Pål Kolstø: Political construction sites:  Nation-building in Russia and the post-Soviet States. 2000 Boulder, Colorado: Westview press 2000, pp. 81-104

uncorrected version

Professor Pål Kolstø

Dept. of East European and Oriental Studies

University of Oslo

Box 1030, Blindern

N-0315 Oslo, Norway

tel (+47) 22 85 67 99/22 85 67 97

fax (+47)22  85 41 40

home address (weekends and Mondays):

Ramsvig 50 g

N-4015 Stavanger, Norway

tel/fax home (+47) 51  56 20 82

e-mail Pal.Kolsto@east.uio.no

 

Chapter 5. Integration or alienation? Russians in the former Soviet republics

 

In the outskirts of the core area of Russian settlements, Russians have been living intermingled with other ethnic groups for centuries. However, it was only towards the second half of the last century that large-scale migration of Russians to the peripheries of the Tsarist empire commenced. To a large extent this migration was triggered by the societal changes usually referred to as “modernization.” Together with the Jews, the Russians were the first ethnic group in the empire to be affected by these changes. More and more Russians received education, moved to the cities and acquired a modern lifestyle. Infant mortality was significantly reduced, leading to high population growth. This demographic pressure was to some extent alleviated by migration to the outlying non-Russian regions of the empire.[1]

 

This Russian migration consisted partly of peasants in search of new land to till, but increasingly the Russian migrants moved to the new industrial towns and cities that were growing rapidly at the time--Riga, Baku, Yuzovka (Donetsk) and others. The local population in these areas--Latvians, Ukrainians, Azeris, etc.--were generally less motivated and less qualified for work in the new factories. As millions of new Russians joined the first waves of migrants after the Russian Revolution, they also settled overwhelmingly in urban areas. All over the Soviet Union, towns and cities acquired an unmistakably Russian look, while the surrounding countryside kept its traditional lifestyle.

 

In the Soviet era ever more new ethnic groups in the USSR were drawn into the modernization process. Even so, a kind of ethnic division of labor nevertheless continued to function in many places. During the period of the first two five-year plans in the 1930s, in particular, when the country underwent headlong industrialization, veritable torrents of Russian migrants flooded the non-Russian republics. Between 1926 and 1939 the number of Russians living outside of the RSFSR rose from 5.1 millions to 9.3 millions, almost a doubling in 13 years.[2]

 

Some of these Russian migrants, no doubt, returned to the Russian core area after a while, but many of them remained, got married in their new place of residence, raised children who felt at home there, and generally settled down. By the time of the last Soviet census in 1989 the size of this Russian “diaspora” had reached 25 millions, or approximately 17 percent of all Russians in the Soviet Union. And then, when the Soviet unitary state collapsed, these people were no longer an “internal,” but an external diaspora.[3]

 

On numerous occasions Russian politicians have pointed to the existence of these 25 million Russians as a source of great concern. Indeed, taken together they represent by far the largest minority created by the break-up of the Soviet Union. Given the fact that they enjoy the express backing of the most powerful post-Soviet state, Russia, they are also politically the most important group. It is not, however, a foregone conclusion that the Russian diaspora issue will necessarily lead to political pandemonium. Whether or not this will happen primarily depends on three factors: the attitudes and actions of the state authorities and titular nations in the new states, the political course taken by the Russian Federation, and finally, the behavior of the Russian minorities themselves. These three variables interact with each other, and may lead to either integration or alienation of the Russians in their new homelands.[4]

 

Political leaders in Russia are often accused of exploiting the Russian diaspora issue for ulterior purposes.[5] In Moscow, on the other hand, assertions are heard that state leaders in the “near abroad” frequently flash the diaspora card in order to extort economic concessions from Russia. Whenever Russia demands that these states pay their substantial arrears for Russian oil and gas deliveries, their leaders complain that such demands will lead to economic hardships which, they claim, will hit the Russian minority particularly hard.[6]

 

In these exchanges of mutual recriminations the bone of contention, the Russian diaspora itself, is caught in the middle. These people have unwittingly become game pieces in a political chess game of influence and power in the former Soviet Union. But the Russian minority communities are not necessarily mute pawns to be kicked about willy-nilly. Many of them are well-educated people quite capable of articulating their own desiderata and of fighting for their realization.

 

How, then, are the Russian minorities being treated in the non-Russian Soviet successor states? Are they being defined as a part of the new nation, or are they seen as alien elements? Have the state authorities in the new non-Russian nation-states been willing to make any adjustments or concessions in their policy towards the Russian diaspora? What are Russia's interests and priorities on the diaspora issue? May the notion that these people constitute a kind of Russian diaspora in itself complicate the national consolidation of the neighboring countries? And finally: to what extent are the local Russians themselves satisfied/dissatisfied with their new status as national minorities in their respective countries of residence? Do they want to be included in the ongoing nation-building projects, or would they prefer to stay on the sidelines?

 

{A}Not one diaspora, but fourteen{/A}

 

The new Russian diaspora communities are far from homogeneous. Any talk of “a” or “the” new Russian diaspora in the singular is highly misleading. It would probably be more fruitful to see them as 14 different diasporas, each with their own peculiar characteristics. The qualities of each community are influenced by many different factors, such as their size (absolute, and relative to the total population in the state), ethnic cohesion, social composition, cultural distinctiveness (the cultural contrast to the dominant ethnic environment), the compactness of their settlements, and rootedness in the area.[7]

 

For the sake of convenience, the homelands of the Russian diaspora communities may be divided into five categories: the Slavic states, the Baltics, Moldova, Transcaucasia, Southwestern Central Asia, and Northeastern Central Asia (Kazakhstan–Kyrgyzstan). Some 12.5 million diaspora Russians, or roughly half of the total, are living in the Slavic states of Ukraine and Belarus (see Table 5.1). In this region the cultural distance between the Russians and the titular nations is very short. With the partial exception of Western Ukraine, hardly any Russians here have a feeling of living in an alien cultural milieu at all.[8] In such a situation, serious ethnic conflicts are not likely to arise.

 

Table 5.1 Russians In The Soviet Successor States, 1989

 

 

Republic

 

In thousands

In percentage of total pop. in rep.

In percentage of non-titular pop. in rep.

Percentage of Russians living in urban settlements

Russia

119866

81.5

77

Estonia

475

30.3

78.8

92

Latvia

906

34.0

70.7

85

Lithuania

344

9.4

45.8

90

Belarus

1342

13.2

59.5

87

Moldova

562

13.0

36.4

86

Ukraine

11356

22.1

80.8

88

Georgia

341

6.3

21.1

86

Armenia

52

1.6

23.0

85

Azerbaijan

392

5.6

32.2

95

Turkmenistan

334

9.5

33.7

97

Tajikistan

388

7.6

20.2

94

Uzbekistan

1653

8.3

29.1

95

Kyrgyzstan

917

21.5

45.1

70

Kazakhstan

6228

37.8

62.6

77

Sources: Natsional’nyy sostav naseleniya SSSR (Moscow: Finansy i statistika, 1991); Yu.V. Arutyunyan, ed., Russkie. Etnosotsiologicheskie ocherki (Moscow: Nauka, 1992): 25.

 

 

In the Baltic states important parts of the indigenous population claim that a yawning chasm separates their own culture from Russian culture, while the Russians themselves more often underline the common elements of European-ness, Christian faith, etc. which unite them.[9] Since the incorporation of the Baltic states into the USSR during World War II the influx of Russians and other Russophones to the area has been dramatically steep. In the course of four decades, the share of the titular nation in the total population dropped from 90 percent to 60 percent in Estonia and from 75 percent to 52 percent in Latvia. Many Balts feel that this demographic development is undermining the very basis of their separate cultures, and are determined to roll back Russian influence. The Russians, however, are already so numerous and so entrenched in society that this is a formidable task which can be accomplished only by exceptional measures, if at all. Only in Lithuania is the share of the Russians so low (around 9 percent) that they are not perceived as a serious challenge by the titular nation.

