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August 28, 2008 |  9 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Andreas  Umland

Russian Citizenship: Moscow's Tool for Recollecting the Empire's Lands

Andreas Umland: A justification for Russia’s recent invasion of Georgia was that it had to protect its citizens in South Ossetia. There is, however, a subtle difference between a state’s protection of its citizens living abroad, and its defense of citizens creating their own state within another country

One of the main justifications for Russia's recent invasion of Georgia was that it had to protect its citizens from - what Moscow's leaders chose to call - "genocide" by the Georgian army, in South Ossetia. The reasons behind Russia's embrace of this particular argument seems to be that the protection of one's own citizens has been a common rationalization for military action abroad, by many countries, including major Western powers. Russia thus apparently follows internationally-accepted modes of behavior: Governments have to protect their citizens, using military means if necessary.

What is lost in this, at first glance, legitimate line of argument is not only that many South Ossetians became citizens of the Russian Federation relatively recently (imagine, moreover, Moscow's reaction if Germany would start offering German passports to the inhabitants of the Kaliningrad Region and protecting these new Germans' "rights and dignity"). Even more important is the fact that there is a subtle difference between, on the one hand, a state's protection of the lives and dignity of its citizens merely living in another country, and, on the other hand, a government defending citizens who are engaged in creating their own independent state on the territory of another country. When in recent years many South Ossetians chose to become citizens of Russia, they, consciously or not, changed the nature of their political aspirations.

When they were still citizens of Georgia or stateless, they were involved in a dispute about the status of their territory with the government of Georgia. Thus their activities reminded of the strive for independence by many of the world's national minorities, including numerous in Europe like the Basques in Spain or Kosovars in Serbia. Once most inhabitants of South Ossetia -- including members of the "government" of this unacknowledged state -- became official subjects of the Russian Federation, their political project of an independent South Ossetian republic transformed into a Russian imperialist enterprise, and changed the role of Russia's "peacekeepers" in South Ossetia. Citizens of all countries should live safely and with dignity in other countries. But should a country's government allow foreign citizens to create an independent state within the internationally recognized borders of its territory? And should a country's government let such foreign subjects do so under the umbrella of an armed "peacekeeping" force sent by the same state that provided the separatists with foreign passports? Even the most ardent defenders of the rights of national minorities might not agree.

These distinctions may be seen as hair-splitting. In fact, they go to the heart of the problem. In various recent opinion polls in Russia, more than 50 percent of the respondents supported the "Russia for Russians" slogan. By "Russians," these respondents mean not the citizens of the Russian Federation, but only ethnic Russians (russkie), preferably with a "Slavic face."

This commentary appeared first on the web site "Russia Profile" (http://www.russiaprofile.org/) on August 21st, 2008. The full text may be found in the attached PDF document below.

 
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Tags: | Racism | South Ossetia | Georgia | Russia |
 
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Marek  Swierczynski

August 28, 2008

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For a German citizen living in Ukraine and professionally analysing Russia's policies among other issues, the current crisis must be an amazing opportunity. To be honest, I have been wondering why Dr Umland remains unheard on this forum, where he used to publish regularly in less tense times. But it was worth waiting, as the problem he raised is of crucial importance and one that may bring a lot of trouble to Central and Eastern Europe, should Russia continue down this path. The Crimea, Transdnestria, Belarus and Eastern Ukraine may be regions or states targeted and threatened by this policy of integrating Russian passport-bearers to the Motherland. Strenghtening the notion of territorial integrity and cementing it with military agreements or alliances offer the only protection against such unconventional steps. One can not imagine now what kind of conflict could that bring, but surely enough both NATO and the EU should reconsider their policies towards both Russia and Ukraine to try to stop the next possible war.
Tags: | Russia | Ukraine | war |
 
Unregistered User

August 28, 2008

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Good article.
Mr. Umland is right about process of dispute about the status. And case of citizenship linked with that.
Of course unfortunately this dispute was bloody. And here we can blame Georgian officials as well, but even during Shavardnadze time Ossetian authorities were hinting, they are ready to discuss the autonomy. Unfortunatelly that time - this chance was stupidly missed - again, there is Georgian authorities big fault of course, but during recent years the process re-newed and in fact more than 1/3 of SO population (Georgian and Ossetian b/w) were discussing with Georgian Government the status. This part of SO Autonomous Republic was headed by Mr. Sanakoev, who was high-ranked separatist in previous years, but decided that recent offer form Georgian Government and some International mediators - was better, than war.
On June 26, 2007 at the EU-Georgian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in Brussels Dmitry Sanakoyev delivered a speech, in his native Ossetian and emphasized that "a direct dialog between the Georgian and Ossetian peoples and demilitarization of the region are of crucial importance… European-type of autonomy, like Alto Adige/Südtirol, can serve as a model… in unified Georgia…. where liberal democracy is being built".

