The Federal and Regional Legislation on National Minorities

The Russian Federation Constitution. According to the Constitution of Russia the state guaranties equality of rights and freedoms of a person and a citizen irrespective of his/her race, ethnic origin, language and religion. Any forms of citizens’ rights limitation on the grounds of racial, ethnic, language or religious belonging are forbidden. Guarantees of the indigenous small peoples are stipulated in particular.

Alongside with terms “national minorities” and “indigenous small peoples” “small ethnic communities” term is used in the Constitution. These terms allow for the most broad interpretations.

International Treaties. National minorities’ rights are also regulated by the international treaties Russia entered into. These treaties are integral parts of the Russian legal system. If an international treaty establishes rules different from those envisaged by a Russian law then, according to the Russian Constitution, rules of the international treaty are applied.

Russia joined the major part of the universal multilateral treaties as, for example, the International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights etc. Among the multilateral regional treaties entered by Russia alongside with the Framework Convention the Agreement of the CIS countries on issues related to restitution of deported persons’, national minorities’ and nations rights’ (Bishkek city, October 9, 1992) and the Convention of the CIS states “On provision for rights of persons belonging to national minorities” (1994) are to be mentioned. It should be added that the last of the above mentioned documents contains the definition of “national minorities” term (please see the terminology used in the Federal laws in the Appendix).

Russia has also concluded several framework bilateral treaties of friendship and cooperation where rights of national minorities are specified (treaties with Poland, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, Turkmenistan etc.) Specific rights of national or ethnic minorities in the sphere of education, science and culture are given in details in bilateral Treaties made with the greater part of the CIS countries.

The Federal Laws. The Federal law regulating the status of national minorities in Russia is still lacking. Apparently, this law will appear not soon: in 1998 the State Duma (Parlament) turned down the respective draft of law.

The following acts belong to the complex acts: the Federal Law # 82-ÔÇ “On guaranties of the rights of the indigenous small peoples of the Russian Federation” of April 30, 1999. The Law reckons “ peoples who live on territories of their ancestors’ traditional habitat retaining traditional way of life, traditional economy and traditional handicrafts and trades, running into less than 50 thousand persons in the Russian Federation and recognizing themselves as separate ethnic communities” as the indigenous small peoples. The law’s force covers, predominantly, small peoples of the North. The legal vacuum that had existed in respect of indigenous small peoples’ rights was liquidated upon adoption of this law as well as of Federal Laws # 104-ÔÇ “On the general principles of organization of the indigenous small peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation” of July 20, 2000, and # 49-ÔÇ “On territories of the traditional natural resources use by the indigenous small peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation” of May 7, 2001.

The RF Law # 74-ÔÇ “On ethnic-cultural autonomy” of June 17, 1996, also may be provisionally referred to as a complex act. 14 federal, more than 100 regional and more than 200 local national cultural autonomies have been established and registered by the bodies of justice on the basis of this Law.

The USSR Law “On free ethnic development of the USSR citizens residing outside their national state formations or having no such formations in the USSR territory” of April 26, 1990, also plays an important role. The law retains its validity and is still effective in the Russian Federation. The Law determines that “national administrative territorial units (ethnic districts, national settlements and national village councils) may be established in order to promote satisfaction of ethnic cultural, spiritual and language requirements of citizens in places of compact residence of ethnic groups that constitute majorities in respective localities but do not have their own ethnic state formations in the USSR territory”.

Universal legal norms regarding provision of individual rights of persons belonging to national minorities in particular spheres of the social life are contained in a series of other Laws, e.g., “On languages of the Russian Federation nations”; “On education”, in fundamentals of the Russian Federation Laws “On culture”, “On citizens’ health protection” etc.

The Federal Law # 1807-1 “On languages of the Russian Federation peoples” of October 25, 1991, is of particular significance. The Law establishes the state guarantees of equality for the Russian Federation peoples’ languages (Art. 2), guarantees of protection for the Russian Federation peoples’ languages (Art. 4), the legal status of the RF state official language and the state official languages of republics, the procedure of use in the official communication of languages of compact residence of populace having no national state and ethnic territorial formations of their own or living outside such formations (Art. 3).

The Law regulates use of Russia’s peoples’ languages in proceedings of the Federal bodies of the state power, bodies of the RF subjects’ state power and bodies of local self-government (chapter III), use of the RF peoples’ languages in proceedings of the state bodies, organizations, enterprises and institutions (chapter IV) and in some other spheres.