 

Moldova is one of very few former Soviet republics where Russians do not constitute the largest ethnic minority. At approximately 13 percent of the population, they are slightly outnumbered by Ukrainians (14 percent). In many parts of the FSU the majority of the Ukrainians are so linguistically and culturally Russified that it would make little sense to treat them as a separate category. While this may be true to some extent in Moldova as well, relatively many Ukrainians in this country have nevertheless retained an identity of their own, by dint of their high numbers and the proximity to the Ukrainian state.

 

In the secessionist Dniester republic in the eastern part of Moldova the share of the ethnic Russians is larger than in the country as a whole, 24 percent, but even here they constitute only the third largest ethnic group, after the Moldovans (40 percent) and the Ukrainians (26 percent). It is therefore highly misleading to speak about the Dniester population as “the Russians.” And as a matter of fact, far more Russians in Moldova live to the west of the Dniester than to the east--400,000 as against 160,000.

 

In Transcaucasia and the southern tier of Central Asia, Russian demographic penetration has historically been weak. In the 1989 census the Russian share of the total population in all of these republics was below 10 percent (in Armenia as low as 1.6 percent); since that time, Russian communities in much of the region have been further depleted by out-migration. The Russian populace has been almost exclusively clustered in the larger towns and cities, particularly in the capitals, while the countryside has been dominated by the locals. The cultural contrast between the Russians and the indigenous population is significant.

 

In Kazakhstan and to some degree also in Kyrgyzstan the ethno-demographic situation is rather different from other parts of Central Asia. On the Kazakh steppe and in the Kyrgyz valleys, Russian peasants have been tilling the soil for generations. These are the only republics where rural dwellers make up substantial parts of the local Russian groups (23 percent and 30 percent, respectively). At the same time, the Russian presence in urban areas is also very large. The one million Russophones in Kyrgyzstan make up 23 percent of the total population, while the 7.8 million Russophones in Kazakhstan constitute 47 percent. The vast majority of Kazakhstani Russians live in the northernmost parts of the country.

 

While there are large varieties among the various Russian diaspora communities there are also of course significant differences within each group. As pointed out above, some members of these communities have been living outside the ethnic Russian core area for generations, whereas others are recent immigrants. These newcomers are typically less able, or willing, to adapt to the alien ethnic environment. Their command of the titular language is usually poorer. The language proficiency among the Russian diasporians is also influenced by such factors as the complexity of the various languages and the number of native speakers they meet in daily life, but even more, it seems, by such intangibles as the “prestige” the various languages carry.[10] In the Soviet Union, European languages with long literary traditions obviously had higher status than Asian languages with recently established literary standards. Thus, for example, in the 1989 census 37 percent of Russians in Lithuania said that they were fluent in Lithuanian, whereas only 2.3 percent of Russians in Turkmenistan claimed fluency in Turkmen, even though the Russian share of the total population in the two republics was the same (9.5 percent).

 

{B}Language, culture and education{/B}

 

All over the former Soviet Union, language disputes have been in the forefront of the ethnic controversies. In 1988–1991 practically all non-Russian Soviet successor states proclaimed the language of the titular nationality as the official state language. Most of them also passed timetables for the gradual expansion of the use of this language in official administration and education at the expense of Russian. There are, however, enormous differences in the vigor with which these language policies are being pursued, and also as regards the consequences that implementation will have for the Russian populace. In countries where the Russians constitute small minorities, such as in Lithuania and Transcaucasia, the Russian language will most likely not be able to hold its position under any circumstances. Here, the Russians will inevitably have to learn the new state language, lest they should be confined to a cultural ghetto. In Central Asia the situation is somewhat different. Since the indigenous languages lack terminology for many modern items and concepts, Russian is being employed in many capacities also by the indigenous populations themselves. It has therefore been speculated that Russian will be retained as a lingua franca, as has the erstwhile colonial language in many former English and French colonies.[11]

 

In countries where the Russians comprise very large minorities the Russian language may be able to hold the ground even if it is denied any official status. It is being supported by Russian cultural facilities such as television, radio, newspapers, etc., which are fully able to compete with the corresponding media of the local cultures. In Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, not only Russians but also many members of the titular population often turn to Russian-language media for information. (Almost the entire educated public in the former Soviet Union is well versed in Russian.) The largest television channel by far in the former Soviet Union is ORT (formerly “Ostankino”) in Moscow, which continues to function as a Russian-language CIS-wide network as it did in Soviet times.

 

In Latvia and Estonia, the Russophones are numerous enough to be able to form self-contained Russian-language communities. It order to prevent this from happening, the authorities in both countries have passed exacting language laws.[12] Non-speakers of the state language who fail to pass specified language tests risk being fired from, or not being hired to, jobs for which they are otherwise qualified.

 

In a few countries--in Kazakhstan, Moldova and Ukraine--Russian has been granted an official status as “language of inter-ethnic communication” in the constitution and/or in the language law. It is far from clear, however what this actually implies in practical terms. Certainly, whenever two persons of different nationalities meet on the street, they will converse in the language which is most convenient to them, without regard for legal regulations.

 

In most new states, the number of Russian-medium schools is steadily decreasing. To some extent this is a natural process, reflecting the priorities of the parents. In Soviet time many non-Russians sent their children to Russian schools since fluency in that language opened the gates to a career in society. In most of the new states this has changed, and today social advancement is often linked to proficiency in the new state language. However, Russians frequently complain that Russian-medium schools now have to run day-and-night shifts with overfilled classes. To the degree that this is really the case, Russian-medium schools are clearly being closed down faster than their pupils are abandoning them.

 

In Ukraine and Lithuania the language laws stipulate that the language of a minority group may be used in an official capacity in areas where the minority is living in compact settlements. [13] In Lithuania there are few compact Russian settlements, but in Ukraine the Russophone regions to the east and to the south do in fact conduct almost all official business in Russian.

 

{B}Citizenship and political representation{/B}

 

In the new states in Eurasia, with two exceptions, the Russians and all other ethnic minorities have been granted automatic citizenship rights. The exceptions are Estonia and Latvia, which regard only citizens of interwar Estonia/Latvia and their descendants as the original body politic. All other permanent citizens must apply for citizenship on a par with recent immigrants, and must fulfill relatively stringent criteria as regards residence, proficiency in the state language, etc. The official reason for these decisions is legal and constitutional: the Baltic states were occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940; all those who have settled in the country since that time are in principle illegal immigrants.

 

The legal aspects of these conflicts are highly complex. Many Western experts and international lawyers point out that the Russians moved to the Baltic states in good faith, not crossing any international borders, in search of a livelihood.[14] Nevertheless, the principles upon which the Latvian and Estonian citizenship policy is based have largely been recognized by the international community, although some international organizations and human rights NGOs have been strongly critical of particular aspects.[15] In any case, there can be no doubt that the underlying motivation behind the inflexible Latvian and Estonian position on the citizenship issue is a deep-felt concern about the countries' ethno-demographic make-up: the citizenship laws are intended to safeguard the indigenous culture by marginalizing the Russophones politically. And it seems to be working. In the Estonian parliament which was elected in September 1992, 100 percent of the MPs were ethnic Estonians.

