It was always a longshot.
But the Russians who believed that ethnic Russians should have some official status within their putative country persevered. The Russians who believed that Russians, who constitute 85% of Russia’s citizens, are not inferior to and do not deserve any less than Jews, who proclaim Israel to be the Jewish State even though Jews make up only 75% of Israeli citizens, persevered. The Russians who wanted their country to follow in the footsteps of the post-Communist East European mainstream, where nationally-minded governments from Hungary to Poland have rewritten their Constitutions to prioritize God, traditional values, and their own people, persevered.
These Russians were not only “marginal” Russian nationalists in their “bubble of Internet subcultures“, such as Grigorov and the Russian Democrats with their petitions, Malofeev and his Tsargrad media empire, the more “official” lobbying efforts of Bespalko, and sundry individual publicists and activists. Enshrining ethnic Russians into the Constitution was the official position of the two largest opposition parties, the LDPR and the Communists; of several important figures within the Russian Orthodox Church; of certain individuals within the ruling “United Russia”, such as Konstantin Zatulin; and of numerous celebrities and intellectuals, such as sci-fi author Sergey Lukyanenko (most famous for The Night Watch).
We had plenty of “scares” along the way. For instance, one version of proposed Constitutional amendments leaked a week ago was most notable for obligating Russia to “combat all attempts to falsify history and revise the outcomes of the Second World War” – something that triggers senile sovoks into bouts of spittle-flecked rage against what they themselves castigate as small and irrelevant East European polities, and associates Russia with a regime that persecuted Russians more than anybody else. Another proposed addition called on Russia to “acknowledge the priority significance of science and technology for the country’s development.” That was something that could have only come from the imagination of a Russian bureaucrat-bugman. It’s what one imagines some tinpot Third World dictatorship would write in its Constitutional preamble. Central African Republic: We affirm the priority importance of vaccines and literacy for the country’s development. Meanwhile, there wasn’t even a hint that Russians would be mentioned. For a time, this seemed to confirm all our worst suspicions about the Kremlin’s antipathy towards Russianness.
So expectations were low – even if I did allow the possibility that this zrada (betrayal) could yet flower into a peremoga (victory), should Putin gather the courage to send the sovok apparatchiks packing – and propose his own, Russian changes.
Although the fine details have yet to be hammered out, we now know with a high degree of certainty that the following points will appear if not in the preamble, then at least somewhere, within the new Putin Constitution:
- Ethnic Russians as the “state-forming” (государствообразующей) nation of the Russian Federation.
- The rights of compatriots.
- Family as a union of woman and man.
Russia is transitioning from a post-Soviet scrapheap into a national democracy before our eyes.
(1) The acknowledgement that ethnic Russians have some stake in their own putative state does not impinge on the rights of the 15% of Russians who consider themselves to be minorities, since it does not contradict other statements about the multinational nature of the Russian Federation – nor, for that matter, does it impinge on the Constitutions of Russia’s ethnic minority Republics, most of which – including the two most important ones, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan – explicitly mention Tatars and Bashkirs, respectively, as peoples to whom they owe a special degree of responsibility.
So we have Bashkortostan for the Bashkirs. Tatarstan for the Tatars. Israel for the Jews. Skyrim for the Nords. Likewise, from April 22, 2020, Russia will be for the Russians.
(2) Russians are, along with Koreans, the world’s most divided major nation. Consequently, a special provision for Russians stranded abroad after the collapse of the USSR is called for – and Putin has promised to deliver.
(3) Barring a small Buddhist minority, at least 95% of Russian citizens come from cultures that practiced the Abrahamic faiths, while its core faith is undoubtedly and deeply Christian. This is something that most nations of the post-Communist bloc have been unafraid to recognize.
For instance, the Hungarian Constitution has the following lines:
We are proud that our king Saint Stephen built the Hungarian State on solid ground and made our country a part of Christian Europe one thousand years ago. … We recognise the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood. We value the various religious traditions of our country.
The West has become obsessed with LGBT rights since c.2010; since then, the US has gone from half of Americans opposed to gay marriage, to a bipartisan global Rainbow Crusade. So this particular point has perhaps received more vitriol than any other.
In reality, there is plenty of precedent for this – see, for example, the Polish Constitution of 1997:
Marriage, being a union of a man and a woman, as well as the family, motherhood and parenthood, shall be placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland.
Marriage is based on the mutual agreement of women and men; the spouses are equal in their familial relations.
The state expresses its care for the family through the creation and development of a wide network of childcare facilities, the organization and improvement of household services and public catering, the provisioning of child benefits, and the provisioning of subsidies and benefits to families with multiple children…
Incidentally, while we’re on this topic, the RSFSR even mentioned ethnic Russians in its preamble:
The formation of the RSFSR provided the [ethnic] Russian people, as well as all nations and peoples of the Russian Federation, with favorable conditions for comprehensive economic, social, and cultural development – while respecting their national characteristics within the brotherly family of Soviet peoples.
Tellingly, it was the USSR – the communal apartment in which ethnic Russians had to make do with squatting in the common areas, while the other major ethnicities got their own national republics – that fissured apart under centrifugal pressures in the late Gorbachev era. Whereas the RSFSR, which did assign ethnic Russians official status, had to be destroyed by Yeltsin’s tanks in 1993, to make way for an American-sponsored Constitution that had no place in it for ethnic Russians, a Constitution that proclaimed the superiority of the international community over Russia, a Constitution that we have had to put up with ever since. Until now.
Russians will imminently get a once in a generation opportunity to take their country back.
I am not saying that all the proposals are optimal from the viewpoint of Russian nation-building. At this point, we don’t even know the concrete wording, or even whether the changes will appear in the preamble or further within the Constitution.
But what I do know is that all the “right” people are enraged about this. Sovoks, liberals, and Russia’s Western “wellwishers” (ha-ha) – they are all triggered, and very, very sad at the prospect of Russians reclaiming their sovereignty – at least on paper – from their “multinational” elites and the “international community” that they serve.
But the dogs will bark and the caravan will move on.
The Russian Occupation Government is here to stay.