, ‘Forging the Nation: National Identity and Nation Building in Post-Communist Russia’, Europe-Asia Studies, 50, 6 (1998): 993–1022CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Vera Tolz, Inventing the Nation: Russia ( London: Arnold, 2001 );Google Scholar
  25. Pal Kolsto (ed.), Nation-Building and Common Values in Russia ( Boulder, CO: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003 ).Google Scholar
  26. 21.
    Valery Tishkov, ‘What Are Russia and the Russian People?’, Russian Politics and Law, 47, 2 (March–April 2009): 30–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 23.
    Valery Tishkov, ‘Forget the “Nation”: Post-Nationalist Understanding of Nationalism’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 23, 4 (2000): 625–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 24.
    On similar debates in Ukraine, see Stephen Shulman, ‘The Contours of Civic and Ethnic National Identification in Ukraine’, Europe-Asia Studies, 56, 1 (2004): 35–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 25.
    Emil Pain, ‘Russia Between Empire and Nation,’ Russian Politics and Law, 47, 2 (March–April 2009): 60–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 27.
    Aleksei Chadaev, ‘The Return of the Russian and a “Third Russia”’, Izvestiya (12 June 2006 ).Google Scholar
  31. 29.
    Mikhail Rutkevich, ‘On the fate of the Russian ethnic group’, Russian Politics and Law, 43, 2 (March–April 2005), 70–82, p. 76.Google Scholar
  32. 30.
    Wendy Helleman (ed.), The Russian Idea: In Search of a New Identity ( Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2004 ).Google Scholar
  33. 31.
    Marlene Laruelle, Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire ( Washington, D.C.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008 ).Google Scholar
  34. 33.
    Emil Pain, ‘Reforms in the Administration of the Regions and Their Influence on Ethnopolitical Processes in Russia’, in Robert Orttung and Peter Reddaway, eds, The Dynamics of Russian Politics, Volume 2 ( Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005 ).Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Andrei Zorin, ‘A New Holiday for Old Reasons’ (20 January 2005), Scholar
  36. 36.
    For data on Russian language use in the newly-independent states, see Kirill Gavrilov et al, ‘Status and prospects of the Russian language in the NIS’ (11 November 2008 ). Scholar
  37. 37.
    Fred Weir, ‘Russia’s success in soccer and hockey is credited to petrodollars flowing into sports’, Christian Science Monitor (27 June 2008 ).Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    BBC Monitoring, ‘Russian TV Talk Show Discusses National Identity’, NTV Mir (2 November 2009 ).Google Scholar
  39. 40.
    Yana Amelina, ‘What’s a Patriot To Do?’, Rossiiskie Vesti (18 June 2003 ).Google Scholar
  40. 41.
    Vladimir Putin, ‘Excerpts from the President’s Live Television and Radio Dialogue with the Nation’ (18 December 2003 ), Scholar
  41. 42.
    Emil Pain, ‘The Changing Nature of Ethnic Politics under President Putin’, Carnegie Endowment Meeting Report, 2, 7 (30 October 2000 ).Google Scholar
  42. 43.
    David Cashaback, ‘Risky Strategies? Putin’s Federal Reforms and the Accommodation of Difference in Russia’, Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe 3 (2003), Scholar
  43. 45.
    Emil Pain, ‘Russia Between Empire and Nation’, Russian Politics and Law, 47, 2 (March–April 2009): 60–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 48.
    Yevgenii Verlin, ‘Emil Pain: There is a Huge Build-up of Ethnic Hatred in Russia’, Izvestiya (25 March 2004 ).Google Scholar
  45. 50.
    Lev Gudkov, ‘Xenophobia: Past and Present’, Russia in Global Affairs, 4, 1 (January–March 2006): 58–66.Google Scholar
  46. 51.
    Pavel Anokhin, ‘State of Ethnic Russians is the State of the Nation’, Trud (31 March 2004 ).Google Scholar
  47. 54.
    Aleksander Dubovoi, ‘Moscow city election cleansed of the Motherland Party’, Kommersant (28 November 2005 ).Google Scholar
  48. 55.
    Emil Pain, ‘Twilight of the Liberal Empire’, Nezavisimaya gazeta (15 June 2007 ).Google Scholar
  49. 56.
    Andrei Kozenko, ‘Nationalism with a Human Face’, Kommersant (13 July 2009 ).Google Scholar
  50. 57.
    Maksim Selifontov, ‘Nashi Gave the Celebration Back to the Russians’, Moskovskii komsomolets (5 November 2009 ).Google Scholar
  51. 60.
    Kira Latukhina and Anastasia Kornia, ‘Competing Ethnic Policy Strategies’, Vedomosti (15 June 2007 ).Google Scholar
  52. 61.
    Andrei Kozenko, ‘Public Chamber Downplays the Role of the Russian People’, Kommersant (7 March 2006 )Google Scholar
  53. Andrei Kozenko, ‘The Fifth Article of Power in Russia’, Kommersant-Vlast (2 April 2007 )Google Scholar
  54. Olga Pavlikova, ‘Kozak Prompted by the Cossacks’, Gazeta (21 November 2007 ).Google Scholar
  55. 62.
    Vladislav Surkov, ‘Natsionalizatsiya budushchego’ [Nationalization of the future], Ekspert (20 November 2006 ).Google Scholar
  56. 63.
    Dmitri Kamyshev, ‘Acting Tsar’, Kommersant-Vlast ( 12 November 2007 ). The article appeared as part of a campaign to persuade Putin to stay on as president for a third term.Google Scholar
  57. 65.
    Nicky Torode, ‘National Cultural Autonomy in the Russian Federation’, International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 15 (2008): 179–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 66.
    For a profile of Zorin, see Coulloudon, ‘New Appointment May Presage Changes in Russia’s Nationalities Policy’; Mikhail Vinogradov, ‘The Storytelling Minister’, Izvestiya (7 December 2001 ).Google Scholar
  59. 68.
    Valerii Tishkov, ‘Zabyt’ i natsii (Post-natsionalistichesko e ponimanie natsionalizma)’ [Forget about the Nation (A post-nationalist understanding of nationalism)], Etnograficheskoe obozrenie, 5, 1 (1998).Google Scholar
  60. 73.
    Elena Filippova and Vassily Filippov, ‘National-Cultural Autonomies in Post-Soviet Russia: A Dead-End Political Project’, Association for Study of Nationalities conference, Sciences Po, Paris (4 July 2008 ).Google Scholar
  61. 74.
    Damir Iskhakov, ‘Rossiiskii zakon ‘O natsional’no-kult’turnoi avtonomii’, Seminar Etnicheskii factor v Federalizatsii Rossii, Kazan (18 January 2000 ), Scholar
  62. 75.
    Tomila Lankina, ‘Local Administration and Ethno-social Consensus in Russia’, Europe-Asia Studies, 54, 7 (November 2002): 1037–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 78.
    Igor Zevelev, Russia and Its New Diasporas ( Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace, 2001 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter Rutland 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Rutland

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations