Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia Needs Not Just a Nationalities Ministry but a Nationalities Chamber in the Parliament, Vormsbekher Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 12 – Because of the problems the Russian Federation faces with ethnic issues in the wake of the Crimean annexation, Gugo Vormsbekher, a Russian German commentator, says, Moscow needs to re-establish both a Ministry for Nationality Affairs and a Chamber of Nationalities as the third house of its parliament.


            In a 40-page paper, Vormsbekher says the annexation of Crimea and Vladimir Putin’s promise to rehabilitate repressed peoples there shows that Moscow must adopt institutional changes pointing the way to a very different future for the country’s non-Russians ( summarized at


                Moscow must recognize, he suggests, that “the nationality question in Russia in terms of its extent and significance is comparable to questions of economics and security. Would it be possible to guarantee the defense of the country without even having a ministry of defense?” The same is true of nationality issues.


The ministry of culture has a role to play, Vormsbekher acknowledges, but the nationality issue is much larger than just culture, and “today,” he argues, “it is time to approach it as to other issues of the existence of the state: that is, in a state manner.” That will involve at a minimum three steps.

            First, he says, Moscow must create a third house in the Russian parliament on the lines of the Council of Nationalities of Soviet times, “where all the peoples of the country not only will be represented but will be able to discuss and solve their problems together.” Such a move will eliminate “many tensions and breathe new life into nationality policy.”

            Second, Moscow must restore the Ministry for Nationality Affairs which will be given charge or and held responsible for “the national health of the peoples and the country. And third, Moscow must come up with a clearly defined nationality policy so that each people will know how it fits into the broader civic population.

            These three changes are needed, Vormsbekher says, so that “Russia will again be a prominent example in nationality policy, in the spirit of the Crimean spring and not in the spirit of the American ‘melting pot’” and will be able to fully rehabilitate all the punished peoples of the country as a whole.

            Justice requires that Moscow fully rehabilitate the Russian Germans who at present are the only punished people who have not been entirely rehabilitated, a step that would reflect the fact that they “did so much for the establishment of the Russian state.” Indeed, after the Russians, they did more than anyone else.

            Taking that step would not be hard: there are many ways to achieve it and Germany would certainly be interested in helping as would the CIS countries. Indeed, restoring a German autonomy could attract new and highly skilled workers to Russia. And Wormsbekher says, it should be done this year.

            In addition to all the other anniversaries being marked in 2014, this year, he points out, is the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the first German colonists in Russia.


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