The new Russia cannot be included in the category of states
where open discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities
exists. All ethnic groups are recognized by the state, as
are their rights to preserve their culture and integrity.
Most non-Russian ethnic groups have the high status of territorial
autonomies in the areas of their main settlement. The complex
composition of the population is sufficiently reflected in
federal representative branches of government. The establishment
of true federalism, including its asymmetrical forms, reflects
the tolerant nature of the very doctrine of the state system
in the Russian Federation and its constitutional basis. A
complex search is underway for new legislative norms which
will further guarantee the rights of the citizens who belong
to ethnic, language, and religious minorities. Despite the
difficulties of the transformational process, some clear accomplishments
in the cultural and educational spheres of the last decades
are being sustained.
Despite relatively low living standards, Russia, like the
majority of other post-Soviet states, is not one of the regions
of mass social deprivation which serve as fertile soil for
intolerance and violence. A high degree of social egalitarianism
and the lack of mass poverty (with the exception of some rural
areas in the Central Asian states) have been preserved, and
the systems of social welfare and social guarantees are operational.
At the same time, the surviving inertia of Communist doctrine
and existing social practice, based on primitive collectivism
and the denial of the importance of the individual, produce
intolerance to healthy individualism, private property and
entrepreneurship, personal success, and prosperity. Many people,
especially of the older generation and other vulnerable groups
(both psychologically and in the sense of material well-being),
turned out to be unprepared to face radical changes and together
with them to accept new values and opportunities. This causes
alienation and discontent among a considerable part of society,
manifests itself in social and political conduct, and brings
about depression, despair and hatred.
The proponents of liberalization and profound social reforms
have faced the problem of how to ensure their harmonious administration.
Tolerance and radical changes turned out to be incompatible
in many senses: the former is based on acceptance and non-interference;
the latter are based on denying the status quo and the establishment
of new and other orders.
Those successful in business turn out to be incapable of
self-limitation, civic solidarity and respect for others.
Those now in authority demonstrate intolerance to their predecessors
and defiant self-assurance, disregard for laws, personal greed
Radical and intolerant ethno-nationalism is the most serious
challenge for Russia and a number of post-Soviet states. National
movements among the peoples of the former USSR in peaceful
political and cultural forms have played and continue to play
an important role in establishing decentralized political
systems and administration, in preservation and development
of the cultural integrity and "distinctiveness"
of large and small nations, and in the growth of the people's
social and political activity. However, in a number of cases
the ethnic factor has become the basis for formulating programs
and actions and propagating ideas and attitudes which provoke
intolerance and cause conflicts and violence.
Negative consequences of the policy of former regimes with
respect to non-dominant groups and minorities have persisted,
and new problems resulting from economic and political liberalization
and geopolitical changes have emerged. So far the policy of
cultural pluralism has not established itself in Russia. State
bureaucracies tend to ignore the interests and rights of small
groups who live in difficult environments and maintain traditional
systems of life. Information and education systems on the
state level fail to reflect adequately the cultural diversity
of the peoples of Russia and the tolerant perception of different
traditions and values.
As a reaction to the past humiliating status of non-Russian
cultures, under the conditions of social crisis, political
desalinization and poor modernization, the nationalism of
small nations has often taken aggressive forms such as attempts
to usurp power and prestigious positions in favor of the representatives
of a certain ethnic group, to change the demographic composition
of the population by means of discrimination or forcible banishment
of ethnic "strangers," to alter administrative or
state borders, and to secede "de facto" without
prior negotiations, including by means of arms. Extreme nationalism
offers resolutions that seem simple on the surface but are
in fact unrealistic. Attempts to exercise them bring about
civil tensions and conflicts. In Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhasia
and Chechnya, nationalism has been one of the main causes
of the most brutal wars on the territory of the former USSR.
Growing nationalism of the hegemonist type, which is formulated
on behalf of numerically dominant groups, poses no less a
threat to democratic reforms and social peace. In Russia,
Russian nationalism is seeking the status of state ideology,
trying to appropriate the idea of pan-Russian patriotism and
to replace the process of nation-building with the very same
slogan of self-determination--now of the Russian ethno-nation,
which likewise cannot be realized. Increasingly, extremist
groups and individuals propagate fascist ideas, anti-Semitism
and disregard for minorities. Exalted rhetoric about the "dying"
or "dismemberment" of the Russian nation serves
strictly political purposes and seriously complicates the
political and social situation within the country and its
relations with neighboring states. This form of nationalism
is also brought about by social crisis, political and ideological
disorientation, and the negative effects of profound geopolitical
transformations, but all this does not make it less dangerous.
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