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Saturday, 22 June 2019

Prof. Judith Pallot, Professor Emeritus at the University of Oxford and the Vice-President of BASEES, welcomed speakers and guests of the workshop and greeted them on behalf of Russian Readings and the University of Oxford.

The workshop was set to examine the questions of how exceptional the Russian approach to nationality politics was, to what extent the population in Russia had internalised multiculturalism and the official policies, and to consider the effect that globalisation and its association with population mobility and the Internet had had on Russia.

The first keynote speaker of the workshop was Dr Paul Goode, Associate Professor in Russian Politics at the University of Bath and one of the leading UK experts on the politics of nationality and on Post-Soviet politics. Dr Goode presented a part of his larger comparative project that looks at how everyday nationalism works in such countries as Russia, China, Ukraine, and Taiwan, and examined the relationship between nationalism and the regime type in Post-Soviet Russia. Introducing the analytical framework for his research, Dr Goode suggested the term ‘banalisation’ to refer to the process of forging the banal ties between a state and a core nation. The process in question is characteristic of a consolidation period for new regimes, during which a state incentivises or imposes contending visions of nationality, and establishes and actively promotes the official repertoire for national expression. Incentivisation implies a crucial initial role of the state in proposing national self-images and repertoires that link state and nation, while the dissemination and incorporation of these repertoires in the daily life depend upon non-state actors and are taken up by the society. Consequently, citizens come to routinely care about national symbols and repertoires in their daily lives. The other approach to nation building often taken by autocracies is monopolisation, where the state remains the sole supplier of national images and repertoires; as a result, the citizens cease to care about the routine imposition of national repertoires by the regime in their everyday lives. Looking at the process of banalisation in Post-Soviet Russia against the background of political context, Paul Goode suggested that Boris Yeltsin had attempted to incentivise civic nation building, but his effort was limited by the very nature of Russia’s hybrid regime. Under Putin, there was a shift from incentivisation to monopolisation of national expression, which reflected the change of political regime and escalated after 2012.

The second keynote speaker of the session, Dr Konstantin Zamyatin from the University of Durham, considered strategies of diversity management in the context of political regime change in Russia. Dr Zamyatin considered the change of policy in the Russian Federation since the 1990s, arguing that there was clear correlation between the regime change and the change of Russia’s approach to diversity management. He developed a model that could be used to define the strategy that was chosen to manage diversity in specific political contexts. In respect of the political context of decentralisation in the Russian Federation in the 1990s, the analysis of the variables suggested a combination of accommodationist, integrationist, and assimilationist strategies that applied depending on a region. The similar analysis applied to the period of recentralisation in the Russian Federation of the 2000s suggested a shift from accommodationist to integrationist policy. The period of unification after 2014 suggested a move from integrationist towards assimilationist strategy, with the growing role of ethnic Russians as the ‘state-founding nation’. The statistical analysis of ethnic representation of titular and other groups in the republics’ legislative bodies reflected the trends defined by the study. Furthermore, the suggested model allows for making certain predictions as to the change in the strategy of diversity management with the change of regime.

Prof. Emil Pain addressed his first comment to Dr Zamyatin’s presentation: as the latter pointed to a drift from one type of nation state to another type of nation state, Prof. Pain wondered if the Russian Federation could be seen as a nation state at all. Prof. Pain disagreed with the view that in Russia we witness a drift from multinational state towards a single nationality state. He argued that we should rather talk about a drift from a super-ethnic empire towards an ethnic empire, where russification of the empire presents the last resort at the disposal of the authorities currently in power. At the same time, the term ‘Russian nation’ is to a large extent analogous to the obsolete ‘Soviet multinational state’, while the country remains largely disintegrated.

Dr Guzel Yusupova inquired whether it was still meaningful to use the term ‘ethnic federation’ in relation to Russia. Dr Elena Katz reminded the audience of the practice of indicating ethnicity in Soviet passports; the practice was abolished in the 1990s bringing about mixed effects in relation to the representatives of various ethnic groups. She also raised the issue concerning the relationship between nationalism and patriotism.

