Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Draft Law on Russian Nation as Written Threatens Russia’s Future, Shevchenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – Because Academician Vitaly Tishkov hasn’t responded to his criticisms of the draft law on the Russian nation and because the Moscow media have dismissed them without detailing them, Maksim Shevchenko, a member of the Presidential Council that has been preparing them, has released an open letter outlining his objections and concerns.

            Having expressed his respect for the other members of the commission, including the chairman of the working group, Tishkov, and all their work on this project, the Russian journalist says the current draft law contains provisions which he believes are dangerous and that he cannot in good conscience accept (

            His main concern, Shevchenko says is with the language in the preamble which attributes to the Russian people, its culture and language a special unifying role as the historic foundation of the Russian state, a defining one in the affirmation of all-Russian self-consciousness (identity) and the strengthening of the unity of the multi-national Russian Federation.”

            Such language, which may be appropriate for a political speech, is not only completely inappropriate in a draft law but also “extremely dangerous” because when included there, it inserts “a mine under this very state, the bear of sovereignty and source of power in which, according to [the Constitution] is called ‘the multi-national people.’” 

            “I understand,” Shevchenko continues, this use of terminology “about the special role of the ethnic Russian people corresponds to the specific nature of the moment – rapprochement with China where in fact, the Han-Chinese are a state-forming people.”  But, he points out, “the Russian Federation isn’t a Han empire” that is supposed to absorb all others.

            Instead of being like the Chinese state, the commentator says, Russians are “rather the political and historical heirs of the mortal enemy of Great Han China, the Hun and Mongol empires which denied in both cases ethnic domination and introduced the term of political nation as the basis of statehood.”

            “Mongol is a political term,” Shevchenko argues. And evidence of that is that “the first Mongol take prisoner near Balaton by European knights was an Englishman who had joined the army of Batu Khan in Crimea and became ‘a Mongol’ after taking an oath.”  The Europeans were so horrified that they immediately killed him.

            These are not simply historical “details,” he continues. They matter in principle.  “All the peoples of the Russian Federation have made their particular contribution to the establishment and strengthening of Russian statehood. And separating out the ethnic Russian people as special will have in the future the most serious consequences.”

            In the event of a crisis, the other peoples of Russia will be inclined to blame the Russian people for any problems rather than accept common responsibility.  The issue of Russian language is different, however. “It is the main political language of Russia,” and it should be defined as such in the law.

            Shevchenko continues: “The essence of Russia and the Russian political nation is not to divide but to unite peoples. Not to set them at each other’s throats but to bring them together. Therefore, we are a federation and not the Heavenly Kingdom.”

            But “there is another detail [in the draft law Tishkov has promoted] which is striking,” Shevchenko says: “Peoples are nowhere named as the subject of nationality policy.”  That is either a mistake or something that has been overlooked and will be the subject of criticism as the measure goes forward.

            “We must think how to include the people (peoples) among the subjects of nationality policy in the Russian Federation and also, possibly, include those regions of the Russian Federation which have the status of nationality subjects.”  Failing to do so now will guarantee serious problems later.

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