zondag, september 17, 2006

Could Russia Become a Federation of Peoples Rather than Territories ? door Paul GOBLE in Russia Profile, September 2006.

In order to prevent the disintegration of the Russian Federation, Moscow should drop the current linkage between ethnicity and territory and create a political system based on a federation of peoples rather than one consisting of republics, oblasts and krays, according to the leader of the Eurasian Movement.

In an article published in this week’s issue of „Rossiya,” Aleksandr Dugin argues that the existence of national republics as „self-standing” subjects of the federation inevitably become sources of tension. But disbanding them in favor of a unitary state, as some near the Kremlin now advocate, could entail even greater dangers.

Indeed, the Eurasianist ideologue continues, „movement toward a unitary state will just as surely blow Russia apart as will the further development of territorial federalism” there.

„A unitary state in the case of Russia is the worst of all possible variants,” Dugin insists, „because it would be achieved via the genocide of unique ethnoses which are included within it,” pointedly noting that such „a genocide” would threaten not only small peoples „who would assimilate into the large people” but also „the large people” as well.

That is because, the outspoken commentators continues, that community ­ obviously the ethnic Russians ­ would „lose its unique ethnic qualities, its special way of life, and its traditions, and its representatives would become simply citizens of a nation state” (Dugin’s article is available at http://evrazia.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2890.)

To avoid the dangers inherent in both these arrangements, Dugin argues that Russian Federation should be transformed „from its current territorial federalism into ethno-federalism; that is, one in which ethnic groups rather than ethnic territories are the constituent elements of the state.

Such an arrangement, Dugin says, would allow for the creation of a political system in which there would be a great deal of autonomy and juridical pluralism without the threat of disintegration because its components would not be territories whose residents would view these areas as potential states but peoples who would thus be tied to the country as a whole.

As an indication of what he has in mind, Dugin discusses how the Tatars would be treated in such a system. They „would be recognized as a political subject, with a great deal of linguistic autonomy -- that is, they would have the right to speak their own language, to develop their own writing systems and ethnic culture, regardless of where they live.”

„But at the same time,” he continues, „there would not be any phenomena like Tatarstan. That is, there would not be established on the territory of the Eurasian federation a certain quasi-statehood, which would include within itself besides ethnic Tatar elements other peoples as well.”

Centralism, Dugin adds, „would thus be „preserved, but only at the level of the strategic unity of the state: the administration of the armed forces and the basic strategic areas of hte economy and transport.” Under such a system, all forms of nationalism, „including [non-ethnic] Russian nationalism,” would be blocked as unacceptable.

Dugin’s argument is interesting on both political and intellectual grounds. In recent years, Dugin has lost influence among many groups precisely because he has been almost slavishly uncritical of the approaches that President Vladimir Putin has adopted. Indeed, some in Russia now view him as a virtual mouthpiece of the Kremlin.

If that is the case, then Dugin’s article perhaps should be read as a trial balloon for another tactic in Putin’s efforts to expand central power at the expense of the country’s regions. Indeed, such an implicit threat to do away with them could be a useful weapon in this fight.

At the same time, Dugin’s remarks may reflect something else, a fear on his part and on the part of others in and around the Kremlin that Russian nationalism, the pursuit of a Russian nation state and of a „Russia for the Russians,” is now a much greater threat to their rule than the nationalisms of non-Russian groups.

But it is in the intellectual sphere that Dugin’s proposal is the most intriguing. Without mentioning its patrimony, his latest idea traces its origins back to Otto Bauer, the Austro-Marxist who called for the establishment of a state in which the nationality principle would predominate over the territorial one, a system known as „extraterritorial cultural autonomy.”

Bauer’s ideas, which were realized only once and then briefly in Estonia in the 1920s, were savagely attacked by Lenin and Stalin, and these Bolshevik attacks became the theoretical foundation of the creation of ethno-territorial federalism first in the Soviet Union and now in the Russian Federation .

When Bauer first published his argument in 1905, even those who had no political axe to grind against him argued that such a system could never be realized because the bureaucracy required to administer a state in which individuals regardless of place of residence were part of a ethnic autonomy would simply be too cumbersome.

Some recent commentators have suggested that advances in information technology have changed that equation and made such a system feasible. Dugin’s article almost certainly will invite more discussion on that point, both within the academic community and inside political circles in Moscow and in the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation.

Paul Goble

Bron: Russia Profile