Several Federal laws regulate rights of ethnic communities and indigenous small peoples in the political, social, economic and cultural spheres, concession of privileges and preferences (see Appendix).

The important norms specifying the provision on equality of rights and freedom of a person and citizen irrespective of the gender, race, national/ethnic origin, language, origin and religion or lack of a faith and other circumstances declared in Article 19 of the Russian Federation Constitution and prohibition of any forms of citizens’ rights limitation due to their social, racial, national, language of religious affiliation are recorded in: the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation (the Federal Law # 174-ÔÇ of December 18, 2001), the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (the Federal Law # 63-ÔÇ of June 13, 1996), The Russian Federation Code of administrative violations (the Federal Law # 195-ÔÇ of December 30, 2001), the Russian Federation Labor Code (the Federal Law # 197-ÔÇ of December 31, 2001), the Russian Federation Tax Code, Part One (the Federal Law 146-ÔÇ of July 31, 1998), other Federal Laws.

The Federal sub-law acts. Some rights of national minorities left unsettled by the Legislator are regulated and programs of support of some national minorities are authorized by the Presidential Decrees, Resolutions of the Government and other sub-law acts. The Concept of the Russian Federation’s nationalities policy authorized by the RF President’s Decree # 909 of June 15, 1996, deserves a particular attention. Proceeding on the basis of this Concept the Government in 1997 adopted the Plan of the top priority measures aimed at its implementation. The Federal purpose programs (for example, the Presidential program of the social economic and cultural base for revival of the Russian Germans for years 1997-2006, “The culture of Russia for years 2001-2005” program, “Formation of tolerant consciousness’ assumptions” program, “Economic and social development of indigenous small peoples of the North up to year 2011” program) are, programs of development of territories of national minorities’ habitation are adopted by virtue of such sub-law acts.

Constitutions and Charters of the Federation’s Subjects. As a rule, the respective norms of the Russian Constitution devoted to national minorities, indigenous small peoples and ethnic communities are reproduced in the documents of the Federation’s subjects. (Exclusions from this rule also exist: there is a special article “Guarantees of national minorities’ rights” in the Charter of Khabarovsk region; according to the Charter, “bodies of the state power and local self-government authorities of Khabarovsk region provide all national minorities residing in the territory of the region with assistance in realization of their right to retain and develop their ethnic original culture, traditions and customs, create conditions for preservation, use of their mother tongues in communication and study of these languages”).

As these norms are elaborated in details specific traits of every region are taken into account. For example, the Charter of Krasnoyarsk region contains the provision which envisages “promotion of preservation and development of national and ethnic customs and traditions of all peoples residing in the region, promotion of satisfaction of cultural, educational, language and other requirements of small ethnic communities; small indigenous peoples’ rights, habitats and the traditional ways of life are protected”.

However the premises for limitation of national minorities’ rights are already laid down at the level of the Federation subjects’ documents of foundation. That was made possible by introduction into regional constitutions and charters provisions allowing for:

Treaties and agreements with the Federal authorities. As a rule, treaties of separation of jurisdiction and powers between the Russian Federation authorities and regional authorities contain a reference to respective provisions of the Russia’s Constitution according to which protection of national minorities’ rights as well as of their original habitat and of small ethnic communities’ traditional ways of life falls in the joint competence of the Federal center and regions. (In one of the first such treaties of the Russian Federation, the treaty with the Republic of Bashkortostan “the compliance with the international norms on rights and freedoms of a person and a citizen, on rights of national minorities” is referred to the joint competency while protection of national minorities’ rights is referred to the matters conducted by the republic which runs counter the Russia’s Constitution).

With specific character of a region taken into account the following spheres are identified in the treaties: issues of certain ethnic groups’ repatriation to their historical motherlands and issues of citizenship related to such repatriation; rehabilitation and revival of the Cossacks; creation of conditions for preservation and development of national original distinctiveness, national languages and cultures of indigenous small peoples of the North; participation of the Federal authorities in funding of programs aimed at preservation and development of ethnic original distinctiveness, minorities' languages and cultures.

Signing of the basic document is normally accompanied with conclusion of agreements on specific matters of joint competence.

Treaties and agreements made between regions. In the Treaty of friendship and cooperation between Rostov region and the Republic of Kabardinian-Balkar made on August 25, 1996, the parties agreed to respect rights and interests of national minorities, to create conditions for their economic, social and cultural development (Art. 1)

The Treaty “On friendship and cooperation between the Republic of Tatarstan and the Republic of Kabardinian-Balkar” deserves a special mention. According to this treaty each Party recognizes representatives of the other Party who live in its territory as national minorities. It is also important that this Treaty does not specify ethnic origin of the republics’ representatives.