Dr Airat Faizrakhman referred to Konstantin Zamyatin’s statistics relating to ethnic representation in the legislative bodies in Tatarstan, suggesting that it would be worthwhile to take into account regional diversity in the republic, where the Russian population tended to settle in larger cities. Dr Faizrakhman also brought into the picture the intention of certain ethnic groups to acquire the status of indigenous population.

Dr Alisa Shishkina raised the question of whether the demands voiced in various Russian regions and republics were similar or different, while the role of restoration of the Orthodox Church in building the national idea was also touched upon.

Sunday, 23 June 2019. ‘Migration’

The first panel of the day focused on the topic of migration and was chaired by Marina Obmolova.

Dr Anna-Liisa Heusala from Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki delivered the keynote lecture titled ‘Parallel Legal Orders in a Hybrid System: the Case of Russia’ that analysed the connection between labour migration and the political system of the recipient state, concentrating on the emergence of parallel legal orders in hybrid political systems. The paper represented the ongoing research carried out at the University of Helsinki that aims to examine undocumented labour migrants’ legal culture and their socio-legal integration in a politically hybrid regime, with the focus on Russia as one of the world’s largest recipients of labour migrants. In the presentation, the speaker claimed that parallel legal orders developed by migrant communities in the context of highly diverse societies contribute to societal status quo by undermining politically and economically radical changes.

Commenting on the presentation that aimed at putting Russia in the global context and at putting Russian studies in a broader social sciences field, Evgeni Varshaver wondered to what extent the very concept of legal pluralism could be applied to the Russian Federation, and noted that extensive fieldwork at further stages of the project could help to arrive at a more detailed picture, including some analysis of the segregation of labour market in Russia. Prof. Bill Bowring questioned the term ‘globalisation’ that was frequently used in the presentation; he noted that one could say that the real period of globalisation was the 19th and the 20th centuries, and what we see in Russia as well as in some other countries today is actually in many ways the consequences of empire.

The following paper by Dr Evgeni Varshaver was titled ‘Second-Generation Migrants in Early Adulthood: the Russian Case’ and studied second-generation ethnic migrants and their integration in the Russian society. The extensive research included 401 interviews with young people 18 to 30 y.o., whose parents had come to Russia in the 1990s from the countries of Central Asia and Transcaucasia and who had finished school in Russia. The study compared the focus group with the local young people of the same age in relation to education, professional prospects and achievements, personal networks and cultural norms, and led to the conclusion that on the whole second-generation migrants successfully integrate in Russia. The successful integration of second-generation ethnic migrants from Transcaucasia and Central Asia in the Russian society could to a large extent be attributed to the legacy of the Soviet multinational state.

The next speaker, Dr Sherzod Eraliev presented his research on religiosity of Central Asian migrants in Russia, focusing on the way in which religiosity is affected by migration. The survey conducted in 2015-2016 demonstrated that although there were groups of migrants whose religiosity was not affected by their move to Russia or who became less religious after migration, a considerable part of Central Asian migrants he interviewed reported turning to religion on immigrating to Russia, as religion offered them respect, resources and refuge in a society that they found largely xenophobic and that marginalises Central Asian migrants and pushes them away from public spaces. Although hostile environment is likely to increase the role of religion within migrant communities, the speaker stressed that increased religiosity does not necessarily imply radicalisation.

Dr Dmitry Oparin from Higher School of Economics, Moscow studies the concept of religious authority and formation of local islamic environment. He shared the examples of religious and social practices of individual Muslim migrants who had gained respect and stable religious authority and had become leaders of their local communities. Frequently those people are not mullahs, but rather represent local financial elite who lead and sponsor ritual life in the community and define the Islamic environment in the neighbourhood. Paying special attention to the communities of migrants from Central Asia in Tomsk and South-Western Siberia, Dr Oparin examined the way in which the leaders who are active and influential in both social and religious spheres influence local religious life and attract the flows of migrants, many of whom rely on their personal networks and word of mouth when choosing where to go and settle.