 

While non-citizens in Estonia and Latvia are being denied basic political rights, it is often pointed out that these countries adhere more closely to international standards of human rights than do the authorities in most other Soviet successor states. It is, however, very difficult to draw a definite dividing line between political and human rights. In both Estonia and Latvia, Russian non-citizens are certainly deprived of more than just the right to vote or stand for election in national elections--for instance, they are denied the right to hold certain positions and conduct certain kinds of business.[16]

 

It is important to note that in some states where the Russians do enjoy full voting rights they are not automatically guaranteed political representation in proportion to their share of the total population. In many new states, the titular nationality is to an increasing degree monopolizing political positions and top administrative jobs. This tendency is most pronounced in Central Asia and reflects the traditional clan structure of these societies.[17] Access to power is gained through tightly knit kinship networks from which Europeans are excluded. These traditional network were not disrupted under the Soviet system: on the contrary, in may places they thrived and blossomed. The Brezhnev regime largely accepted that political power in the Asian republics remained concentrated in the hands of the titular nationality, as long as the local leadership did not challenge the power structures in Moscow.[18]

 

Obviously, if both cultural groups in a bicultural society vote more or less en bloc for their own candidates, this voting pattern will secure a solid overrepresentation of the largest group in all elected organs.[19] Any such tendencies will be further reinforced by the introduction of a majoritarian rather than a proportional system, as is the case in most former Soviet republics. In addition, there are strong indications that correct election procedures are frequently violated. The Kazakhstani electoral commissions tend to strike from the local ballots any potential candidates who represent the interests of the Slavic community, particularly if they lean towards Russian nationalist positions.[20] Elsewhere in Central Asia, as in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, political elections today are just as pro forma as they were in Soviet times.

 

On the basis of the citizenship laws alone it might seem that the preconditions for political participation of the minorities should be better in Central Asia than in the Baltics, but things may develop differently. Political democracy in Estonia and Latvia is indeed limited to one part of population only--the citizens--but within these narrow confines it functions more or less in accordance with generally accepted norms. Requirements for naturalization are stringent, but they nevertheless allow for the gradual inclusion of non-citizens into the body politic over the next decades. Since the official rules are being followed, the minorities have an incentive to make use of the possibilities for political participation which are opened up to them. The Estonian national elections in 1995 saw the number Russophone MPs increase from zero to seven. As new generations of non-citizens become naturalized over the next decades, this figure may continue to rise. In local elections in Estonia (but not in Latvia) also permanent residents without citizenship are allowed to vote. In the 1993 local Estonian elections, minorities turned up at the polls in greater numbers than did the Estonians. In the 1998 Saeima the non-titulars for the first time achieved a representation more or less in accordance with the shares of the total population: 10 Russians, 4 Poles, 2 Jews, 1 Lithuanian, 1 Livian, and  1 Roma.

 

 

{B}Employment, Promotion And Economy{/B}

 

In most non-Russian Soviet successor states, Russians are overrepresented in the intelligentsia, particularly in the technical intelligentsia.[21] They often occupy leading positions in the economy--not necessarily due to any ethnically motivated recruitment policy in Soviet times, but by dint of their high qualifications. In the cultural and political fields, however, Russians were clearly underrepresented already in the Brezhnev era, and this tendency has been further strengthened in recent years. In many new states, particularly in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, Russians are gradually being squeezed out of technical professions as well. The Russians seem to resent this kind of discrimination more than political marginalization, as it hits them where it hurts most--in professional opportunities, income levels, and standards of living.

 

Also in the Baltics the “locals” are gradually monopolizing entire sectors of the labor market, particularly jobs in the state bureaucracy. In these countries, however, the effects of this tendency as concerns the employment of Russians are to some extent being offset by the new opportunities opening up in the private business sector. Indeed, the Russians are believed to be in the forefront among the new entrepreneurs in the budding market economy,[22] partly, perhaps, as a result of their marginalization in other fields.

 

On the other hand, Russians have also been greatly overrepresented in heavy industry formerly controlled by the all-Union ministries. This industry suffered a severe crunch when the economic ties among the Soviet republics were broken. Typical recession areas are the heavily Russian-populated eastern part of Estonia and the Russophone Donbass area in Ukraine. In these regions, ethnic controversies have been strongly intertwined with the economic issue. However, the economic misery of the local Russians should not necessarily be seen as a result of any deliberate anti-Russian policy on the part of the state, but more often as an unfortunate side-effect of its economic policy.

 

{B}Street-level discrimination{/B}

 

In many of the new states serious ethnic pogroms have been reported over the last ten years. With one or two exceptions, however, the ethnic frenzy has been directed not against the Russians, but against smaller underdog groups without deep historical roots in the area--Armenians, Meskhetian Turks, etc.[23] In Tajikistan and Azerbaijan, full-scale ethnic warfare has also broken out within and among indigenous ethnic groups. While the Russians are not directly involved in this violence, their houses and property have often been destroyed by it, as well as their faith in the future. As a result, all over the Asian parts of the former Soviet Union the Russian communities have been drastically reduced of the last years through massive out-migration.[24]

 

Also when no blood is shed, many Russians fear the local mobs. While it is difficult to assess the validity and gravity of the reported cases of anti-Russian popular harassment, ethnic tension is clearly on the rise in many places. In Kyrgyzstan the situation has been aggravated by the decision to abolish the Soviet propiska system, which under Communism made it very difficult to change one's place of residence without official permission. As a result of the new freedom, thousands of jobless Kyrgyz youths have been descending on the capital--blaming the Russians when, as often happens, they fail to find employment there as well.

 

{A}Russia’s Policy On The Diaspora Issue{/A}

 

The 1993 Russian constitution gives all former Soviet citizens the right to take up Russian citizenship even while they continue to live in one of the other successor states.[25] This right was originally set to expire on February 1, 1995, but has since been extended several times. As of June 1993 approximately 1 percent of all diaspora Russians--200,000--had procured Russian passports.[26]  Latvia and (especially) Estonia have disproportionately many citizens of Russia in their population--hardly surprising, as it is so difficult for postwar immigrants to these countries to acquire Estonian, or Latvian, citizenship. If the alternative is statelessness, many local Russophones prefer Russian citizenship. As of March 1997 no less than 120,000 Russians in Estonia--out of a total of half a million--had taken up Russian citizenship.[27] These people are entitled to vote in Russian elections and many of those who have done so (actually not so many) have preferred anti-liberal parties. In 1993 a majority of them supported Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, while the Russian Communist party was the preferred party of Russian citizens in Estonia and Latvia in the Russian parliamentary election in December 1995.

 

By dint of their choice of citizenship these Russians are defined out of the Estonian, respectively Latvian, nation-building project and are instead included in the Russian one. Many Baltic politicians have indicated that this is the best possible solution to a difficult problem: as these Russians hold such extremist political views, it would have been impossible to integrate them into the Estonian/Latvian nation in any case. However, it may be argued that the causation here actually runs in the opposite direction: in many cases the Russians in Estonia and Latvia may instead have been pushed into the embrace of Russian imperialists and nationalists by the exclusivist tendency in Estonian and Latvian nation-building. A Danish political scientist, Mette Skak, believes that the Estonian and Latvian authorities, with their restrictive citizenship policies, have been “shooting themselves in the foot.”[28]

 

The Russian Constitution proclaims that Russian citizens abroad are to enjoy the protection and patronage of the Russian state.[29] In reality, in its policy towards the new Russian diaspora the Russian authorities make few distinctions between those Russians abroad who hold Russian passports and those who do not. They believe that they have a responsibility to offer protection to everyone who in some sense or another feels attached to Russia through cultural identification, birth or ethnicity. It has been extremely difficult, however, for these authorities to find unambiguous and clear criteria by which to delimit the diaspora population. This is reflected in a very vacillating terminology. Russian state authorities try as much as possible to avoid the expression “Russian (russkaya) diaspora.” This term might easily be regarded as an expression of Russian ethnocentric nationalism and as discrimination against members of other ethnic groups in the FSU area whose “historical homelands” today are a part of the Russian Federation, such as for instance Tatars and Bashkirs.

 

At times Yeltsin and his staff have ended up with a hybrid expression: “ethnic rossiyane,” which literally would mean “ethnic citizens of Russia.” This term includes both an ethnic and a territorial aspect. The most common word, however, is “sootechestvenniki” –“compatriots” or “fellow countrymen.” A law on “The state policy of the Russian Federation with regard to sootechestvenniki. living abroad” includes in its definition of sootechestvenniki   “all citizens of the U.S.S.R. who live in states which at one time were part of the U.S.S.R., whether or not they have  citizenship in this state or are stateless persons.”  The law further includes all descendants of these former Soviet citizens, with the exception of  those who belong to the titular nation in the state they are living.[30] This is a very broad definition indeed, and is  based on the idea that Russia is the continuator state of the U.S.S.R. (see chapter 10).

