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‘Russky’ And ‘Rossiisky’ Are ‘Identical,’ Russian Nationalist Argues


In a comment that will enflame passions among non-Russians living in the Russian Federation and annoy those in Moscow seeking to promote a supra-ethnic civic identity, Andrey Savelyev, the leader of the Great Russia Party, argues that there is no difference between the ethnic “Russky” and the ostensibly non-ethnic “Rossiisky.”

Responding to an article by Vyacheslav Nikonov on these two terms and the reasons they are not the same (, Savelyev, who is also a Moscow State professor, says there is nothing in the one that is not in the other and vice versa (

People like Nikonov, Savelyev continues, “who never occupied themselves with the question of Russian identity somehow are trying to promote themselves” as experts. “First they become leaders of a government financed structure and then they begin to thing that this structure must do something.”

“In fact,” Savelyev says, “an individual of Russian culture whatever his ethnic origin is called both in Russia and beyond its borders an [ethnic] Russian. This is the definition of Russianness. Russian identity is not only an origin from Russian parents; it is much wider than simply ethnic origin.”

“’To be born a Russia is too little: one must be one; one must become one,’” as Igor Severyanin wrote, Savelyev quotes with approval, addthing that “in this sense, the creation of a Russian man is the mastery of Russian culture.” And that puts paid to any idea that the ethnic and the non-ethnic terms are different in meaning.

“There is nothing [non-ethnically] Russian that is not [ethnically] Russian and vice versa,” Savelyev insists. And that is true even though on the territory of Russia “live other peoples” because all but a tiny minority of them know the Russian language and are part of Russian culture.

The fewer than five percent who don’t, Savelyev says, “undoubtedly are not [ethically] Russian or [nonethnically] Russian.” Instead, they are representatives of their own ethnos and nothing more than that.” If there is “nothing [ethnically] Russian” in their identities, then it follows that there is nothing non-ethnically Russian either.

The rights of these peoples should be respected, the Moscow State scholar says, but there is no reason to play games with Russianness as Nikonov “and other ‘Kremlin dreamers’” are inclined to do because they “do not understand that in so doing they are destroying any identity whatsoever.”

The only people who think that “Rossiisky” is separate from “Russky” are those who “are separating themselves from Russian history, fromt the Russian people, and,” Savelyev says, “in the final analysis from the Russian state.” That is because the state is “[ethnically]Russian; there is nothing there Tatar, nor Udmurt, nor Chechen, nor Yakut.”

Moreover, it is through this ethnic Russianness that Russians are connected with the broader European culture. “Small peoples, and except for the Russian, all the remaining peoples living in Russia are small must understand that they enter into world culture only by the mediation of Russian culture.”

In fact, Savelyev says, “to the extent that [these small peoples] are Russian, it is to that extent that they belong to all-human culture.” And if they refuse to be part of the Russian culture, then their fate will be to remain “in the framework of their ethnically archaic enclaves.” They have that choice, but it is not an attractive one, he implies.

It is of course possible, the Moscow State professor continues, that people like Nikonov want to form ust such a community of “[non-ethnic] Russians,” a community that “will consist of those intelligents like himself with advanced thought who donot understand the meaning of the word [ethnic] Russianorthe values of Russian culture and Russian identity.”

Nikonov and his like can “choose any identity they like” and rest assured that their “civil rights” will not be threatened in any way. But there is one thing that is obvious, he and his friends are not part of the “[ethnic] Russian world.” To that, Savelyev says, he and they have “no relations” whatsoever.

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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