There are also agreements made by executive authorities of a region of the Russian Federation with regions of other states. The agreement of Tyumen region with the Republic of Crimea (Ukraine) of January 14, 2000, states that “the Parties shall ensure satisfaction of general educational requirements of the population belonging to the national minorities of the other Party, first of all by establishing conditions for education in the mother tongues”.

It is possible to envisage conclusion of treaties and agreements with foreign bodies of local self-government. There are such precedents: in “Agreement on cooperation between the Legislative Assembly of Saint-Petersburg and the City Hall of Tallinn” made on September 4, 1996, the parties undertook “to support cultural activities of the Parties’ national minorities in their respective administrative territory” (Art. 5).

Laws of the Federation Subjects differ considerably by spheres of national minorities’ rights regulation and by extent of their elaboration and specification.

There are no laws on national minorities in the regions. Attempts to develop and pass them failed due to difficulties connected with concurrence of incompatible positions and views as it happened with a draft of the Federal law. (However such initiatives occurred: for example, the agenda of law-making activity of Krasnodar region Legislative Assembly included drawing up of the regional Law “On status of national minorities and small ethnic communities in the territory of Krasnodar region”).

Laws “On inter-ethnic relations in the territory of Volgograd region”, “On ethnic-cultural autonomy” (the Republic of Komi) may be provisionally referred to the Federation subjects’ comprehensive acts of legislation.

The Law adopted in Volgograd region is of rather declarative and framework character. However the mentioning of the Federal Law # 84-ÔÇ “On ratification of the Framework Convention for the protection of national minorities” in the list of normative legal acts on the grounds of which ethnic non-governmental organizations are established and act in the territory of the region is significant.

The Law of the Republic of Komi defines the rights of ethnic-cultural autonomy (Art. 4), competence of the State Council of the Republic (Art. 6), the Head of the Republic and the republican executive authorities (Art. 7), local government authorities (Art. 8) in issues of support for ethnic-cultural autonomy, arranges relations of the autonomies with the state power bodies and local government authorities (Art. 10) and provides for sources of funding (Art. 13) and proprietary rights (Art. 14).

The next group of laws consists of the specialized laws on administrative territorial arrangement of a subject of the Federation and laws regulating the status of the Northern small peoples’ communities.

Laws on administrative territorial arrangement defines the legal status of ethnic- territorial units in areas of national minorities’ dwelling. Such laws are the best elaborated in Altai region, in the Republic of Khakasia and in Tomsk region.

In Altai region the Law defines the legal status of the ethnic districts and ethnicvillage councils ("districts, village councils may be characterized as the ethnic ones if citizens residing in them and belonging to small peoples or national minorities comprise the majority of a particular territory’s population”).

In Tomsk region the Law regulates the procedure of the status granting and withdrawal, competence of the region’s administration and of local self-government authorities in this issue, defines criteria for settlements’ characterization as ethnic ones (urban or rural settlements where population of a single nationality resides as a compact group may be referred to national settlements provided the number of dwellers belonging to one nationality in such settlements comprises more than 50 % of the settlement’s permanent population”).

Laws in the Republic of Altai, the Republic of Yakutia, Koryak autonomous district are less elaborated.

In some regions (e.g., Novosibirsk, Tula, Tyumen, Chalyabinsk regions, Khanty-Mansi autonomous district) laws define the general principles of the territorial arrangement. For instance, in Tula region “the development of ethnic cultures, cultural and everyday habits and customs and original types of economic activity” is included into the key principles.

Laws regulating the national minorities’ rights in particular spheres make up the main massif of the Federation subjects’ laws.

Laws regulating use of land resources in the areas of national minorities’ residence (the indigenous small peoples in particular) is developing in the regions. Such laws have been passed in the greater part of regions of Siberia, the Far East and the European North.

Two types of laws can be distinguished: laws defining the general principles of natural resources use and laws defining principles of activities in specific spheres (laws on woods and forests, on land bowels, on payment for land, on wildlife, on hunting, on reindeer breeding etc.).