Anna Ter-Saakova was drawing on her research as well as practical experience gained at ‘The School of Neighbours’ Languages’ educational non profit, presented an overview of the situation in a number of schools in Moscow region with substantial percentage of children whose families had recently moved to Russia from Central Asia. The study revealed lack of systematic approach and even lack of reliable statistics in respect of such children, many of whom do not speak Russian. The programme that is currently being developed in co-operation with school teachers aims to work out a more systematic approach to teaching migrant children and to improve the situation in a number of selected schools in the first instance.

The final talk of the panel was given by Dr Irina Kuznetsova from the University of Birmingham and was titled: ‘To help ‘brotherly people’? Official responses and the everyday experiences of Ukrainian refugees in Russia’. The paper was dedicated to migration of people from the territories of armed conflict in South-Eastern Ukraine to Russia, the country which is officially proclaimed the aggressor state in Ukraine. The study examines the reasons behind the decisions to move to Russia from the conflict zone, and analyses the contradictory status and experiences of official and unofficial support as well as obstacles that Ukrainian refugees face on trying to settle in Russia.

The discussion opened with Dmitry Oparin’s comment regarding Dr Varshaver’s survey on a possible relevance for the survey of distinguishing one-and-a half generation migrants, who were brought to a new country aged between 6 and 14. He also attracted attention to the tendency of ethnic migrants to return to their home countries, which is particularly relevant in the case of migrants from Transcaucasia. The discussion also raised the issues of direction and geography of migration flows (Sofya Gavrilova, Varshaver, Oparin), of what type of identity – religious or ethnic – prevailed in forming the flows of migration (Pain, Varshaver, Oparin, Eraliev), of what integration of migrants actually means (Pain, Varshaver), as well as the contradictions in the status of Ukrainian refugees in Russia (Pain, Kuznetsova) and the tendencies among migrants to return to their home countries (Oparin, Heusala, Eraliev).

The panel on ‘Nationalism(s)’ was chaired by Dr Guzel Yusupova from the University of Durham.

The keynote lecture of the panel, A Nation without Borders: Identity and Mobilisation in the Russian Lands from the 18th century to the present, was delivered by Prof. Jeremy Smith from the University of Eastern Finland and offered a broad introduction to the theme of the panel, touching upon different understandings of nation, development of the study of nations in Western Europe, and the problems of fitting Russia into Western European models.

The following paper with the title Lower and Upper Levels; Ethnos and Superethnos: Negotiating Russia’s Eurasian Identity was delivered by Prof. Mark Bassin, who traced the development of Eurasian thinking among Russian scholars, analysing the distinct versions of Eurasionism that emphasised upper or lower levels in the hierarchy of national identity and locating then within the historical background and the political context.

Dr Akhmet Yarlykapov from MGIMO, Centre for Caucasian Studies and Regional Security talked about ‘The Ingush Protest’ and ‘The Ingush Project’: new wave of nationalism in the North Caucasus? and provided detailed historical background for the recent Ingush protests touching upon the confrontation between the two ethnonational projects in the North Caucasus, those of the Ingushs and of the Chechens.

The presentation by Dr Ekaterina Arutyunova from the Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, entitled Language Politics in the System of School Education in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia): Transformations in Post-Soviet Period, offered a detailed analysis of how language politics is implemented in general and in particular in relation to school education in this republic that occupies vast territory and has pronounced regional differentiation as well as ethnic diversity. The case study of Ajyy Kyhata national school in Yakutsk exemplified the tendencies and challenges characteristic of the implementation of language politics in Yakutia.

The talk delivered by Dr Airat Faizrakhman from ‘Magarif’ association presented cultural and language projects that were being introduced in the Republic of Tatarstan with the aim of expanding the Tatar language environment, strengthening the Tatar urban identity, and providing additional opportunities to study the Tatar language.