But Russian peace-keepers and administration located in Tskhinvali (90% former Russian military and FSB officers b/w) were blocking all attempts for dialog.
 
Unregistered User

August 29, 2008

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Dear Sir,
I should remind you that even if South Ossetia were inhabited with Eskimos, Pigmies or any other exotic race, with passports issued in Somali, the outcome would have been the same. In this particular case Russia acted in full conformity to international law; subject its UN peacekeeping mandate. You can argue about this as long as you like, but this remains a fact. Should Georgia have not begun the carnage of South Ossetians and killed Russian peacekeepers, their airports and ports would have been, beyond question, in more wholesome shape, but that’s the way the ball bounces when you play a foul game.
Now, did Russia grant these two territories autonomy? Too much credit to Russia. These two territories have been de facto fully autonomous for the last 15 years, concurrent the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Since then, they have elected their presidents, formed their police, governing authorities and military forces, and gained all other attributes necessary to be self ruling and function independently. Nobody had to assist South Ossetia or Abkhazia in writing their constitution, as the US did in the case of Kosovo, nor forming their governing authorities, police etc, to which the Albanians in Kosovo were completely offhanded. South Ossetia and Abkhazia achieved their autonomy by way of stern resistance to a very vile and jingoistic neighbour. Gamsakhurdi, Shevarnadze and Saakashvili, all three of Georgia’s presidents, wreaked in harmony zealously hammering in place the last palings separating South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia by systematically butchering these people. Special credit should be given to Saakashvili’s recent efforts.
Now, retaliating to the racist slogan you so stubbornly claim belongs to 50% of Russia’s population. Looks like you are trying to tune up a deaf ear by claiming such inconceivable nonsense. Russia has 174 nationalities living in full harmony of which, by coincidence, one million are Georgians, many of whom have Russian citizenship, which makes up for 25% of Georgia’s total population. Approximately half of them peacefully live in Moscow. Following your assertive assumption Georgians must be suffering humiliation following recent events. Have you heard of any urgent return of Georgians to their native land or any other forms of racial discrimination? If this had been the case you would be witnessing a veritable, on the spot, CNN report expounded in the grimmest details. Foreseeing scuttlebutts on Chechnya, I would kindly request you to address them directly to Ramzan Kadirov the president of Chechnya: http://chechnya.gov.ru/. I guess this would be fairer than me playing intermediate.
As to Russians and Russkie. I leave it to you to undergo the outwearing effort of tracing a at least one Russian who is not an inundating genealogical miscellany of the nationalities inhabiting Russia. If we could theoretically conceive that such a pureblooded thoroughbred with Slavonic appearance existed, I would be all for cloning a few more species of the same type to see what their posture to racism is, but for some inexplicable reason, I am more inclined to believe that you would be very much disappointed with the results of your cannibalistic poll.


 
Andreas  Umland

August 29, 2008

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Brief reply to Valentine Akishkin:

As with earlier contributions of Mr. Akishkin to this forum, they are valuable as they constitute a good illustration of what mainstream thinking on international and domestic affairs is about in Russia today.

The, in my opinion, major problem with which people from Russia and the West will be struggling in their debates, for the coming decade or so, is not that we view such events as the Yugoslav Wars, Orange Revolution, or recent events in Georgia differently. Our problem is that when we speak about these and many other recent phenomena in- and outside CEE and the CIS, we are actually referring to different occasions. What is known and common knowledge on certain Russian domestic or international issues in the West today, would be regarded as "inconceivable nonsense," as Akishkin puts it, in Russia. Assessments that are common places and axiomatic in current Russian discourse, in contrast, would be seen as ridiculous in the West. (Remember, for instance, Putin's recent claim that the US is behind all the trouble in Georgia.) It is thus not that we have different opinions on this or that event, but that the respective events are differently told, in the first place. In other words, what divides us is less what is good and bad in the world today, but what is true and untrue. Under such conditions, little productive discussion is possible as our starting points are too far apart.

When Akishkin ridiculous my grim statements on racism in today Russia, this reflects the filtering and manipulation of data on, and illustrations of, this phenomenon by the Kremlin-directed mass media. Those few Russians who take the trouble to read the relevant information issued daily by such organizatioins as the Sova Center or Moscow Bureau of Human Rights would, probably, find little to argue with me on the rise of racism in today Russia.

For those interested in the latter subject, I am co-editing a biweekly "Russian Nationalism Bulletin" that documents, among others, racist incidents in Russia today. See http://groups.yahoo.com/group/russian_nationalism/
 
Heinrich  Bonnenberg

August 29, 2008

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We have wars of brothers!