 

Policy towards these “sootechestvenniki” soon after 1991 became an important topic in Russian politics. [31] Politicians on the extreme right and extreme left issued thinly veiled threats to state leaders in the other Soviet successor states who dared to discriminate against the Russian part of their populations. The right to decide what amounted to discrimination they reserved for themselves. A special organization, the Congress of Russian Communities (KRO), was established in Moscow as a diaspora pressure group; it soon adopted a maximalist line.[32]

 

In the first few years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Foreign Ministry was primarily interested in integrating Russia into international and Western organizational structures. Relations with the other former Soviet republics were relegated to the back burner. To the extent that Russian authorities tried to influence the minority policy of the neighboring countries they preferred to do so through the mediation of international organizations such as the UN, OSCE or the Baltic Sea Council.

 

Even so, already in 1990–91 the Yeltsin Administration had taken several important steps to ensure that the rights of the Russians in the former Soviet republics would not be trampled upon, should the unitary Soviet state disintegrate. In January 1991, while Soviet tanks were wreaking havoc in Vilnius and Riga, President Yeltsin hastily convened a meeting with the presidents of Latvia and Estonia in Tallinn, and signed bilateral agreements with these two countries. This act demonstrated active and vital Russian support to the Baltic independence struggle at a critical moment. These agreements stipulated, inter alia, that the Baltic Russians should be allowed to choose freely which state they wanted to be citizen of. Subsequent Estonian and Latvian citizenship legislation has ignored if not the letter, then certainly the spirit of these agreements, even though they were immediately ratified by the Estonian and Latvian parliaments.[33] The Estonian–Russian agreement was ratified by Russia in 1992 but the Latvian–Russian agreement  never acquired legal force as it was not ratified by the Russian Supreme Soviet.

 

Estonian and Latvian citizenship legislation was one important factor which contributed to a hardening of the official Russian attitude on the diaspora issue. Another was the Moldovan civil war in the summer of 1992 (see chapter 7). By the autumn of 1992, Russia was increasingly seeking to influence internal political developments in the so-called “near abroad” through bilateral pressure.

 

Some elements of the hard-line rhetoric of Russian nationalists on the issue were now adopted by more moderate politicians. In a much-publicized memorandum authored by the deputy director of the Institute of Europe in the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1992 suggested that Russia ought to make full use of the circumstance that millions of Russians live on the territory of the neighboring state in order to promote Russia’s interests vis-à-vis these states.[34] Several centrally placed politicians in the executive branch, among them Presidential Advisor Sergey Stankevich and Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy, were regarded as “statists.” Stankevich openly accused the Foreign Ministry of passivity and compliance on the diaspora issue.[35]

 

Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev was pressured to adopt an increasingly menacing rhetoric. In a well-known statement in April 1995 he did not exclude the possibility of using military force to protect Russians in the near abroad,[36] a statement which was received with consternation in the neighboring countries.[37] When Yevgeniy Primakov replaced Kozyrev as Foreign Minister in December 1995 this new assertive policy line was basically retained. However, the bellicosity of Russian policy towards the former Soviet republics on issues related to the diaspora has usually been restricted to the verbal level. Russia has no doubt had the necessary means to exert much harsher pressure on its neighbors than the country has in fact done. Several scholars regard moderation as a key characteristic of Russian diaspora politics.[38]

 

Russian military units have indeed been actively involved in several conflicts in the post-Soviet Eurasian space. Often this has been seen as evidence of the destabilizing potential of the Russian diaspora issue in Russian politics.[39] However, most of these interventions have taken place in areas where relatively few Russians are living, such as in Abkhazia and Tajikistan, and interests other than diaspora protection seem to have been at stake for Russia, primarily related to economy and state security.[40]

 

An important document, “The main directions of the state policy of the Russian Federation towards compatriots living abroad,” was adopted by the Russian government in August 1994.[41] A priority objective of the Russian government, according to this document, is to prevent a mass influx of compatriots from the near abroad to Russia since this, it is believed, may have a disruptive effect on the Russian economy, as well as being most painful to the migrants themselves. In order to achieve this goal, Russia will do its utmost to promote the voluntary integration of these compatriots into the political, social and economic life of the newly independent states. Russians ought to adapt to the local culture while retaining their specific cultural identity, the Russian government stated. While this programme, one would assume, ought to be compatible with the minority policy pursued by most Soviet successor states, the Russian authorities apparently have doubts about the willingness of the other states to work together towards this goal. The iron fist in the silk glove is revealed in the following sentence: “Questions of financial, economic, social and military-political cooperation between Russia and the individual states will be linked to the concrete policy they pursue regarding the rights and interests of Russians (rossiyane) living on their territory.” However, the document goes on to assert that harsh measures against delinquent states “will be executed only after a serious situational analysis, taking into consideration the interests of the people which they are intended to defend.”

 

There is indeed broad consensus among Russian politicians across ideological dividing lines that Russia has a moral obligation and a political right to protect all ethnic Russians and other Russophones in the near abroad whenever their rights are violated. There is also a strong general feeling that these rights are frequently not respected. Disagreements among various Russian politicians primarily concern the means which could and should be employed. Whereas liberals advocate diplomatic pressure and multilateral initiatives coordinated through international organizations, hard-liners prefer direct unilateral actions such as economic sanctions and military coercion.

 

There is a certain tension between means and aims in Russian diaspora policy. The explicit readiness of the Russian state to stand as defender of the Russophone minorities in the neighboring states may well complicate the desired integration of these minorities into their new homelands. To the degree that Russia is becoming involved in the domestic affairs of the former Soviet republics, this involvement may--almost irrespective of motives and causes--induce local Russians to direct their loyalty and identity not towards their country of residence, but towards Russia.

 

 

 

{A}Reactions And Demands Of The Russian Minorities{/A}

 

To the Russians in the former Soviet republics the break-up of the unitary Soviet state entailed severe mental adjustments.[42] From being members of a majority culture in a superpower, they were practically overnight turned into national minorities in small nationalizing states. Those who have reacted to their ordeals and discomfort by migrating to Russia leave the arena of diaspora politics--and also the purview of this book. I will instead focus on those who remain.

 

Far from all who stay behind have been actively fighting for their group interests as Russians. Only a fraction have joined the various Russian cultural centers, societies, organizations, political parties, etc., which have sprung up after the fall of the Soviet Union.[43] In part this may be seen as a legacy of the Soviet era. Under Communism the Russians relied on the state structures to facilitate their social and cultural needs, and most people took them for granted. To be sure, the services offered by these structures were often very rudimentary, but independent social initiatives from below were ruled out under any circumstances. This situation certainly affected the attitudes of all ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, not only the Russians; even so, it is striking to what degree Armenian, German, Ukrainian, and other cultural centers got established long before the Russians began to organize. It seems clear that groups accustomed to a minority status have found it easier to adjust to the new political realities than the formerly dominant nation.

 

Many Russians evidently also fear that political mobilization under Russian banners may be counterproductive and trigger a backlash of aggressive nationalism among the locals. This sentiment is particularly strong in countries where the state authorities are seen as less nationalistic than the indigenous political opposition. In almost all states in Central Asia and Transcaucasia, a majority among the Russians regard the present regimes as a bulwark against Islamism and nationalism, and seem to have no intention of doing anything that could rock the boat of the often very authoritarian indigenous leaders.

 

Furthermore, the politically and socially active part of the Russian diaspora communities do not express identical demands. Very often, rival organizations have sprung up which are bitterly divided on basic issues. The major fault-lines here follow the same cleavages as Russian politics in Russia, with Russian “democrats” pitted against Russian “red-browns.” The anti-liberals in the new states often insist on forming “pure” Russian organizations, excluding other Russophone groups (such as for instance the Jews), while “democrats” are more in favor of broad alliances, including even members of the titular nationality who want to fight for human rights issues. Personal animosities among local Russian leaders can also lead to organizational fragmentation.

