By Valery Dzutsev
In what appears to be the latest reaction to Ukraine’s drift toward the European Union, a Russian analyst is now arguing that the Russian Federation should reject its imperial tendencies and embrace the identity of a nation-state. Kirill Rodionov, a fellow at the Russian Academy of National Economy under the Russian President, outlines six steps to recast the country into nation-state. First, he argues, Russia should officially be declared a mono-ethnic state that contains some poly-ethnic regions. About 81 percent of the country’s population is composed of ethnic Russians, according to Rodionov. Second, “the transition of Russia from an empire to a nation-state cannot take place without the secession of the Islamic republics of the North Caucasus—Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia—that culturally belong to the Middle Eastern civilization [sic].” Third, a particularly stringent visa regime should be introduced between Russia and the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia in order to retain Russia as a country with a Russian culture. Fourth, Rodionov argues, all integrationist supranational structures in the former Soviet space, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), should be disbanded. Fifth, ethnic Russians who reside abroad in former Soviet republics should receive opportunities to assume Russian citizenship, while those Russian passports that were distributed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be declared void. Sixth, the asymmetry of the Russian regions—oblasts, republics, autonomous regions, etc.—should be abolished, rendering all regions equal in status. These steps, according to the analyst will allow Ukraine and a nation-state Russia to cooperate with each other on an equal footing, thus preventing a further split between the two nations (https://www.ng.ru/ideas/2013-10-25/5_ukraine.html).
Rodionov’s affiliation at the Russian Academy of National Economy under the Russian President is certainly a sign that Russian isolationist ideas have gained some traction among the country’s ruling elite. Once again, just as it happened back in 1991, Ukraine’s move away from Russia may inadvertently lead to tectonic changes in Russia’s domestic policies as well as Russians’ view of the other countries of the former Soviet Union. Independently of Kyiv’s own reorientation, internal developments in the Russian Federation have rendered the idea of a Russian Empire somewhat burdensome to the country’s masses. While the calls to shed imperial past do not necessarily dictate the prevailing mood in the Kremlin now, if Ukraine moves decisively toward the EU and the Russian economy continues to stagnate, these ideas are likely to grow stronger and result in sweeping domestic political reforms.