At the beginning, we had the military war of the historic brothers Georgia and Russia. Both are Christians. Both fought together against the Ottoman Empire. Both fought together against Persian attacks. Both fought together against Nazi-Germany and its allies. The most important leaders/hardliners of the 400 million empire USSR (inclusive its satellite states) were Georgians: the Bolsheviks Iosef Vissarionovich dse Dzhugashvili, called Joseph Stalin, whose parents were half Ossetian and half Georgian, and Lawrenti Pawlowitsch Beria and Grigoriy Konstantinovich Ordzhonikidze, called Sergo Ordzhonikidze.
Who put up the trap for the combatants ?

And subsequently, we have gotten a European media war of cultural brothers, of some EU-Europeans and Russia, an idiotic war which is characterized by untruths and indignities. I see all television programs, from East and West. It is really astonishing how different the messages are. On both sides very intelligent people, but only misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Obviously, media are used for the purposes of politicians settling old scores and assuming an air of importance.

We need personal contacts and discussions! I ask all Europeans, mainly my German friends to intensify theirs connections to theirs Russian friends, business partners, scientific colleagues, fellow students in these days of the war of brothers. We should see the future and try to identify the reasons why we have this war of media, why we have such misunderstandings, why the countries are acting as they act. We all should have the main will to understand each other, not to demonize the other.
We need each other to become accepted takers in the challenges of worldwide competition. We should not allow that the existing private and business contacts between EU people and Russians will be damaged by this media war and the people behind it.

Both wars of brothers have no winner, in fact exactly none.
But no war without a winner! Who is the winner, are the winners?
Some regional gamblers on one hand and our massive future competitors on the other hand.
 
Unregistered User

August 29, 2008

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I think, there are no brothers in politics. There are just allies.
As Georgian I should tell, that we were fighting against Turks or Iranians not cos they were Muslims (we were fighting with Iranians even before they became Muslims), or cos we did did not like how do they look like or dress up or whatever. We were fighting them by a very simple reason: they were invaders. Like Romans/Byzantines were. Right as Russians are now.
My grand-grand father, had to escape from Batumi to Tbilisi during 1stWW - under Turkish attack and in 1921 he was killed in Tbilisi by Russian invaders.

And Turks, whom we fight along with Russians in 19th century, are our political allies in 21nd (serious regional and international projects, assistance in infrastructure rebuild etc... etc... - infrastructure bombed by Russian warplanes b/w).

And who can name wars not between "brothers"? Germans and French - are not they brothers? And how many wars do they had? And 100 year war - was not it between brothers? King Edward of England was half-French... moreover even mentally he was French and speaking French much better, than English.
Maybe Serbs, Croats or Slovens are not brothers?

And what about George Washington? He may also look as traitor and bad brother to Englishmen...
Depends on the point of view.
 
Heinrich  Bonnenberg

August 31, 2008

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French and German are brothers in Europe! Charlemagne is their father!

In the European sense Germans and Russians are brothers, too, regarding the many links of culture and of history between them.

I really hope and I am more than sure that the EU meeting tomorrow will realize that EU and Russia are brothers in Europe. I am sure, too, that the European responsible persons, certainly the Germans finally know why Russia has acted as it has acted and that the reasons are mainly of psychological kind, that they were born in the years 1989 till 1991, the changing from USSR to Russia with a Western border from 1654. We Europeans are making progress to understand the reactions of Russia, slowly but steadily; the Germans thankfully are in front.

It is absolute nonsense that we start to fight again in Europe. WW2 with 40 million people killed in Europe (21 USSR, 6 Poland, 6 Germany) and WW3 with its iron curtain and wall are enough! I am very sure that the Russians in charge of today understand Europe in the cultural and historic sense, besides as a market with first class technology and very much energy! We Europeans should not jeopardize the European safety system built up through some decades: parta tueri! We have to become a strong competitor to East and to West.

We need as soon as possible constructive discussions among all European brothers: EU and Russia and the others, even if Polish and English are against that, both having tough lobby in US influencing press and administration at the East coast, e.g. Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzeziński.
 
Unregistered User

September 3, 2008

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Mr. Bonnenberg,

I agree with what you wrote, but you had not answered my questions... Or in fact answered - agreed that we are talking about allies not "brothers".
Otherwise you contradict yourself - you insisted that Georgians and Russians are brothers. Now you say that EU should realize that Russia is their brother... not mentioning Georgia... but if we are brothers with Russians - how that may happen that EU, being brother of our brother (Russia), is not our own brother...
Sorry for this sophism.
But let's be more honest and give all things their names.

I understand most of EU members position - as economically and politically Russia is more important that Georgia, and it has gas-pipeline he can always turn off... it was a big mistake to back the policy of Ronnie to crush and split USSR... and finally we should agree that Russia takes back territories it can take back.

