Russia: Protests Over Raising Retirement Age Could Take On Ethnic Dimension – OpEd


Vladimir Zorin, a former Russian minister for nationality affairs who now serves on the Presidential Council for Nationality Relations, says that he can’t exclude the possibility that demonstrations against gas price increases, the raising of the pension age or deceived debtors could take on an ethnic dimension and spark nationality conflicts.

Interviewed by Kommersant journalist Natalya Gorodetskaya for the Nazaccent portal, Zorin says that because of this risk, it is critical to prevent that from happening; and that Moscow is doing all it can to monitor the situation and intervene when necessary to block even the first signs of this (

He rejected Gorodetskaya’s statement that research by the Russian State Humanities University has shown that there are “strong anti-Russian attitudes” in certain regions like Sakha and the republics of the Middle Volga; but he acknowledged there are tensions about the assignment of cadres in those places and elsewhere.

With regard to the controversy about a bill that will make the study of all languages except Russian in Russia entirely voluntary, Zorin says it was important to pass it but also to create a foundation to support non-Russian languages. “The obligatory study of languages will not produce results either from the point of view of knowledge or from a political point of view.”

In general, he continues, “the situation [with regard to nationalities in Russia] is stable, predictable, and under control.” Xenophobia, Caucasusphobia and anti-Semitism are all in decline. And this is the result of “the existing adequate system of administering nationality policy.”

The fact that Vladimir Putin did not speak about it in his May decrees, Zorin continues, shows that he is pleased with the existing arrangements under which Sergey Kiriyenko, first deputy head of the Presidential Administration, and Magomedsalam Magomedov, a deputy head of the PA, have been directing policy in this area.

The immediate task before officials working in this area, he says, is the promotion of the development of a civic Russian nation according to the terms of the country’s Strategy for Nationality Policy. That requires updating and revision so that it can be presented to Putin in October.

At the same time, there need to be adopted laws about “the socio-cultural adaptation of immigrants, ethnographic evaluation of proposed laws, and professional standards for specialists working in nationality policy, he says, adding that he would like to see the restoration of a nationalities ministry to simplify management of this complex area.

As far as the appointment of Vitaly Mutko to supervise state policy on inter-ethnic relations, Zorin says he is looking forward to meeting Mutko but recognizes already that his appointment is logical because those working in sports as Mutko has are always involved in an internationalist environment.

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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