Laws passed in republics of Dagestan and Yakutia, in Primorski region, Sverdlovsk and Irkutsk regions (the last law has become invalid by now) may be included in the first group of laws. For instance, in the Republic of Dagestan the Law “On the particularly protected natural territories” introduces the status of environmental ethnic zones (“…regions of the indigenous population distribution requiring the special regime of natural resources use in order to preserve and restore biological natural resources, habitat and the way of life traditional for this population” – Art. 25).

Financing of support provided for national minorities is executed annually by budget laws passed in regions.

In some regions laws that regulate the national minorities’ rights in the language sphere (the Republic of Altai, the Republic of Adygea, the Republic of Kabardinian-Balkar, the Republic of Mari El, the Republic of Khakasia, the Republic of Chuvashia), in the sphere of culture (the Republic of Khakasia, Ivanov and Chita regions), in the sphere of cultural heritage protection (the Republic of Yakutia, Tyumen region) have been passed.

As a rule official languages (Russian and languages of the titular nationalities are indicated in the republican laws on languages; sometimes it is allowed using in the official spheres a language of population residing as a compact group in a particular locality (Law of the Republic of Bashkortostan “On languages of peoples living in the Republic of Bashkortostan” 3 216-ç, Art. 3, part 2; Law of the Republic Mari El “On languages” # 290-III of October 26, 1995, Art. 8, part 2; Law of the Republic of Udmurtia # 60-ÐÇ, of December 6, 2001, Art. 11, part 1; Law “On languages in the Republic Sakha (Yakutia) # 1170-XII of October 16, 1992, Art. 6).

The Law of Bashkortostan, for example, reads: “In a locality where a population living outside its national state formations’ boundaries resides as a compact group the language of this locality’s population is used in official spheres of communication alongside with the state languages of the Republic of Bashkortostan”. The Law of the Republic of Udmurtia reads: “In localities of the compact dwelling of peoples of the Republic of Udmurtia that reside outside their national state or ethnicl territorial formations’ boundaries or having no such formations a language of population of a particular locality can be used in the spheres of official communication alongside with the state languages of the Republic of Udmurtia”.

In the republican laws on education an opportunity of education on languages of national minorities is stipulated. For instance, Law of the Republic of Adyghea “On education” states that “for nationalities groups residing as compact groups workshops, classes and optional courses are created for the purpose of study and perfection of native language knowledge. The state power bodies of the Republic of Adyghea provide assistance in training specialists for performance of educational process on languages of nationalities groups residing in the republic”.

However the Law “On education” passed in Stavropol region insists that education and training in the region will be carried on only in Russian; “’other language of education and training shall be defined in the procedure and on conditions prescribed by the Federal Laws”.

“Creation of the legal guaranties for free cultural activity of associations of citizens, ethnic groups in the territory of the region” is one of the main purposes of the laws on culture. All regional laws contain a special section devoted to rights and freedoms of nations and other ethnic communities in the sphere of culture. These pieces of legislation ensure the right to cultural national autonomy.

Laws on protection of cultural historical heritage are more focussed on provision of small nations’ rights in this sphere.

Republican laws on relations and ties with compatriots living abroad, with diasporas have been elaborated (the Republics of Adyghea, Kabardinian-Balkar, Chuvashia).The Law of the Adyghea “On repatriates” is based on Article 10 of the Republican constitution according to which “the Republic of Adyghea recognizes the right of compatriots living outside the Russian Federation (Adyghean diaspora, natives and their descendants, people born in the republic irrespective of their ethnic origin) to return to their historical motherland”. At the same time the Law which grants a rather wide rights to repatriants is aimed primarily at representatives of the Adyghic ethnic group (Art. 6, part 1, clause 4). A similar Law was passed in the Republic of Kabardinian-Balkar in 2001.

Unlike the North Caucasian republics mentioned above the Republic of Chuvashia imparts a greater attention to the Chuvashian diaspora in other regions of Russia. (The significance the republic attributes to the Chuvash diaspora reflects the fact that the respective symbolism is impressed on the state flag of the republic). Yet there is no special law. Norms regulating mutual relationships with the diaspora are recorded in various laws, e. g., on culture, language etc.

Laws on mass media have been passed in republics of Adyghea, Bashkortostan, Khanty-Mansi autonomous district. These laws impose bans on use of mass media for the purposes of racial, national and religious animosity kindling.

Some regions (Archangelsk, Lipetsk regions) had passed laws on religious relations that had proclaimed a ban on activities of religious organizations, missionaries and preachers who had kindled racial, national and religious discord and animosity. These laws are repealed by now.