The floor was then taken by Natalia Fishman, adviser to the President of the Republic of Tatarstan, who added to the previous presentation by offering her view of Tatar society from the perspective of being a non-titular nation resident of Tatarstan, stressing the internationalist atmosphere prevalent in the Republic and the fact that, in contrast with some other regions, people in Tatarstan see their land as their home and take responsibility for it.

The afternoon session featured Grozny: Nine Cities, a web-documentary by Olga Kravets, Maria Morina and Oksana Yushko exploring various aspects of the city life in 2009-2018 in the capital of Chechnya through presenting them as nine different cities hidden within Grozny. The screening was introduced by one of the makers of the film, photographer and documentary filmmaker Olga Kravets, who spoke about her experience of working in Grozny and her intention to serve as liaison between the Russians and the Chechens divided after the war.

The discussion after the film touched upon the role of the background noise and the soundtrack in the documentary (Dudeck, Bowring, Kravets) as well as the sense of fear felt everywhere in the city (Kravets, Fishman). Olga Kravets also provided some explanation of what a web-documentary is and the way the information is added to the footage on the interactive platform.

Offering some concluding remarks for the two panels of the day, Prof. Pain stated that civic nationalism did not exist in Russia, nor did it exist in the Post-Soviet countries. Although civic nationalism was explicitly declared in some of the Post-Soviet states (e.g., Ukraine), we observe ethnic nationalism there, where ethnic mobilisation is driven by the contrast with ‘the other’ (in many cases, with the Russians). As for the Russian Empire, we can talk about imperial nationalism there which was superethnic; it remained superethnic in the Soviet and in the early Putin times. Non-mainstream Russian ethnic nationalism had been weak and largely unpopular, but today it started being replaced by the state nationalism, and the current tendency towards Russification could be seen as the last mobilisation reserve employed by the authorities.

The discussion that followed the closing key note lecture of the day raised the questions of the extent to which the image of ‘the other’ could be constructed by propaganda (Faizrakhman, Pain), the seeming contradiction of the term ‘imperial nationalism’ and its applicability to the context of the Russian Empire (Zamyatin, Pain), prevalence of migrantophobia over islamophobia in today’s Russia (Pain, Oparin), and possible correlation between xenophobia and ideology (Leila Alieva, Pain).

The concluding panel of the workshop was dedicated to Minorities and was chaired by Sofya Gavrilova (University of Oxford).

The key note lecture by Prof. Bill Bowring from Birkbeck College, University of London, was dedicated to the history and current situation in respect of minority languages and minority language rights in the Russian Federation. Being a practicing lawyer as well as an academic, Prof. Bowring shared his first-hand knowledge of Russia’s participation in a joint €3 million project ‘National Minorities in Russia: Development of Languages, Culture, Media and Civil Society’ that was implemented during 2009-2011 in cooperation with the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Prof. Bowring noted that the outcome of the project was disappointing, with the pronounced tendency towards Russification in the Russian Federation as well as considerable decrease of education of and in minority languages in the country. This, in addition to limited visibility of minority languages in the public space, affects access to language rights both of persons belonging to small, often indigenous, communities, and of those belonging to large minorities, some of which even constitute majorities within republics. Prof. Bowring recalled Putin’s critical views of Lenin’s concept of a federative state and commented that in fact the situation with the minority languages in modern Russia is less favourable than it had been in the Russian Empire and in the Soviet Union.

The discussion that ensued raised the issue of terminology relating to the concept of ‘ethnic minority’ or ‘indigenous population’ (Nemechkin, Bowring), questions about the nature of complaints submitted by the representatives of ‘ethnic minorities’ (Kats, Bowring), the possibility of presentation of Russian culture as ‘high culture’ within the Russian Federation (Alieva), and the estimated costs of the projects that could have followed from signing the Charter (Faizrakhman, Bowring).