 

{B}Restitution And Secession{/B}

 

The red-brown solution to the Russian diaspora problem is usually a very simple one: life was much better in Soviet times, so the unitary state should be restored. That is why Russian anti-democrats, in Russia and in the other new states, often show scant enthusiasm for small incremental steps towards the improvement of their lot. They reason, logically enough, that if only the USSR could be re-established, there would no longer be any Russian diaspora problem.[44]

 

As an alternative to, or a first step towards, wholesale restitution of the USSR, the transfer of compact Russian territories to the Russian Federation is sometimes suggested. Such demands have been set forth by certain (often very small) groups in East Estonia, East Ukraine, North Kazakhstan, East Moldova and Crimea. Separatism, it should be noted, is not the exclusive slogan of reactionaries. In the Crimea the campaign for territorial transfer has been supported by groups that would loathe being grouped together with Communists or red-brown nationalists.

 

It goes without saying that restitution and separatism are anathema to the state authorities in all of the new states. Attempts to press for such demands are fraught with the threat of bloodshed and war, and could easily lead to the same spiral of violence as has harried former Yugoslavia. Many if not most of the other demands set forth by Russian activists in the Soviet successor states, on the other hand, may find their solution within the framework of the new state system. Roughly speaking, these demands may be divided into three categories: “favoritism,” “non-favoritism” and “bipolarism.” While the various demands listed below often contradict each other, they do not necessarily amount to inner inconsistencies in the political programmes of the Russian diaspora communities, since they usually are set forth by different groups in different situations.

 

{B}Favoritism{/B}

Some of the demands of the Russian diasporians involve various special rights in society. One such demand is territorial autonomy for certain Russian-dominated areas. In post-Soviet political discourse this demand is often--deliberately or unwittingly--confused with separatism; in principle, however, this is a very different matter, as it does not challenge the territorial and political integrity of the state.[45] Such autonomy schemes range from administrative autonomy with greater control of the local budget, via free economic zones, to political sovereignty within the framework of a federated or confederate state.

 

Other pleas for special treatment have been directed not towards the state authorities in the country of residence, but towards the Russian Federation. Russia is exhorted to grant a kind of “most favored status” to Russian businesses in the area, such as special customs tariffs on import and export, so as to help the Russian communities survive economically.[46] Any such positive discrimination of Russians in other states on the basis of ethnicity might easily them more vulnerable to negative discrimination from the side of the local population or state authorities, on the same basis.[47]  While Russia has not adopted any special trade regulations for the diaspora communities, the Law on soochestevenniki abroad does mention that the  Russian Federation will “encourage cooperation between Russian firms and firms in foreign firms in which the majority of the employees are soochestevenniki.[48]  Unless such encouragement is followed up by any financial stimuli, however, it is unlikely to have much effect.

 

{B}Non-favoritism{/B}

 

The most urgent and universal Russian appeal, however, is that no ethnic groups in the state should be given any kind of favored or privileged position. In official documents and practical politics, no distinctions should be made between the titular nationality and other ethnic groups.[49] All permanent residents, irrespective of ethnicity, should be recognized as making up “the Nation.” For instance, when the Ukrainian law on national minorities was under preparation in 1992, Russian activists insisted that the very term “national minorities” was inapplicable and harmful to Ukraine. All major ethnic groups in Ukraine should be considered as indigenous. The law should therefore simply be called the “Law on the peoples of Ukraine.”[50] During the same year Russians in Kyrgyzstan fought fiercely to have a reference to the ethnic Kyrgyz nation deleted from the preamble to the new constitution, arguing that such a reference would hamper the consolidation of a unified political nation, the People of Kyrgyzstan.[51]

 

While these particular campaigns in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan were unsuccessful, Ukraine nevertheless is one of the Soviet successor states where the ideal of a non-ethnic, civic nation-state has dominated the nation-building discourse. Developments in that direction may be registered elsewhere as well. For instance, in Moldova an exclusive and ethnic concept of the nation was discarded after the 1992 civil war, in an attempt to bring the Dniester separatists back into the fold.

 

 

{B}Bipolarity{/B}

 

 A fourth strand of Russian diaspora thinking involves what we could call bipolar models. Here the starting-point is that a number of the non-Russian Soviet successor states are, strictly speaking, bi-cultural rather than multicultural. The overwhelming majority of the population belong to one of two main linguistic cultures: the indigenous culture, or the Russophone culture. The cultural situation in such countries cannot be described as one big, indigenous monolith surrounded by a motley mosaic of minority cultures, the Russians point out. One of these non-titular cultures, the Russophone culture, is far more prominent than the others. If any languages are to enjoy a special status in the state, such a treatment ought to be accorded to both the titular language and to the most common non-titular language, Russian.

 

Most activists of the indigenous ethnic groups usually reject out of hand any demands for two official languages.[52] They point out that it will deprive the Russians of any incentive to learn the titular language, and will perpetuate the language situation that prevailed in the Soviet Union. It is in fact probably utopian to expect full reciprocal bilingualism, in which all members of society are fluent in both their mother tongue and in the language of the other cultural group. In many areas, however, the introduction of two state languages may lead to a situation in which most people in each language group have a passive command of the other tongue.[53] They are able to understand the language of their interlocutor even if they do not speak it. Such passive bilingualism can be said to exist among the three Scandinavian peoples, and mutatis mutandis could also probably function among the likewise similar Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian languages in Ukraine and Belarus.[54]

 

In Kazakhstan, where the population is not only ethnically but also geographically bifurcated, two state languages would in time probably lead to two distinct cultural zones: everyone living in the South--whether Kazakh or Russian--would have to know the Kazakh language, whereas all denizens of the North would necessarily be fluent in Russian.

 

In some cases, demands for Russian as an official language are being met. In an attempt to stem the out-migration of Russians from Kyrgyzstan, president Askar Akayev in June 1994 announced that Russian was henceforth to have the status of official language in regions predominantly populated by Russian-speakers, as well as in “vital areas of the national economy.” Following a referendum in Belarus in May 1995, Russian was introduced in that country as a state language on a par with Belarusian. In Estonia and Latvia, however, frequent amendments to the language laws tend to place increasingly stringent demands on the Russian populace to learn the titular language--fast and well.

 

In addition to two state languages, Russian diaspora activists also often demand the right to obtain two citizenships: citizenship of the Russian Federation and of the state of residence. Appeals for two state languages and dual citizenship are often pronounced in the same breath as twin issues,[55] but in reality they are qualitatively different. While the introduction of two state languages does not necessarily jeopardize the consolidation of a unified political nation, dual citizenship does. Dual citizenship may too easily imply divided allegiances. If dual citizenship should be granted to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Russians in the former Soviet republics, their political loyalty in a crisis situation would surely be open to question.

 

What the introduction of dual citizenship would mean in legal or actual terms is far from clear. Dozens of states in the world allow for dual citizenship, but the various schemes are often very different from each other.[56] The most liberal regimes will usually be found in states with a relatively homogeneous population at home and a large number of “ethnic brethren” abroad, as e.g. Hungary.[57] Most countries in the former Soviet Union have flatly rejected dual citizenship. A system of dual citizenship was, however, included in a bilateral treaty concluded between Russia and Turkmenistan in 1993. The Turkmen president Saparmurad Niyazov evidently believed that the (energy-based) economy of his country was strong enough, the number of Russians in Turkmenistan so small, and the distance to Russia so large that he would be able to withstand any Russian attempts to use this clause to turn his country into a Russian protectorate.

 

According to many observers, Belarus and Tajikistan, on the other hand, are already Russian protectorates to all intents and purposes. The present leadership in these countries favors tight integration with Russia, economically and otherwise, and would probably not have anything against a dual citizenship arrangement. However, A Russian-Tajikistani treaty on dual citizenship signed in 1995 was never ratified by the Russian Duma, and none of the Russian–Belarusian agreements concluded since 1995 include any practical provision for such a system. This may indicate that Russian authorities are perhaps not quite as interested in a dual citizenship regime as they profess to be.

