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Integration Model: Putin’s Ethnic Policies

03-11 00:00 《财经》杂志 《财经》杂志

By staff reporter Hao Zhou

With Russia's security department under high alert, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to do "whatever it takes" to defend the safety of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, just six weeks before the launch of the Sochi Games, the risk became a reality: less than 700 km from Sochi in the city of Volgograd, a suicide bombing in the city’s heavily-guarded train station killed 18 people. The following morning, a second suicide attack which targeted a trolleybus left 16 more dead.

The two tragedies which claimed over one hundred casualties once again raised doubts about the choice of Sochi as a host city for the Winter Olympics. Sochi is not only the closest city to the equator to host the winter games, it is also the closest host city to the breeding grounds of Islamist extremism from the Sinai Peninsula to Afghanistan and from Central Asia Fergana Valley to the Arabian Peninsula.

Many observers think Putin chose Sochi to host the games to show that under Putin’s rule, the North Caucasus ethnic groups which had once given the Soviet Union and Russia endless trouble were no longer a threat. Of course, this was a high-risk gamble.

The Sochi Games were held without any major incidents, and Putin won the gamble. Alexey Malashenko, the co-chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Religion, Society, and Security Program, thinks that even with his reputation as “the Russian Bin Laden,” Dokka Umarov, the leader of Chechen separatists, doesn’t have the capability to launch an organized, large-scale terrorist attack.

Zuo Fengrong, professor of the Institute for International Strategies at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told Caijing that the Chechnya separatist force has been kept under control thus far thanks to Putin’s hardline stance towards ethnic separatists and the heavy investment Russia has made in Chechnya’s economic and social reconstruction after the second Chechen War.

Starting from the Putin era, Russia abandoned the Soviet-era "platter model" in favor of the "integration model" to address the country’s complex ethnic issues. The integration model emphasizes education of its people in the Russian language, literature, history, national traditions, and cultural legacy, and aims to consolidate the concept of Russian statehood, establish a unified national and civic identity, so as to ease ethnic contradictions and prevent further conflicts.

Putin wrote that the platter model is a failure, contending that emphasizing ethnic identities and territorial pluralism would only result in political pluralism and social segmentation, which can easily escalate into a race war or even disintegration of the state. 

However, "because the pain suffered during the [Stalin era] great exile period is still deeply engraved in the memory of this generation of Chechens, the Chechen people still have a hard time accepting the new Russian national identity, even though most Chechens are tired of violence and war," said Li Yajun, researcher at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Valery Fedorov, director general of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, thinks the North Caucasus region is still the most serious challenge facing Russia in its efforts to build a unified Russian identity.

These complex historical problems cannot be solved overnight, though education is perhaps the best weapon to eliminate the accumulated hatred and build a national identity.

However, during the war most Russians moved out of the Caucasus region, causing severe de-Russianization of the area. It is increasingly common for children in the Chechnya mountain regions to be unable to understand the Russian language. Under such conditions, allowing Chechens to accept a Russian national identity will be the biggest challenge to Putin's multi-ethnic integration policy.

Full article in Chinese: http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2014-03-09/113992206.html

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