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Non-territorial autonomy (NTA) has acquired a variety of meanings ranging from a vague principle (a ‘thin’ approach) to a distinct structural feature of an organization (a ‘thick’ approach). Almost all these interpretations rest on an uncritical reification of such notions as ‘group’ and ‘community’. It leads to an uncritical categorization as NTA of numerous different arrangements and practices, that duplicates the existing terminology and brings no added value to the study of these phenomena. Attempts to outline institutional settings for communal self-organization based on the same premises involve negligence of potential scenarios and outcomes. The author concludes that the interpretations of NTA based on groupist assumptions significantly limit analytic perspectives. Interpretations resting on a non-groupist approach can serve analytical purposes, but their application is optional and barely instrumental. Beyond this, NTA shall be regarded and studied as a category of practice and a matrix for framing diversity issues among policy-makers.

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
In: Law, Territory and Conflict Resolution


In this article, the author discusses the Russian experience in utilizing the no- tion of non-territorial, or 'national cultural', autonomy for the management of ethnic diversity. The term 'national-cultural autonomy' can be used to mean several things, including a right, a political principle, and a specific type of organization. The author assumes that such notions as autonomy, ethnicity, group, and culture should not be reified, and must be regarded as practical categories with shifting meanings and implications; he also emphasizes the need to distinguish between symbolic and instrumental law. The point of departure is the disjuncture between the high symbolic status and negligible instrumental value of national-cultural autonomy in Russia. The author provides an overview of the Russian legislation on nongovernmental organizations, of the 1996 Federal Law on National-Cultural Autonomy, and of other legislation incorporating the notion of national-cultural autonomy. He concludes that NCAs, which are legally defined as NGOs, face a number of disadvantages vis-à-vis other types of NGOs. National-cultural autonomy also should not be seen as a political tool, since no efforts have been made to implement the goals declared or implied in the law or in official statements. In the meantime, the idea of national-cultural autonomy is highly valued, and the number of NCAs in Russia has been growing over the years. The author concludes that the very issue of national-cultural autonomy in Russia should not be regarded in terms of the law and legal regulation; rather, it must be seen in terms of symbolism. The idea of national-cultural autonomy is a component of the Russian public consensus on the way ethnic diversity should be described and managed.

In: Review of Central and East European Law


The author seeks to analyze in what ways international law can justify or limit ethnicity-based non-territorial autonomy (NTA). NTA serves as a category of practice lacking a uniform understanding. NTA has gained two basic interpretations: as a collective entitlement to promote ethnicity, language and culture and as the idea of granting self-governing organisations certain public functions and resources. Some ‘soft law’ provisions explicitly employ the notion of non-territorial autonomy or self-administration; they are declaratory and far from being instrumentalised. Concurrently, there are more concrete and instrumental provisions as well as case-law which fit into the second understanding of NTA; but these approaches more restrictive than of the first cluster. This gap can be explained in terms of differences between symbolic and instrumental policies, through taking into account the ideological function of international law, or the function of generating non-controversial macro-narratives.

In: International Community Law Review
In: Security and Human Rights