ISSN 2330-717X

Moscow Official Urges Dropping ‘Tolerance’ From Russia’s Nationality Policy – OpEd


Vitaly Suchkov, head of the Moscow city nationality policy department, told a Duma roundtable on Thursday that the new nationality policy document should drop any references to “tolerance” or “multi-culturalism,” both of which come from the West, and replace them with the Russian term “inter-ethnic concord.”

Doing so, he insisted, will allow the document to fit in more closely with Russian laws. In addition, he urged that the document be revised to stress that Moscow will be “defending the interests not only of national minorities but also of the majority,” the ethnic Russians (

That was hardly the only dissenting note sounded at this meeting. Gusen Shakhpazov, the head of the Lezgin Federation of National Cultural Autonomies said he was unpleasantly surprised that the term “’divide peoples’” had been dropped from the latest version of the document as had any reference to promoting non-Russian languages and cultures.

Participants from Tatarstan specifically complained about the document’s failure to devote more attention to issues of maintaining the country’s linguistic multiplicity. Others objected to provisions having to do with the non-Russian media and to any changes at all from the previous version of the nationality policy document.

The openness, even heatedness of the discussion, became possible for two reasons. On the one hand, the Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations pronounced itself unsatisfied with the document and called for a new draft by April 27 (

And on the other, Magomedsalam Magomedov, the deputy head of the Presidential Administration and former head of Daghestan, said that everyone should stop treating the draft as if it were a sacred text. This document, he declared, “is not the Bible and not the Koran” (

Clearly, the debate about this issue is heating up, a trend underscored by a meeting of the experts’ advisory council to the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs that took place on the same day as the Duma session (

It too was marked by dissent. Academician Valery Tishkov, the principal author of the new document, publicly complained that the Agency had pushed forward two draft laws without securing the preliminary agreement of the advisory council, a violation of the rules as established by the Agency and something he said he had complained about.

Others complained that the head of the Agency had not bothered to attend the advisory council’s meetings, but an aide to that official countered that the members of the council had been “insufficiently active” and only now were making their proposals and objections heard.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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