 

Any agreement between two countries that gives to all citizens of both countries unlimited right to obtain dual citizenship may have detrimental economic and demographic consequences for the economically stronger country. Russia will probably try to avoid an agreement that could give all citizens of poor and war-torn Tajikistan an automatic right to move to Russia and search for jobs there. In the British Commonwealth a very liberal regime for migration between Commonwealth member countries led to a flooding of job-seeking immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s. Primarily for that reason this regime was scrapped in 1981.

 

A compromise solution on the dual citizenship issue which may possibly set a precedent for other bilateral arrangements is found in the Russian–Kazakhstani agreement concluded in January 1995. While not allowing for dual citizenship, it guarantees almost automatic citizenship in the new state of residence for persons moving from the one state to the other. Similar simplified citizenship procedures also govern Kyrgyzstani–Russian relations.

 

 

 

{A}The New Russian Diaspora Ð An Identity Of Its Own?{/A}

 

The degree to which the post-Soviet Russian minorities will be integrated in their new homelands is intimately linked to the question of what kind of collective identity/ies they will develop. In recent years many scholars have pointed out that the category “Russian” is very broad indeed.[58] The self-understanding the tsarist state was not based on cultural Russian-ness; indeed, according to many knowledgeable observers, the self-understanding of most Russians as well has historically been linked more to territory and state than to culture and ethnicity. One of the reasons for this is that pre-Revolutionary Russia never got a chance to develop into a nation-state, but passed directly from being a patchwork of small principalities in the 14th and 15th centuries, to becoming a multinational empire from the 16th century onward. As this state continued to expand it acquired more and more non-Russian subjects.

 

Historically speaking, the Russian nation has been very open to the assimilation of non-Russians. As long as they adopted the Orthodox faith and learnt the Russian language, members of other cultures were accepted as “Russians” without any reservations. Only towards the end of the 19th century did this inclusive attitude begin to change. As competition for prestigious jobs in the tsarist state apparatus and in commerce began to increase, “genuine” Russians tried to define their rivals on the job market out of the Nation. These were now branded as “aliens,” as Germans, Jews, Tatars, etc.--anything but Russians.[59]

 

While the Russian nation has thus traditionally been poorly demarcated vis-à-vis other ethnic groups, it is also characterized by rather strong cultural variations within.[60] Russians who live in the core area of Russian settlement--in Northwestern and Central Russia--meet with mostly fellow Russians in their daily life. By contrast, Russians in the outskirts of this area will much more often have contact with members of other ethnic groups as well. There has been some disagreement within the scholarly community as to the effects these contacts have had on Russian mentality and self-understanding. Some believe that such cross-cultural encounters have strengthened the ethnic identity of the periphery Russians since identity, as a rule, is developed through a process of contrast: “us” vs. “them.”[61] Russians living in the periphery of the Russian lands inevitably realize that their way of life is different from the lifestyle of other groups and will consequently develop a high degree of consciousness about their own ethnicity. Those Russians who are rarely exposed to other ethnic cultures, on the other hand, will have scant need to emphasize, and also few opportunities to discover, their  “Russian-ness.”

 

To be sure, a Russian--like any other individual--may develop a plethora of cultural identities besides the ethnic one. He may see himself as a Slav, European, Orthodox Christian, or as a “Soviet man,” depending on the context and the person in question. This individual may also be strongly attached to a particular town, region or neighborhood. A common Russian word for “home district” is “rodina,” a word which may also be translated as “Motherland” or “the country in which I am born.” Sometimes Russians will distinguish between the “Little rodina,” as a reference to the local or regional attachment, and “Greater rodina,” meaning the country.

 

Many diaspora Russians readily acknowledge that, while they continue to see themselves as distinctly Russian, their lifestyle and cultural preferences have been strongly influenced by the titular ethnic group in the country where they live. In countries where the cultural distance between the Russians and the titular nation is very narrow, as in Slavic and/or Orthodox regions, strict identity boundaries are difficult to maintain, whereas in areas where cultural contrasts between the Russians and the locals are more marked, the identity boundary will more easily be clearly demarcated. This is particularly true of the Muslim countries in the former Soviet Union. In these countries we find extremely few marriages among Russians and members of the titular population.

 

At the same time, in these bifurcated societies certain other ethno-cultural processes may often be observed. Individuals belonging to non-Russian minorities who live in the same areas as the diaspora Russians often adopt a distinctly Russian lifestyle and are frequently seen--by themselves and others--as a part of the “Russian” group. This is true not only of kindred groups such as Ukrainians and Belarusians, but also of many Germans, Poles, and Jews in the Soviet successor states. What pulls them towards the Russians is, on the one hand, an awareness of being somehow different from the country’s titular ethnic group, and, on the other hand, an attachment to the Russian language and to “Soviet” values.

 

“Soviet values” is admittedly a vague term, and necessarily so. Rather than involving adherence to Communist ideology, it is often linked to a nostalgia for what is perceived as having been a predictable, stable society. If the “New man” of Soviet propaganda ever existed, it was among these Russophone groups in the non-Russian republics. Life in the diaspora has functioned as a relentless melting pot in which particular ethnic cultures to a large degree are erased. This does not, however, mean that the non-Russians are absorbed into the Russian diaspora culture without leaving any trace. They contribute their shares to a common, distinct Russophone diaspora identity into which also the local Russians are socialized. These processes increase the cultural distance between the Russians in Russia and their co-ethnics in the other Soviet successor states.[62]

 

Quite a few of the Russians who have left Central Asia and “returned” to Russia--“returned” must be written in quotation marks since many of them had never actually lived in Russia before--complain that the reception they been given by the local Russians has been less than cordial. To their immense surprise they find themselves referred to as “the Tajiks,” “the Uzbeks,” etc., as if they belonged to the titular ethnic group in the country they just left. Put off by such labels, some of them retaliate by telling their new neighbors that Russians where they come from have a far higher ethical code than the Russians in Russia: they drink less, don’t beat their wives, and keep their marriage vows. It goes without saying that such altercations hardly contribute to good-neighborly relations between newcomers and old-timers in Russia.

 

In some cases, Russian refugees from Central Asia have after a while decided that they have had enough of life in Russia. In 1993 a spokesperson of the Russians of Kyrgyzstan wrote: “Many have already returned, at a considerable economic loss. It is indeed very difficult to adapt to new circumstances when you have a radically different mentality. More often than not those who think that they have arrived in their historical homeland, find that they are regarded as aliens.”[63]

 

In 1996 and 1997 I coordinated a research team which conducted large-scale surveys in Latvia and Kazakhstan.[64] We tried to find out what kind of cultural and political identities the Russians and other Russophone inhabitants in these two countries were developing. Our assumption was that if these identities are strongly linked to Russia, this will complicate their integration into their present country of residence. Conversely, to the extent that their identities draw strength from local sources, this will make it easier to include the Russians into the ongoing nation-building of Latvia and Kazakhstan, respectively (provided, of course, that this is what the political authorities in these two countries actually wanted to achieve).

 

The answers we got indicated that no uniform identity has crystallized among the Russophone in either country. We found that some Russophones are primarily oriented towards Russia, both politically and culturally, while others are more strongly attached to their present country of residence. In Kazakhstan, approximately 40 percent of the Russians indicated “Kazakhstan” as their homeland, while slightly more than a third still felt primarily attached to the USSR. (See Table 5.2.) Only 10–13 percent of the Russophones regarded “Russia” as their homeland. The latter, somewhat surprising, piece of evidence must be rather encouraging news for the Kazakhstani nation-builders.