As for cultural aspects, I think father of Sarkozy could now more about how Russians were close mentally and culturaly with Hungarians f/e.
Also Havel knows alot. He is not Englishman and not Yankee, right? But he explains his position very clearly. And about what Georgia means today for Europe.

Myself I think that EU should not be interested to help Russia to became Soviet Union back. And I am 100% sure that it will not stop in Georgia.
Some may think that it will never ask Baltic states back. Cos they are in EU. But Czechoslovakia also was member of several International organizations and had some treaties signed... but Realpolitics ala Chamberlain and Daladier worked once 70 years ago... It may work once again.

Frankly I did not understand why Germans understand Russians well. The way I can read this - I hope is a mistake. So let's assume that I do not understand.
Or to say better - understand should not mean to forgive.
But I should say that the biggest mistake the West has done - not to ask for a formal condemnation of the Soviet past. Even Eltsin, who first tried to ban Communist party retreat than as having no western support here.
There is still Lenin mummy in Moscow, all former Communist bonzes or those from KGB feel very happy, keeping their money and I am not sure they even remember all those people killed in Gulags or Lubianka or given to soviet "psychiatrists" for "healing". None restricted them to hold governmental posts and run for public office. Soviet Union was not forced to pay reparations to victims of Soviet aggression.
If everything that was done in Germany, why that was not done in Soviet Union?
Or someone really believes that Bolshevism was any better?

And finally before Charlemagne Adam was our father. Or grandfather if you want.
 
Unregistered User

September 25, 2012

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Freedom FighterThanks for the reply to my post. As I think I pointed out berofe, the Israeli air force has better flying skills and probably better technical expertise than the US air force does. The Russian anti-air craft system was designed to confront the Americans, not the superior Israeli forces. Had the Americans or Western Europeans gone agianst this system the Russian system probably would have prevailed. As for the notion that Russia is dying, I recall reading somewhere that Putin has offered Russian families the equivelant of $20,000 per child they have. I susepct this will go a long way toward addressing this problem.Oil prices will remain at their current level for the next hundred years or so. As such, I think the notion that Russia has only been granted a temporary reprieve is inaccurate. Russia is in a positon to dominate the world like it has never been dominated berofe for at least the next hundred years. The US and the free world can stop them, however, first the threat has to be acknowledged. So far, no one of any importance within the free world is doing this. At least they are not doing it publically. The threat must be acknowledged publically. This way we can moblize our people to meet this threat head on.AT this time, no military in the free world is in a position to be able to take them on. After we acknowledge the threat, I would begin to drill for all of the oil and gas in the US and off of its coasts. A massive builing of refineries should take place. Teh borders would be secured. I would suggest significantly upgrading the nuclear arsenal, mainly significant improvements tot he ICBMs should be undertaken. Finaly, perhaps most important of all, military cooperation with Israel should be upgraded. Right now the Israeli military is the only military in the free world that can take on Russia with a reasonable chance of winning. The problem is the Israelis are severly outnumbered. US and Western European forces can learn much from the IDF. If all the countries of the free world were to bring their military forces up to the level of the IDF we might just prevail. I pray that we do prevail.
Tags: | Freedom FighterThanks for the reply to my post. As I think I pointed out berofe | the Israeli air force has better flying skills and probably better technical expertise than the US air force does. The Russian anti-air craft system was designed to confront the Americans | not the superior Israeli forces. Had the Americans or Western Europeans gone agianst this system the Russian system probably would have prevailed. As for the notion that Russia is dying | I recall reading somewhere that Putin has offered Russian families the equivelant of $20,000 per child they have. I susepct this will go a long way toward addressing this problem.Oil prices will remain at their current level for the next hundred years or so. As such | I think the notion that Russia has only been granted a temporary reprieve is inaccurate. Russia is in a positon to dominate the world like it has never been dominated berofe for at least the next hundred years. The US and the free world can stop them | however | first the threat has to be acknowledged. So far | no one of any importance within the free world is doing this. At least they are not doing it publically. The threat must be acknowledged publically. This way we can moblize our people to meet this threat head on.AT this time | no military in the free world is in a position to be able to take them on. After we acknowledge the threat | I would begin to drill for all of the oil and gas in the US and off of its coasts. A massive builing of refineries should take place. Teh borders would be secured. I would suggest significantly upgrading the nuclear arsenal | mainly significant improvements tot he ICBMs should be undertaken. Finaly | perhaps most important of all | military cooperation with Israel should be upgraded. Right now the Israeli military is the only military in the free world that can take on Russia with a reasonable chance of winning. The problem is the Israelis are severly outnumbered. US and Western European forces can learn much from the IDF. If all the countries of the free world were to bring their military forces up to the level of the IDF we might just prevail. I pray that we do prevail. |
 

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