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This is a rising trend. Extremists violently protested in Moscow last December under the Kremlin walls. Red square was closed and the Kremlin was reinforced by thousands of troops.

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Moscow has felt rising ethnic tension between Russians and North Caucasians. Street fights are regular features. Europe is experiencing a similar wave of populism, xenophobia and introspection — but in Russia this has important consequences for the fate of the North Caucasus. Despite huge subsidies the economy continues to deteriorate in the North Caucasus, driving out the remnants of the Russian population. The region remains a hot-bed of extremism, terrorism and ethnic tension. Therefore it is necessary to gradually minimise the subsidies that at the expense of other Russian regions and revise the boundaries of the North Caucasus to bring them into line with the areas of predominantly Russian population, evacuating remaining Russians on the other side, then creating a system of strengthened border control on the other side.

It is now necessary to introduce a visa-regime with the countries of Central Asia and immigration quotas should strictly reflect the real needs of the state. Georgia and most of the international community says the region is occupied by Russia. Khasig, despairingly, describes Abkhazia as "a Russian colony. The guns of war flared elsewhere as well in the former Soviet Union in the early s.

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And these similar ethnic conflicts, many of which were exacerbated by Soviet polices six decades earlier, have come to be called "Stalin's time bombs. Such conflicts, spanning from Central Europe to the intricate patchwork of exclaves that comprises the borders of Central Asia, are in many ways direct legacies of the shifting nationalities policies that were often brutally implemented during the nearly 30 years that Stalin towered over the Soviet Union.

These disputed places include the disputed ethnic-Armenian region of Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, its neighboring republics, and the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester. From bizarre border policies and the wholesale deportation of ethnic groups to the mass importation of ethnic Russians to various regions, Stalin's policies created or aggravated conflicts that remain central to understanding Eurasia today.

Under Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin -- and later in the early years of Stalin's rule -- the Soviet government argued that nationalism was the bane of the imperial system. They tried to develop policies that would transform the multinational Eurasian space into a unified Soviet, socialist state. Army War College and the author of a book on Stalin's time as Soviet nationalities commissar.

Most of the modern nationalities that we have [today] hadn't even been formed yet. According to Martin, as the Stalin era wore on and the Soviet Union embarked on a phase of intense, centralized economic modernization, the nationalities policy shifted. Historians are still arguing about many of the fateful decisions of the Stalin era. Consider Nagorno-Karabakh, the ethnic-Armenian region nestled in the heart of Azerbaijan.


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Paul Goble, who served as an adviser on Soviet nationalities to U. According to Danilevsky, the common Slavic culture could serve as the basis for a leading role of Russians in a future federation of Slavic peoples, with its capital in Constantinople. This concept revealed a supranational, civilizational tendency in the development of Russian identity.

To become a genuine and all-around Russian means, perhaps and this you should remember , to become brother of all men, a universal man, if you please. As a rule, it is easily combined with paternalism with regard to other nations. The main question of the times remained unresolved: Was the Russian Empire a state of Russians and for Russians, or was it a supranational entity that required from all only the same loyalty to the monarchy? When the formation of nations began to gain momentum in the second half of the 19th century, the Russification policy began to acquire increasingly visible outlines, becoming particularly active in the reign of Alexander III.

This shift created prerequisites for the emergence of Russians as a separate nation. Similarly, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Russia, Pavel Milyukov, wrote about the formation of one Russian supra-ethnic nation, while underestimating the national awakening of non-Russian peoples in the empire.


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In the s, after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a group of young intellectuals in exile Pyotr Savitsky, Nikolai Trubetskoi and others , who called themselves Eurasianists, made an important contribution to the discourse about Russian identity. They were the first to include non-Slavic peoples in theoretical studies into Russian identity.

According to their theory, Russia emerged on the basis of common geographical space and self-consciousness; it was neither European nor Asian — it was Euro-Asian. However, contrary to the principles they declared, Bolsheviks gradually re-established a centralized state within borders that actually coincided with the borders of the Russian Empire.

The price that had to be paid for this was the suppression of ethnic Russian nationalism and the creation of national-territorial administrative units for other peoples of the former empire, who were granted various degrees of autonomy. Bolsheviks made considerable concessions to non-Russian ethnic groups, providing them with ethnic territories and giving them the right to self-determination, in order to secure their support.

The centralizing role of the Soviet Communist Party served as the main counterweight to the ethno-national federal system. They view the vague boundaries of the Russian people as a disturbing and threatening phenomenon which may lead to attempts to restore the empire. In contrast, they view a nation-state as a time-tested, familiar and peaceful alternative. This approach does not take into account many serious threats to international security, which may arise as a result of mechanistic attempts to put Russia on a par with its neighbors. In the process of nation-building, the crucial questions are who should belong to the nation and what its borders should be.

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The most destructive features of any nation-building process were the absorption of ethnic and religious minorities or the destruction of large political entities as a rule, multi-ethnic states. The feeling of ethnic commonality and solidarity too often was based on hostility towards others.

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The borders of any Western state and their nations formed as a result of numerous wars, outbreaks of internal violence, or combinations of both. For Russia, an attempt to build a nation-state on the ruins of the empire would inevitably mean a challenge to its federative structure, which includes many ethno-territorial administrative units, and would call into question its external borders, which are based on artificial administrative borders established years ago by Bolsheviks.

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There is no doubt that such an attempt could easily undermine the entire system of regional and global security. The ethnic identity of Russians became more noticeable as the imperial shell fell off after the Soviet Union broke up. Russian ethnic nationalism is not a well-organized political force at the moment, yet it may rise quickly, especially if the goal of nation-building becomes part of the political discourse.

As it has often happened in European history, common culture may at some point be perceived as a natural political boundary, which can become a springboard for demands to unite all Russians under one political roof. The redefinition of Russia in more specific ethnic terms, as has happened in many other Soviet successor states, may become the most dangerous undertaking in its entire history — mainly because the implementation of this project would inevitably bring about a revision of post-Soviet borders.

The essence of an ethno-nationalist program may be the restoration of geographical congruence between the state and the nation, and the creation of a new political entity on the territory where ethnic Russians and some other East Slavs live. This would mean the reunification of Russia, Belarus, part of Ukraine, and northern Kazakhstan.

One cannot say that such ideas were advocated only by fringe politicians. There were several attempts in the period from to to embody such ideas in legislative initiatives. Reality put very different tasks on the agenda, and the pragmatism of the Russian elite prevailed over ideological constructs of individual political groups each time. After the establishment of tough presidential control over parliament in , the issue of the divided Russian nation and its right to reunite was marginalized.

Nevertheless, the Communist Party included a thesis on the divided Russian people in its program and reiterated its commitment to this idea at its recent 13th Congress. The program of the Liberal Democratic Party still contains a demand to recognize Russians as a divided nation. A civic nation is an alternative to an ethnic nation.

Milyukov and Struve wrote about the formation of a pan-Russian nation before the Bolshevik Revolution. Today, Russian scholar Valery Tishkov insists that a modern Russian civic nation already exists. Amid the domination of ethnocentric approaches, this discourse is highly useful. At the same time, a Russian civic nation is rather a project, a vector of the possible development, and one of the trends. There are large groups of people in the country who view themselves as citizens of the Russian Federation but belonging to a nation other than Russian — Tatar, Ossetian, and so on.

The Russian Constitution codifies this situation. In addition, there are very many fellow Russians living abroad, who consider themselves to be part of the Russian nation. To build a real civic identity, a nation must have legitimate and, desirably, historically grounded borders, as well as stable and effective state institutions.