 

TABLE 5.2 Which country do you regard as your homeland? Kazakhstan, percent

 

Russians

Ukrainians

Other European

Kazakhstan

39.9

27.7

32.3

USSR

35.7

45.8

32.3

Kazakh SSR

9.5

6.3

6.5

Russia

13.0

6.3

9.7

Another country

0.2

12.5

16.1

I have no homeland

1.5

Don’t know

0.2

2.1

3.2

N =

409

48

31

 

 

As time goes by and the Soviet era recedes into the past, probably fewer and fewer Russians in Kazakhstan will cling to the memory of the lost Soviet state. They will then most likely select either “Russia” or “Kazakhstan” as their new focus of country identification. Which of these options will they choose? Politically, the allegiance of Russians in Kazakhstan seems to have been moving away from this new state over the last years. True, while 5 percent of them in our survey indicated that they had earlier been opposed to the establishment of an independent Kazakhstani state but were now in favor of it, as much as 12 percent confided that they had previously supported Kazakhstani statehood, but had now turned against it.

 

TABLE 5.3. Which country do you regard as your homeland? Latvia, percent

 

Russians

Ukrainians

Belarusians

USSR

17.8

18.8

17.8

Latvian SSR

21.5

6.3

11.1

Latvia

41.1

12.5

37.8

Russia

11.4

6.3

2.2

Another state

1.0

50.0

17.8

I have no homeland

2.4

0.0

6.7

Don’t know

4.7

6.3

6.7

N =

297

16

43

 

In Latvia, considerably fewer Russophones in our survey clung to the Soviet Union as the “homeland” compared to Kazakhstan: less than 20 percent. At the same time their support for the new nation-state was more or less on the same level as in Kazakhstan: 40 percent, Once again we found that identification with Russia was low.

 

Next we asked our respondents whether they regarded the local Russians as being in any way different from Russians in Russia. In Kazakhstan the answers were evenly divided between “yes” and “no.” This was roughly true of all ethnic groups--Russians, non-Russian Europeans, and Kazakhs. (See Table 5.4.) When asked to flesh out what this difference consists in, respondents from all groups in Kazakhstan were inclined to invest the local Russians with more positive character traits than they were willing to give Russians credit for in general: The local Russians were regarded as more hospitable and industrious, more cultured and tolerant than Russians in Russia itself.

 

TABLE 5.4 Do Russians in Kazakhstan differ from Russians in Russia?

 

Kazakhs

Russians

Ukrainian

Germans

Other Europeans

yes, significantly

31.6

27.9

22.9

29.3

32.3

yes, somewhat

17.3

21.3

29.2

19.5

25.8

no different

26.9

33.0

25.0

19.5

25.8

Don’t know

24.2

17.8

22.9

31.7

16.1

N =

376

409

48

41

31

 

 In Latvia we found a much stronger tendency to see the local Russians as different from the core group of Russians than there was in Kazakhstan. Among all ethnic groups in Latvia, between 65 percent and 75 percent answered this question in the affirmative. (See Table 5.5.)

 

TABLE 5.5 Do Russians in Latvia differ from Russians in Russia?--Ethnic breakdown, percent

 

Latvians

Russians

Lithuanians

Ukrainians

Belarusians

significantly

35.2

41.6

34.8

25.0

24.4

somewhat

34.8

35.1

30.4

50.0

37.8

no

8.7

11.1

4.3

25.0

22.2

Don't know

21.3

12.2

30.4

0.0

15.6

N =

549

296

23

16

45

 

When we proceeded to ask respondents in Latvia what exactly this difference consisted in, we found much more disagreement than in Kazakhstan. Russians in Latvia and Russians in Kazakhstan have very similar self-perceptions: they all believe that they are a better lot than the Russians in Russia. However, few ethnic Latvians would agree on this. On the contrary, they gave Russians in Latvia a low score on “cultured” and a high score on “being easily drawn into conflicts.” The results of our surveys seemed to indicate that ethnic Kazakhs tend to welcome the local Russians into a common nation-building endeavor, while the ethnic Latvians to a much higher degree want to keep the Russians out.

 

***

 

During perestroyka non-Russians in the republics time and again mobilized hundreds of thousands of participants at demonstrations and other mass manifestations in the struggle for independence. The diaspora Russians have never been able to match this high level of activism--neither then, nor later. However, given the fact that these communities possess well-educated elites, their political torpor will not necessarily  last. It is of crucial importance that if and when the Russians in the near abroad shake off their lethargy, their activity can get channeled into constructive nation-building in their states of residence. And in order for this to happen, these Russians must feel convinced that they too have a role to play in the new states.



[1] Robert A. Lewis, Richard H. Rowland and Ralph Clem, Nationality and Population Change in Russia and the USSR (New York: Praeger, 1976): 202-214; Paul Kolstoe, Russians in the Former Soviet Republics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995): 13–70.

[2] Chauncy  D. Harris, “The New Russian Minorities: A Statistical Overview,”  Post-Soviet Geography 34, 1, 1993.

[3] By “diaspora” in this context is meant an ethnic group living outside the state which it regards, or is regarded, as its historical homeland.

[4] For a general treatment of this triangular relationship, see Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed. Nationhood and the national question in the New Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996): 55–78.

[5] See e.g. Andrew Maley, “Does Russia speak for the Baltic Russians?,”  The World Today 51, 1, 1995.

[6] See e.g. a statement of Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin in Izvestiya, November 16, 1993.

[7] For more details, see Kolstoe, Russians; and Pål  Kolstø, “The new Russian diaspora - an identity of its own? Possible identity trajectories for Russians in the former Soviet republics,”  Ethnic and Racial Studies 9, 3, 1996.

[8] Ian Bremmer, “The Politics of Ethnicity: Russians in the New Ukraine,”  Europe-Asia Studies 46, 2, 1994; Nadezhda Lebedeva, “Russkaya diaspora ili chast' russkogo naroda? (K problematike samoopredelieniya russkikh na Ukraine),” in V.I. Kozlov and E.A. Shervud (eds), Russkie v blizhnem zarubezh'e, (Moscow: Institut etnologii i antropologii, 1994).

[9] Anatol Lieven, The Baltic Revolution, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993): 175–80.  A survey conducted in 1993 showed that perceptions and attitudes among the Russians and the titular groups in the Baltic states were in fact surprisingly similar, indicating that the culture gap is smaller than many Balts are inclined to believe. See Richard Rose and William Maley, Nationalities in the Baltic States. A Survey Study (Glasgow: University of  Strathclyde, 1994): esp. iv–v.

[10] Aadne Aasland, “Russians outside Russia. The New Russian Diaspora,” in Graham Smith, ed., The Nationalities question  in the post-Soviet States (London: Longman, 1996): 483.

[11] William Fierman, “Problems of language implementation in Uzbekistan,”  Nationalities papers 23, 3, 1995: 591; author’s interviews in Tashkent and Bishkek, May 1993.

[12] Martin Malek, “Sprachenpolitik im Baltikum,”  Osteuropa 44, 10, 1994; Angelita Kamenska, The State Language in Latvia: Achievements, problems and prospects (Riga: Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies, 1995).

[13] Lithuania: “Decree on language,” adopted on January 25, 1989.

Ukraine:  “Zakon o yazykakh v Ukrainskoy SSR,” adopted on October 28, 1989. Vydomosti Verkhovnoy Radi Ukrainy, 1989, Law no. 631.

[14] Asbjørn Eide, Human Rights Aspects of the Citizenship Issues in Estonia and Latvia (London: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1992); New Citizenship Laws in the Republics of the Former Soviet Union,  Helsinki Watch, New York, April 15, 1992.

[15] Violations by the Latvian Department of Citizenship and Immigration  Helsinki Watch 5, 19, 1993;  Max van der Stoel, “Letter from the OSCE High Commissioner fon National Minorities to V. Birkavs, Minister of Foreign affairs of the Republic of Latvia,” October 28, 1996.

[16] Magda Opalski, Boris Tsilevich and Piotr Dutkiewicz, Ethnic Conflict in the Baltic States: The Case of Latvia (Kingston, Ontario: the Kashtan Press, 1994).

[17] Res publica (Bishkek), May 15, 1993, 3; Anatoly M. Khazanov, After the USSR. Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Politics in the Commowealth of Independent States (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995): 124ff.

