Soviet Nationalities Policy in Russia and its Western Neighbors: Life after Death

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
4:15 pm
1201 International Affairs Building (420 West 118th Street)

Please join the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations at the Harriman Institute for a talk with Dr. Alexander Osipov, Senior Research Associate, European Centre for Minority Issues, Germany. This event is part of the Harriman Institute's Program on U.S.-Russia Relations.

Alexander Osipov will discuss his research on diversity policies in Russia and its western neighbours Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. The research is based on findings from an ongoing ECMI project on the legacies of Soviet-era nationalities policy on current diversity policy. The project includes ECMI-led training seminars on minority issues in the EU Eastern neighborhood. 

Osipov argues that the key concepts as well as the discursive schemata that determined nationalities policies during communist rule, and particularly during the very last years of the USSR, have existed continuously since 1991. There is, for example, continuity in institutional settings, which include the main legislative and organizational frameworks such as the laws on languages, the laws on minorities, and governmental agencies in charge of ethno-cultural affairs. Osipov also points to consistency with the late Soviet period in the ways that the equality of individuals is reconciled with ethnically-based statehood; interpretations of group rights and autonomy; and manipulation of the notions of ‘culture’, ‘language’, and ‘social development.’ Other features of current diversity policy include systemic discrepancies between symbolic and instrumental policies; development of eclectic and inconsistent mainstream narratives; and co-optation of minority spokespersons into governance structures. Osipov will show that present-day diversity policies in the post-communist countries serve as a device for channelling potentially destabilising activities on ethnic grounds in a direction safe for the ruling elites, and for generating socially acceptable common agendas.
Dr. Alexander Osipov is a Senior Research Associate of the European Centre for Minority Issues (Flensburg, Germany) since September 2010. He is heading ECMI’s Justice & Governance Cluster. Previously he worked in the Russian Academy of Sciences and in the Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’ and was involved in a series of research and human rights advocacy projects on minorities and non-discrimination. Currently his research interests include ethnic and racial discrimination, non-territorial autonomy, and ethno-cultural diversity policies. He is also doing research on post-communist transformation in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.