Ethnic and national divisions define Russian identity: standoff with the North Caucasus

В категориях: Russian Christian News

Ethnicity Key for Russian National Identity – Poll

MOSCOW, September 11 (Howard Amos, RIA Novosti) It is not just cultural and social decisions, that inform the divisions defining Russian identity, but also ethnic and national ones – divisions that experts say could be potentially devastating if mismanaged.

One of the largest schisms within Russian society, according to the survey, appears to be rooted in a perception of Russian identity as defined against migrants living in central Russia, and the ethnic groups of the country's North Caucasus region.

According to Russia Public Opinion Research Center's survey, released by a state-run pollster, the Russia Public Opinion Research Center, on Tuesday 44 percent of Russians said that while a Ukrainian could be called an ethnic Russian if he or she had lived in Russia for many years, only 7 percent thought the same could be said of a Chechen or Dagestani from Russia's North Caucasus. Russia and Ukraine are different countries, but Chechnya and Dagestan are republics within the Russian Federation, and all Chechens and Dagestanis have Russian passports.

"The main dividing line [in Russian society] is between residents of large cities and central Russia as a whole, and the residents of Russia's Northern Caucasus," Valery Fedorov, head of the Russia Public Opinion Research Center pollster, told reporters Tuesday.

In part, Fedorov added, this split reflects the existence of two different linguistic concepts for understanding Russian identity: while the Russian word "russky" implies an ethnic Russian identity, the word "rossiisky" denotes Russian citizenship, and an allegiance to the Russian state.

According to the Russia Public Opinion Research Center, 57 percent of respondents think that Chechnya is not really Russian (rossiisky) territory, while 54 percent said the same for the neighboring Dagestan Republic.

The site of two major separatist wars following the fall of the Soviet Union, Chechnya has helped to generate an Islamist insurgency that has spread across the region in recent years. Corruption, poverty and ethnic and political rivalries also fuel violence in the region, and have helped to generate a large diaspora of North Caucasus ethnic groups in major Russian cities.

Some experts have warned that Russia's internal organization along national lines poses one of the most potent threats to Russia's ability to survive as a state in the long term.

"The division of Russia along the principle of nationality – the territorial division that exists today – is an enormous time bomb that is ticking, and ticking quickly. The Soviet Union disintegrated along national borders and there are no guarantees that the same won't happen to Russia," Nikolai Zlobin, founder of the Center for Global Interests and a member of the Valdai discussion club, said in written comments.

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