[18] See e.g. Gerhard Simon, Nationalism and Policy Towards the Nationalities in the Soviet Union (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991); Victor Zaslavsky, “Nationalism and Democratic Transition in Postcommunist Societies,”  Dædalus 121, 2, 1992.

[19] Donald  L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985): 291–332.

[20] Robert J. Kaiser and Jeff Chinn, “Russian-Kazakh Relations in Kazakhstan,” Post-Soviet Geography  36,  5, 1995.

[21] Yu.V. Arutyunyan and L.M. Drobizheva, Russkie v raspadayushchemsya soyuze,”  Otechestvennaya istoriya, 3, 1992.

[22] Ilmars  Mezs, Edmunds Bunkse, and Kaspars Rasa, “The Ethno-Demographic Status of the Baltic States,”  GeoJournal  33, 1, 1994: 21.

[23] Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, The End of the Soviet Empire. The Triumph of the Nations (New York: BasicBooks, 1993).

[24] According to figures from the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), upwards of 2 million Russians left Central Asia between 1990 and 1997. See CIS Migration Report (1996) (Geneva: IOM International Organization for Migration, 1997).

[25] “Zakon O grazhdanstve,” Vedomosti sezda narodnykh deputatov Rossiyskoy Federatsii i Verkhovnogo Soveta  Rossiyskoy Federatsii, 6, 1992.

[26] Igor Zevelev, “Russia and the Russian Diasporas,”  Post-Soviet Affairs 12, 3, 1996: 272.

[27] Vello Pettai, “Political Stability Through Disenfrachisement,” Transition 3, 6 (April 4, 1997): 23.

[28] Mette Skak, “Ungarns and Ruslands politik over for hhv. den ungarske and den russiske diaspora in nabolandene,” in Jørgen Kühl, ed.,  Mindretalspolitik (København: Dansk Udenrigspolitisk Institut, 1996): 149.

[29] Konstitutsiya Rossiyskoy Federatsii, Moscow 1993, article 61, point. 2.

[30] Federal’nyy zakon o gosudarstvennoy politike Rossiyskoy Federatsii v otnoshenii sootechestvennikov za rubezhem, adopted on November 13, 1998.

[31] Kolstoe, Russians: 259-62.

[32] Krasnaya zvezda, October 16, 1992; “2nd World Congress of Russian Communities: Declaration of compatriots' rights,” Survey of Baltic and post-Soviet politics, Sakala centre, Tallinn, February 1994, pp. 18–22, article 7. 

[33] Eide, Human Rights Aspects.

[34] S.A. Karaganov, “Problemy zashchity interesov rossiysko orientirovannogo naseleniya v ‘blizhnem’ zarubezh’e,”  in Diplomaticheskiy vestnik 15, 11, 1992.

[35] Nezavisimaya gazeta, March 28,  1992.

[36] Delovoy mir, April 21, 1995.

[37] See e.g. Diena (Riga), May 18, 1995.

[38] Zevelev, “Russia and the Russian Diasporas”; Neil  J. Melvin, “The Russians: Diaspora and the End of Empire,” in Charles King and Neil J. Melvin, eds., Nations Abroad. Diaspora Politics and International Relations in the Former Soviet Union (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1998): 41.

[39] Anthony Hyman, Russians outside Russia,” The World Today,   49, 1993.

[40] Pavel Baev, The Russian Army in a Time of Troubles (London: Sage, 1996): 39–40  and 104–112.

[41] “Osnovnye napravleniya gosudarstvennoy politiki Rossiyskoy Federatsii v otnoshenii sootechestvennikov, prozhivayushchikh za rubezhem,” Postanovlenie Pravitel’stva Rossiyskoy Federatsii  August 31, 1994, no. 1064.

[42] Nadezhda Lebedeva, Novaya russkaya diaspora, Sotsial’no-psikhologicheskiy analiz (Moscow: Institut etnologii i antropologii, 1995); David D. Laitin, Identity in Formation. The Russian-Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad (Ithaca: Cornell University press, 1998).

[43] Natal’ya Kosmarskaya, “’Ya nikuda ne khochu uyezzhat’.’ Zhizn' v post-sovetskoy Kirgizii glazami russkikh,”  Vestnik Yevrazii, 1-2 (4-5), 1998: 95-97.

[44] “Second world congress: 19.

[45] Allen Buchanan, Secession. The Morality of Political Divorce from Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991): 18–22.

[46] Krasnaya zvezda,  October 16, 1992; “Second World Congress” 1994.

[47] Rossiyskaya gazeta, May  27, 1995.

[48] Federal’nyy zakon.

[49] Author's inteviews in Moldova in 1992 and in 1996, and in Kyrgyzstan in 1993.

[50] Vechernyaya Odessa, September 18, 1992.

[51] V.V. Vishnevskiy, President of the Slavonic Foundation of Kyrgyzstan, in Chuyskie izvestiya (Bishkek), May 1–7, 1993: 5.

[52] See e.g. statements by the chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament Committee on Questions of Culture and Religious Affairs, Mykhailo Kosiv, in Holos Ukrainy, September 16, 1994, and the chairman of the Kazakh language association “Kazak tili”, A. Kaydarov, in Kazakhstanskaya pravda, October 15, 1992. Kaidarov also wanted to have the reference to Russian as language of inter-ethnic communication removed from the Kazakhstani constitution.

[53] Vladimir Alpatov, “Yazyki v sovetskom i postsovetskom prostranstve,”  Svobodnaya mysl’, 4, 1995. In Russia, on the other hand, the Belarusian and Ukrainian minorities are already so linguistically Russified, and the Russians so reluctant to study the languages of their neighbours, that Russian will no doubt remain the sole language of communication.

[54] Dominique Arel, “Language politics in Independent Ukraine: Towards One or Two State Languages?,”  Nationalities Papers 23, 3, 1995: 603.

[55] See e.g. an appeal from the Slavonic Foundation in Kyrgyzstan to the Kyrgyzstani president, in Slavyanskie vesti (Bishkek) 1992, 9, (May): 2. and “Second World Congress” 1994.

[56]  I.P., Blishchenko, A.Kh. Abashidze and E.V. Martynenko, “Problemy gosudarstvennoy politiki rossiyskoy federatsii v otnoshenii k sootechestvennikam,”  Gosudarstvo i pravo 2, 1994.

[57] Inostranets, November 24, 1993; Khronid Lyubarskiy, “Grazhdane i ‘sootechestvenniki’,”  Novoe vremya, 5, 1993.

[58] Rogers Brubaker, “East European, Soviet, and post-Soviet nationalisms: a framework for analysis,”  Research on Democracy and Society,  1, 1993;  Melvin, “The Russians: Diaspora and the End of Empire.”

[59] Andreas Kappeler, Russland als Vielvölkerreich (Munich: Beck, 1992): 233–267.

[60] Yu.V. Arutyunyan, ed., Russkie. Etnosotsiologicheskie ocherki (Moscow: Nauka, 1992); Valery Tishkov, “What is Rossia? Prospects for Nation-Building,”  Security Dialogue 26, 1, 1995.

[61] See for instance the contributions of William Boris Kory and Robert Lewis in Edward Allworth, ed., Ethnic Russia in the USSR. The Dilemma of Dominance (New York: Pergamon, 1980). For a general theory of ethnicity that emphasizes the importance of contrast, see e.g. Thomas  Hylland Eriksen, Ethnicity & Nationalism. Anthropological perspectives (London: Pluto press, 1993): 18–35.

[62] David D. Laitin, “Identity in formation: the russian-speaking nationality in the post-Soviet diaspora,”  Archives européennes de sociologie 36, 2, 1995.

[63] V. Uleev, “‘Slavyanskaya diaspora’....,”  Res Publica (Bishkek), May 15, 1993.

[64] Pål  Kolstø,  ed., Nation-building and ethnic integration in post-Soviet societies. An investigation of Latvia and Kazakstan (Boulder, CO: Westview press, 1999).