The talk Indigenous People of the Russian North by Dr Stephan Dudeck started with a brief historical overview of the position and status of the local population of the North within Russia since colonisation of Siberia in the 17th century until the 1990s, when the status of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Russian Far East was brought into correlation with the population size (thus, the ethnic groups that numbered fewer than 50,000 people received the status of small-numbered peoples). After going through a number of legal aspects of the definition and status of the peoples in question, the speaker focused on the cases where the interests of the indigenous people living in the lands rich in natural resources got in conflict with the interests of resource companies; in these resource conflicts, the companies normally position themselves as representing the interests of the whole country.

The following presentation was given by Ramazan Alpaut, a correspondent for the Tatar-Bashkir Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The paper traced the recent shifts in ethno-confessional and federative policy in the Russian Federation, which demonstrate increased limitations in respect of the rights of ethnic minorities, first of all concerning availability of education in languages other than Russian. The speaker argued that state nationality policy is in fact a good indicator of the more general processes and tendencies taking place in a country, and noted that these issues rarely get attention in larger mass media services.

Dr Natalia Taksami’s presentation, When the GULAG arrives in your Homeland: ethnic minorities of the Russian North-West. The illusiveness of the boundary between freedom and prison challenged the wide-spread assumption that Soviet forced modernisation, driven by prison labour, was instrumental in the exploration of remote unsettled territories. In actual fact, most of the territories of ‘great construction sites’ had long been inhabited by the indigenous people. On the other hand, those studying ‘Sovietisation’ of indigenous population tended to overlook the impact of industrial processes on the ethnic groups in question, analysing only the dominant ‘collectivisation’ factor. However, along with collectivisation and Sovietisation, the new economic system – the GULAG – caused dramatic changes to the everyday life of the local population. The need to study the relations between the GULAG system and the local indigenous groups is justified by two case studies dedicated to the Vepsians and the Tver’ Karelians.

The floor was then offered to Vyacheslav Shadrin, the Chief of Yukaghir Council of Elders and the Vice-President of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), who combines his social activist responsibilities with academic work in the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Humanities Research and Indigenous Studies of the North. His presentation entitled The Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation: the legal status, history, challenges and tendencies of development provided an overview of the state policy in respect of the 40 indigenous groups in question that inhabit 2/3 of the current territory of the Russian Federation, starting with the 1920s and up to the present day. The period of collectivisation, sovietisation, transfer to residency, industrialisation and consequent threat to ethnic identity in the mid-1930s-1980s was followed by intense processes of self-organisation among the indigenous peoples in the late 1980s, with the establishment of RAIPON as the nationwide umbrella organisation for indigenous peoples of the North. The latter period brought recognition of the rights of the indigenous population at the regional, state, and international levels, as well as development of legal framework for the protection of these rights, and gave rise to a wide network of various indigenous civic organisations. However, the shift towards ‘managed democracy’ after the year 2000 led to elimination of 6 out of 10 national regions, legislative regress concerning the rights of indigenous peoples as well as the loss of the right to use their territories and natural resources there free of charge; besides, the shift led to marginalisation of native languages. Climate change as well as intensive industrial development of the rich natural resources in the region significantly reduce the possibilities of leading traditional lifestyles and have become additional challenging factors for preservation of cultural identity for the indigenous peoples of the Russian North.

The final paper of the workshop, Nation Building in Dagestan in the USSR and Nowadays, was delivered by Oxford Russia Fund Fellow Dr Alisa Shishkina from the Higher School of Economics, Moscow. The presentation took the audience to the North Caucasus, which is considered to be one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse regions in the world, and was dedicated in particular to the ethnic minorities that had been brought together by the formation of the Republic of Dagestan in 1921. With 14 titular ethnic groups only, Dagestan makes the most polyethnic republic in the Russian Federation. The paper provided historical background for the situation in the republic in respect of ethnic groups and relations among them, and talked about the current trends in the republic with the emphasis on its exceptionally complex interrelation between ethnic identity and power hierarchy.

Dr Vasily Nemechkin from the Faculty of Law of Ogarev Mordovian State University summarised the papers of the panel and, also drawing on his own experience of participating in the International Finno-Ugric social movement, stressed the fragmentary nature of the efforts to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples in the Russian Federation as well as the discrepancy between international and national regulations referring to the indigenous population. He also noted the problem of definition, which separates indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities that are treated differently from the legal point of view. Among the most pertinent issues shared by the majority of indigenous peoples in today’s Russia, he mentioned the status of indigenous languages, demographic and ecological problems.

