National Developments – Russia Emphasis on Crimea, Russian Language, and National Security

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
Bill Bowring Birkbeck College, University of London, and a practising human rights barrister at Field Court Chambers, Gray’s Inn

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This report analyses the dramatic turn in the policy of the Russian Federation towards its minorities in 2015. In March 2014, the Kremlin created a new state agency, the Federal Agency for Affairs of Nationalities. This new Agency is headed by an FSB Colonel with combat experience in the North Caucasus, and no previous experience of work with minorities. There are three main manifestations of the new turn. First, there is an emphasis on protection of national security as the central aim of Russian nationalities policy, together with the strengthening of the state sovereignty and integrity of Russia. Second, there is the promotion of the Russian language, which is now seen to be in some ways under threat. And third, documents and speeches are replete with references to the ‘Rossiiskaya natsiya’ [‘Russian nation’], not to be confused with the ‘Russkiy narod’ [‘Russian people’]. This turn has been instituted against the background of a systematic ‘conservative turn’ by the Kremlin, with increasing obstacles placed in the way of all civil society organizations through the 2012 Foreign Agents Law, and the May 2015 Law on Undesirable Organizations. The ‘securitization’ of minorities policy in Russia and the appointment of FSB Colonel Barinov to lead the new direction of minorities policy in Russia will, as he has frankly stated, signify that preservation and promotion of cultural and in particular linguistic rights will be seen as threats to Russia’s continued existence.

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