Russian nationalities divided into “state-forming”— and everyone else
One of the amendments to the Russian constitution proposes that “Russian is the language of the state-forming people.”
This proposal provoked a violent reaction in the national republics of Russia—Bashkortostan, Tatarstan and the republics of the North Caucasus, reports RFE/RL and Caucasian Knot.
The structure of the Russian Federation
The Russian Federation consists of 85 federal subjects, 26 of which are national republics. These subjects have two official state languages—Russian and the national language.
All the other subjects only have one official language—Russian.
The Constitution of Russia guarantees the equality of all those residing within the federation. Nationality is not reported on national documents.
What the amendment entails
“It means that we are reduced to the status of certain native peoples or Aboriginals, who are given their territories and folklore, but nothing more.
And the national republics were created in order to emphasize the political subjectivity of peoples, their special rights to self-determination and the guarantee on the part of the center that these rights would be respected.
The gradual departure from federalism over the past 20 years has been accompanied by these small symbolic steps that later turned into fundamental changes,” says Ilnar Garifullin, historian, political scientist, and expert on Bashkortostan and Tatarstan.
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Reactions to “state-forming people”
“The introduction of the concept of ‘state-forming people’ into the constitution is an alarming step in the country’s development,” says Samir Khotko, senior researcher at the Ethnology Department of the Adygea State Institute for Humanitarian Research:
“When we introduce the concept of ‘state-forming,’ segregation occurs. This is extremely undesirable for the legal development of the state.”
The following is a quote from the collective statement of the staff of the Kabardino-Balkarian Institute for Humanitarian Research:
“This attempt to establish a single ‘state-forming people’ of the Russian Federation is an unacceptable act, contrary to the spirit of federalism, the principles of human rights and freedoms, and the right of peoples to self-determination, which is cemented in the current legal foundation of the country. We affirm that all peoples of the Russian Federation, without exception, are state-forming.”
Director of the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography at the Dagestan Federal Research Center Makhach Musaev says:
“Some of the scientific community here in the republic believes that this new amendment to the constitution will not change our reality, but there are also people on the other end of the spectrum who believe that the introduction of this new norm will bring on violent Russification.”
Historian, political scientist, and expert on Bashkortostan and Tatarstan Ilnar Garifullin says:
“When a country is in a severe socio-economic crisis and elite groups are struggling for the remaining financial resources, such changes cause general unrest among all layers of society. Even for those in which feelings of national and religious affiliation lie dormant, when this social unrest occurs, they become an essential factor.”
The amendments to the Russian constitution will be subject to a popular vote, which is scheduled for April 22.