The discussion that followed featured comments by Prof. Emil Pain, who warned the colleagues against one-sided criticism of the current national strategy adopted by the Russian Federation. He reminded the audience that federalism aims at retaining the national territories and stands against disintegration. Besides, the shift towards integration and building a civic nation as a basis for federalism is a common trend in today’s world. Prof. Pain also noted that the rights of ethnic minorities should not be protected at the expense of the ethnic majority, as successful management of cultural diversity and true integration of minorities is impossible without integration of the ethnic and cultural majority. Leila Alieva, Ramazan Alpaut, Alisa Shishkina and Bill Bowring contributed to the discussion of the current trends and public demand related to federalism and integration in Russia and beyond, posing the question of whether they strengthened or weakened the state. It was specifically stressed that in any case integration should not imply assimilation. Airat Faizrakhman remarked on the ‘Putin versus Lenin’ opposition in relation to nationality politics, reminding the colleagues that the autonomy of the republics had been achieved as a result of a long-term struggle and it would be a simplification to attribute it to Lenin’s ‘gift’. He also wondered if we could talk about the Russian nation cumulatively, as a total of all the nationalities found on the territory of the Russian Federation. The discussion also raised the issues of ‘semi-dependent’ territories and the colonial nature of the relationship between the centre and the peripheries (Gavrilova, Dudeck, Alpaut), as well as the problem of ethnocentricity of Russian thinking and Russian scholarship which could simplify the picture and be counterproductive and even dangerous (Oparin, Dudeck).

The workshop was concluded with the closing remarks by Yulia Taranova (Russian Readings), who offered a brief overview of the two series of workshops organised by Russian Readings, one on Russian ‘Spatial Crisis’ and the other on Media in the Post-Truth Age, and noted that both series would lead to detailed reports that would summarise the contributions to the workshops and would aim at suggesting solutions as well as posing questions. Yulia Taranova also reminded the audience of the Oxford Russia Fund initiative of sponsoring Oxford Russia Fellowships, with the application deadline for the following academic year on 31 July 2019.


Saturday, 22nd June


Welcoming word

Professor Judith Pallot (University of Oxford, University of Helsinki)

Key note

Dr. Paul Goode (University of Bath)

Key note

Dr. Konstantin Zamiatin (University of Durham)

Sunday, 23d June

Panel ‘Migration’

Key Note

Dr. Anna-Liisa Heusala (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki)


Dr. Evgenyi Varshaver (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration), Dr. Dmitry Oparin (National Research University Higher School of Economics), Dr. Sherzod Eraliev (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki)


Anna Ter-Saakova (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Neighbour’s languages school), Dr Irina Kuznetsova (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Panel ‘Nationalism(s)’

Key Note

Professor Jeremy Smith (University of Eastern Finland)


Professor Mark Bassin (Södertörns University), Dr. Akhmet Yarlykapov (MGIMO, Centre for Caucasian Studies and Regional Security)


Dr. Ekaterina Arutyunova (Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences), Dr Airat Faizrakhman ('Magarif' association)


Olga Kravets (documentary filmmaker and photographer)

Closing key note

Professor Emil Pain (National Research University Higher School of Economics)

Monday, 24th June

Panel ‘Minorities’

Key Note

Professor Bill Bowring (Birbeck, University of London)


Dr. Stephan Dudeck (European University), Ramazan Alpaut (journalist, 'Ideal.real'), Dr. Natalia Taksami (University of Eastern Finland), Vyacheslav Shadrin (The Association of Indigenous Peoples of North of Republic Sakha (Yakutia)


Dr. Vasily Nemechkin (Ogarev Morodvin State University), Dr. Alisa Shiskina (National Research University Higher School of Economics)

Closing remarks

Yulia Taranova (Russian Readings)