Friday, January 12, 2018

Non-Russians Warn against Russian Exceptionalism Becoming State Policy

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 12 – The non-Russians of the Russian Federation have no problems if Russians think they are a great people with a special role in history, but they warn that the country’s territorial integrity will be at risk if the Russian government acts on that view in the legal field and threatens the rights that non-Russian peoples have.

            At the end of December, the Levada Center reported that 64 percent of the residents of the Russian Federation view the Russians as a great people, up from 13 percent who thought that in 1992 and more than twice the 32 percent who now view Russians as a people like any other (

            It is clear, Valery Dzutsati writes on the Kavkazr portal, that the view that the Russian people are exceptional and not like others is informed by ethnicity and is “a manifestation of national exclusiveness – that it is in fact not about the people or peoples of Russia but “precisely about the ethnic Russian people” (

            Eduard Urazayev, an observer for Ekho Moskvy, tells Dzutsati that no one is going to deny the special role of ethnic Russians in the history of the country, “but if the authorities begin to transfer this informal status into the political and legal fields and those attached to the Russian people be given certain privileges, then many questions will arise.”

            Valery Khataazhukov, a human rights activist from Kabardino-Balkaria, says he very much fears that support for the notion of “the exceptionalism of the Russian people in the Russian Federation will promote a state policy of reducing the status of national republics and the assimilation of national minorities.”

            “In words,” Vladimir Putin always stressed that “cultural multiplicity makes the country stronger.” But “at the same time and in fact,” his government has moved against the political autonomy of the non-Russian republics” and thus of the non-Russian peoples as such as in the case of his insistence that only Russian be a required language in the country.

            “The republics were established so that the national characteristics of the people would be defended at the state level … [but] if the republics do not have the right to decide on language issues independently, then why are they needed at all?” Khatazhukov asks rhetorically. And then he issues a warning.

            If Moscow does act against the republics confident that ethnic Russians see their exceptionalism as justifying special rights for themselves but not others, he says, then this will lead to “an intensification of the mobilization of the non-Russian peoples of the country” and the result of that could be “the latest partial disintegration” of the country. 

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