Comparative Analysis of Regions’ Nationalities Policies


Two alternative approaches to national minorities’ policy are feasible. According to the first, “anti-discriminatory” approach all rights and freedoms of a human being and citizen are to be provided for  persons belonging to minorities on a level of members of the majority; lack of minorities’ discrimination is the necessary and sufficient prerequisite of their equality. According to the second, “preferential” approach minorities are in need of a special protection of their rights in various spheres (in particular, in social and cultural sphere) because they (a) have specific requirements and (b) do not have a chance to realize their requirements without support of the majority.


One may argue what approach is more effective in the specific conditions of Russia. However it is doubtless that the second approach is embodied in the federal laws: the Russian Federation joined a series of international documents that declare rights of national or ethnic, religious and different language speaking minorities. 1 However both approaches are implemented at the local and regional levels.


Several factors prompt regions to stir their nationalities policies up. The first of these factors is the Federal center’s policy of keeping aloof from nationalities policy. In fact, nationalities’ issues are entrusted with regions. Nationalities policy undergoes increasing decentralization, regions’ state power bodies and, to somewhat lesser extent, local self-government bodies as well as the “third sector” organizations are becoming to play as its principal actors.


The second factor is the widespread ethnic phobias and xenophobic attitudes. The majority of the Russian population shares xenophobic attitudes. 2 The third factor is a gradual transformation of the migration policy of Russia. Until recently regions solved problems of tension between local inhabitants and migrants (among whom there were many persons belonging to minorities) by virtue of regional migration programs. Nowadays regions are deprived of this instrument because these programs funding from the Federal budget is stopped. 3 Centralization of migration policy makes regional authorities to shift orientation of their policies to instruments of indirect regulation of migrations including measures taken within nationalities policy framework.


But the most important reason that causes regional authorities to address nationalities policy issues is these authorities’ responsibility for situation at the regional and local levels and for preservation of social and political stability.


However paths to this stability vary considerably. Four models of minorities’ policy have been developed in regions:


1. Policy of alienation. Regional authorities that opted for this policy suppose that the very raising of national, ethnic minorities issue provokes inter-ethnic tension (Voronezh, Tula regions, other regions of Central Russia, Amur, Irkutsk, Nizhni Novgorod, Penza regions).


2. Policy of confrontation with some minorities.  Several regions of Southern Russia where positions of Cossacks and anti-migrant, anti-Caucasus attitudes are particularly strong (as, for example, Krasnodar region) have opted for this policy.


3. Policy of balancing, compromise between the public opinion disposed against minorities and the protection of minorities’ rights (for example, until recently Stavropol region adhered to this policy; Volgograd region follows similar policy).


4. Policy of constructive collaboration with ethnic minorities; this policy is most vigorously pursued in the Volga Federal district regions.


Territories where the first two models of nationalities policy are implemented leans to the “anti-discrimination” approach while regions that develop their policy on collaboration with minorities and protection of their rights rely on the concept of “preferences” for minorities.


The constituent parts (regions) of the Federation have accumulated a considerable positive experience of nationalities policy. What follows is the analysis of regional practices of nationalities policy in 29 key regions of the Russian Federation that are covered by monitoring at the present time. According to data of the Census of 2002 55% of the Russia’s population resides in these regions. 29 parameters of nationalities policy that characterize legal and normative basis, instruments of regional nationalities policy, its institutional, financial foundations and practice of its implementation as of June 2004 have been analyzed.


In the course of analysis the main attention has been paid to the comparative analysis of an extent of development of policy in respect of ethnic minorities and effectiveness of various methods of nationalities’ policy formalization in regions (See: Procedure of Comparative Analysis of Effectiveness of Regional Nationalities Policies).


Taking into consideration the fact that regions of the Federation emphasize the (different) ethnic origins of potential beneficiaries and totally ignore the issue of their citizenship, nationalities policy of regions has been considered in a narrow aspect of policy towards of ethnic minorities4. Such components of nationalities policy as policy towards the title population of autonomous republics and towards the Russians in regions as well as towards the indigenous small nations are left beyond the analysis’ limits.

1  For example, the International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of December 16, 1966, the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European Charter for Regional or Minorities Languages (Russia has not ratified the last mentioned instrument).

2  The public opinion poll was carried out by “Ekspertiza” foundation prior to the Presidential election; the sample included 2533 persons. 77% of respondents expressed their negative attitude to people from Caucasus, 50% expressed similar feeling to Chines while 42% of respondents thought that ethnic minorities “enjoyed too great power and influence in this country” (see:

3 Exceptions confirm the rule: as of now such programs are carried on only in Chelyabinsk region and Moscow city. In both regions the programs are financed from regional budgets.

4 According to the definition given by F. Capotorti (Capotorti F. Study of the Rights of Persons belonging to Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities… //UN Doc E/CNY/Sub.2/384/Add. 1-7. UN Sales N E 78 XIV. I) “a group numerically inferior to the rest of population of a State, in a non-dominant position, whose members-being nationals of the state possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics differing from those of the rest of the population and show, if only implicitly, a sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving of their culture, traditions, religion or language” is referred to as a minority. However possession of citizenship of a state of residence as the unalienable component of belonging to minority is often ignored at the local level.