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Russian Nation as Project

A thesis-paper was presented at a seminar on June 14, 2006. The commission on questions of globalization and a national strategy of developing took place in the Congress of the Peoples Deputies and was conducted by the subcommittee Russia in the global world order (geo-politic, institutional and valuable aspects).

Common images of the country and the nation are of significant importance for the structure of the national identity of citizens and also for the perception of the country externally in the world. It is difficult to distinguish these images both internally and externally: for instance, how do we think of ourselves and how does the rest of the world thinks of us. This may also work vice-versa: the external world has a different historical, geo-political or cultural image and implants this image on this or that country. As a result, this country starts to live up to the imposed image. More often, these processes coincide or compete with one another, and as a result they make up an image with all its nuances.

Usually, people have a positive image of themselves and do not put themselves below their neighbors and representatives of the rest of the world. All countries are aiming to create a positive image of themselves. This is necessary for the normal social-psychological health of the people, for ensuring loyalty and unity of the population, for favorable foreign contacts and for attracting money and tourists to the country. If the majority of the population does not have a similar and positive conception of the country and the state, then there is no nation. National identity is divided between the representation of the citizen in his or her country, its people and to the feelings towards their belongings. This is not less, but even more important for the state than protecting its borders, its constitution, its army or other institutions. States are created by people and they exist because each new generation of inhabitants share a common conception of the state and acknowledge it.

All this does not mean, that everyone without any exception should equally love the fatherland or to serve the people, but to carry out any kind of collectivist mission. Any human on Earth, including the Russian, was born to this world in order to execute his own social mission - to live a long life, give birth to children and to bring them up. Ethical and messianic installation (to serve the nations to protect their freedom, to repent or be proud, to carry the kindness to help people) - it is more likely for politicians to rally people to meetings or elections; for religious preachers to help people with questions of the value of life and death, for tutors teaching that a healthy egoism and personal prosperity does not do harm to others and that a person becoming familiar with norms of behavior is a responsible citizen. Those who write in scientific proceedings or appeals in meetings that a person is not giving birth for himself, but for the nation, and see in this the national idea of Russia, have themselves not lived by that principle. Only excited individuals or elaborate professionals and religious sermons think and live by the undergone immature and traumatized ideological influence, ready to clean Russia from strangers or to begin suicide bombings.

Without a positive image of the country and recognition of the necessity of the system, any government is possible. The system is primarily in relation to the way in which it is realized. That it is necessary to establish and recognize the system on behalf of the nation (furthermore universal and effective mechanisms of maintenance among the big human communities have not yet been thought about). The intellectual elite, together with authorities formulate the representation of the people who live in the state and to whom the state belongs. This can only be multi-citizenship or territorial community. For instance people instead of an ethnic group (which in Russian science has the intriguing name ethnos), have a collective body and even be considered a social-biological organism. From Soviet ideology and science, these representations came to us, which unfortunately have not disappeared as it was the case with other wrong structures.

With every-day distinctions of manifestations of a common level of professional, related and local groups, elite elements (politicians, scientists, journalists, cultural workers) avoid representations about the Russian people as civil, historical and social-cultural community. There is a number of reasons for this. One of them is historical: N. M. Karamzin once incorporated the most important categories Russian people and Russians and they were not included in a lexicon after 1917, because it was named after the state Russia. In the new state of the USSR, it started to refer to the Russian people as Soviets, which in Brezhnev-times ideologists even decided to name a new historical community, even though typologically there was principally nothing new about this nation. The Soviet people had uniting symbols, values, a representation, a cultural arsenal and commonly experienced dramas and achievements. Todays category of unified Russian people may cause some vigilance, partly due to the fear of fast political disintegration of the Soviet people which nowadays seems to be a incorrect Soviet myth. But these are vain fears.

The second reason is the domination in Russian analytics and in the historical-philosophical debate of outdated Soviet errors that there are the people, the nation and the national state. All these three categories were treated ethnically during many decades and everything was determined national and designated ethnic or ethno-cultural. The USSR and the Russian Federation were exceptionally perceived in the category family of nations and their friendship or as a multinational nation. According to this pattern of understanding, we adjusted to this and adopted an external world: there are English people living in England as a nation, in China there are Chinese, in Spain the Spanish, in India the Indian nation, but in Russia there are 128 nations and nationalities. Even domestic lawyers have managed to state international legal documents and declarations on the self-determination of peoples etc. in the language of ethnic nationalism, though international law understands territorial community as a category of people and does not recognize ethnic particularism as a states quality. In 1994, during the annual presidential message, this was formulated as a perspective aim for the first time; the Russian nation and ethnic nationalities have acted sharply against these necessary doctrinal innovations. Ramazan Abdulatipov has even written a postcard to B. N. Yeltsin accusing certain un-national scientists and politicians who have palmed off the presidents western idea of a multinational nation.

Because of the influence of ethnic nationalism and due to the weaknesses of experts during several years in Russia, there were only vague representations and installations relating to national statehood and national identity. With difficulties, but nevertheless appeared concepts of national interests, budget, defense, security, the health of the nation, the leader of the nation etc. It is all the same for ethno-nationalists from science and who claim that Russia does not exist as a nation-state, because the nation is not subject until it is lowered to a level of ethnic community and their territorial autonomy as subjects of the federation, the culture, science, education and other terms that could be referred to as national. And if the Russian people do not have their republic, then it is necessary to create one as once was considered by Abdulatipov or to declare the Russian Federation as the national state of the Russians as present Russian ethno-nationalists proclaim. Or there might be some kind of compromise, declaring all inhabitants of the country Russian (if they agree to this) as Sergey Glazev and his supporters consider this more educated variant of ethno-nationalism.

As we can see, up until today the nation-state is only considered as a state which takes the place of the ethno-national and the ethno-cultural one. Therefore, any conversation about Russia as a nation-state can not be possible. Many people think in Moscow and Kazan and even the western experts on Russia believe that the self-destructing formula of multi-nationality is generally the saving hope for a possible self-determination of the countries and borders of a bona fide Russia.

After ten years, President V. V. Putin has returned to unification and is using and this exact and unique definition as the main subject of authority, politics and administration - concepts of the Russian people and the Russian nation that essentially are synonyms. Speaking in the Kremlin on June 12, 2003 on Russian Day, the President declared: Wherever we were born, wherever we grew up - all this is our fatherland. And together - alone, united, strong are the Russian people.

At a meeting in Cheboksary on February 5, 2004 the President made the following statement: We in our time and even in Soviet times spoke about a common community - the Soviet nation. Also, there were certain foundations to this. I believe that today we have all the foundations to speak about the Russian nation as a united nation. In my opinion there is something that unites us all. Our ancestors contributed a lot to this so that we can feel this unity. It is our historical and present day reality.

The President has said similar things in August 2005 during the 1000-year anniversary of Kazan, in both Tatar and Russian: Without Kazan, without Tatars and the Tartar culture there would not be a Russian people or a Russian state the way it existed over the last centuries, including todays. Kazan and the Republic of Tartastan, this is one Russia.

These fundamental, and for a long time expected statements, require intelligent support from parts of the educated society representing not only doctrinal innovations, but also a serious call for a scientific community, political bureaucracy and everyone who formulates and forms representations of citizens.

Valery Tishkov, correspondent and member of the Russian Academy of Science, director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Science named after N. N. Miklukho-Maklaya, chairman of the Commission on Tolerance and Freedom of the Congress of the Peoples Deputies of the Russian Federation.

Source: Political News Agency - Kazakhstan

Issued by: Moscow Bureau of Human Rights


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