Making laws in development of the Federal Laws regions often reproduce norms of the Federal Laws with no specifications of these norms. It is typical, first of all, for laws that ensure electoral rights, access to the state and municipal (public) service, laws on referendums for representatives of national minorities.

Certain declarative character is inherent in laws regulating social rights: laws on public health (the Republics of Kabardinian-Balkar, of Tatarstan, Krasnodar, Stavropol, Kemerovo regions), on child’s rights (Murmansk region), on youth policies (the Republic of Kabardinian-Balkar).

Sub-law acts of the Federation Subjects make up the main massif of normative legal acts regulating national minorities’ rights.

Sub-law acts passed in subjects of the Federation embrace the same spheres of regulation as those covered by the laws (except administrative territorial arrangement of a subject). Besides that, concepts (principal guidelines) of the state nationalities policies are passed by sub-law acts (regional policies toward national and ethnic minorities, hereinafter referred to as nationalities policies). Such concepts have been passed in the Republics of Adyghea, Buryatia, Komi, Mari El, Chuvashia, in Tyumen, Chelyabinsk regions, Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district. Similar concepts are being developed in the Republics of Bashkortostan, Karelia and Mordovia.

There is no definition of “national minorities” in sub-law acts as well as in laws passed in subjects of the Federation. The only exclusion from this rule is “The concept of nationalities policy in Tyumen region for the period of 1999-2005”. This document suggests the following definition: “National (ethnic) minorities are smaller parts of a group or a nation, people belonging to a different ethnic community that are characterized by residence beyond boundaries of main part of this ethnic community’s settlement and have no form of self-determination. A national minority is characterized by preservation of its national (ethnic) self-consciousness, everyday habits, customs, language of the main part of its ethnic community”.

Subjects of the Federation also approve normative legal acts on the following issues:

Concepts of ethnic school development (national regional component of education) as that has been done in the Republics of Buryatia, Karelia, Komi, Mari El, Chuvashia, in Moscow;

Concepts of the state-denominational relations (the Republic of Buryatia, Orenburg region) and of genetic stock protection (the Republic of Yakutia);

Purpose-oriented programs of the state nationalities policy implementation (the Republics of Buryatia, Komi. Chuvashia, Khakasia; Moscow, Orenburg, Perm, Samara, Sratoiv regions, Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district), of ethnic groups revival (the Republic of Bashkortostan), nationalities languages and cultures (the Republics of Kabardinian-Balkar, Karelia, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, Khakasia, Chuvashia; Khabarovsk, Astrakhan, Moscow, Perm, Samara, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk, Ulyanovsk regions);

Regional programs of tolerance ( the Republics of Adyghea, Kabardinian-Balkar, Buryatia, Chuvashia; Astrakhan, Moscow, Samara);

Regional programs of social and economic development of certain peoples (Khabarovsk and Sakhalin regions) or their demographic groups (Irkutsk, Sakhalin regions; Khanty-Mansi autonomous district);

special regional programs that affect interests of national minorities (migrations, struggle against rime etc.);

decisions on special measures aimed at support of national minorities including subsidies, grants and allowances (the Republic of Komi, Altai and Omsk regions etc.);

decisions on formation of structures in charge of nationalities policies issues that are considered by the regional bodies of the state power etc.

The blatant violations of national minorities’ rights in laws and sub-law acts passed in regions are very rare. Indirect restrictive measures violating constitutional rights and freedoms of persons belonging to national minorities are more common.

For instance, authorities of Krasnodar region are very watchful in respect of certain minorities, first of all, Armenians and Meskhetian Turks. The regional authorities’ strategic line of behavior is prevention of Armenians penetration into the territory of the region and of permanent settlement of Meskhetian Turks who had penetrated into the region since early 1990s.

Attitude toward these minorities can be traced in many documents including the Regional migration program: “non-Slav migrants often create their communal structures in the social and economic system of the region and try to monopolize certain spheres of public activities”. Unfortunately, the regional authorities impressed their very peculiar understanding of specific traits of migrants’ ehnic composition as a component of migration policy even in the Federal purpose program for comprehensive social economic development of Krasnodar region passed on June 1996, 1996.

A greater part of violations is connected with the illegal requirement to indicate one’s ethnic origin.

It is still possible to understand cases when the legislator violates Russia’s Constitution and proceeding from the humane considerations introduces a norm according which a woman who is going to have an artificial impregnation obtains a right to get information about ethnic origin of a donor (Tatarstan). But it is impossible to justify leaders of Vologda region who require to indicate ethnic origin of all persons engaged in the public service.