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This PER report concerns an international conference held in Moscow, inSeptember 1992, on problems of ethnic relations in the Russian Federation.It would be difficult to name a more complex or dangerous problem in thecatalog of post Cold War flash points than the ethnic conflicts unleashed bythe breakup of the former Soviet Union. Civil wars rage in several of thenewly independent former Soviet republics and have begun to embroil theRussian Federation itself.

Ethnic rivalry in the Russian Federation could well derail the alreadyextremely fragile process of democratization, with grave implications forregional and international security. Emerging from decades of politicalmanipulation and cultural repression, the non-Russian nationalities, largeand small, understandably lay claim to compensatory treatment in anenvironment of political disintegration and economic catastrophe. Risingethnic consciousness and competition collide with efforts to build a newcivil society where such divisiveness could be mitigated by more complexforms of political and economic interaction. Moreover, there is no obviousor equitable way to apportion power and resources along ethnic lines even ifthat were a desirable goal. The interpenetration of peoples of the region isthe demographic reality.

The Russian situation is only one chapter in the story of ethnic resurgenceand conflict that threatens to dominate regional and world politics as thenew century approaches. Examining the Russian version of this phenomenonprovides an opportunity to look for clues to general patterns of groupbehavior that now threaten life and limb on almost every continent. For thisreason PER gladly accepted the proposal of the Russian Federation StateCommittee on Nationalities Policy to organize a joint conference that wouldallow Russian officials and experts, representatives of the nationalities ofthe Russian Federation, and foreign specialists to exchange and compareinformation and perspectives. PER brought to the conference a team ofleading American and east European experts on comparative ethnic issues andRussian nationalities. In all, some 80 individuals participated. Their namesare listed at the end of the report.

In planning the meeting PER joined the Conflict Management Group (CMG) ofCambridge, Massachusetts, which is launching a program on conflictresolution in the Russian Federation with funding by the CarnegieCorporation of New York. Since Carnegie provides core support for PER'sextensive programs in eastern Europe, it is a double pleasure to acknowledgethe collaboration. PER's participation in the Moscow meeting was madepossible by a grant from the Star Foundation.

Larry Watts, PER Senior Consultant, prepared this synopsis of theconference. We have tried to be accurate and balanced in summarizing theproceedings, and ask the understanding of participants whose remarks may nothave been fully captured within the brief compass of this document, forwhich PER accepts sole responsibility.

Allen H. Kassof, Director
Livia B. Plaks, Associate Director

Project on Ethnic Relations
February 1993


September 22-24, 1992

The conference dealt with present and future ethnic relations within theRussian Federation. Attending and making presentations were representativesof federal governmental institutions, officials and researchers from therepublics and administrative regions of Russia, and American and easternEuropean participants.

The opening address was delivered by Valerian Tishkov, Director of theInstitute of Ethnography at the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chairman ofthe Russian Federation State Committee on Nationalities Policy (GOSKOMNATS).Tishkov noted that this conference represented a new and innovativeapproach, for it brought together not only scientists and administrators butgovernment officials from local, regional, and central levels who have dailyresponsibility for ethnic relations. Moreover, both the informality of themeeting and the intention to reconvene on a regular basis set it apart fromprevious efforts. Despite the uniqueness of the Russian case, noted Tishkov,many areas of the world face similar, painful problems, and comparativeperspectives provided by specialists from the United States and EasternEurope are essential.

Throughout the conference, participants debated a number of basic issuesthat by now are familiar in post-communist societies: whether to adopt acivic versus an ethnic orientation; whether to focus on the individual orthe collective; whether to place priority on redressing past injusticesagainst ethnic minorities or on achieving democratic transformation; whetherto promote the distinctiveness and cultural renaissance of various ethnicgroups within their own territories or to focus on measures to strengthenthe Federation.

Underlying the first of these debates--whether to adopt a civic or an ethnicorientation--are two very different approaches with very differentimplications. The civic orientation emphasizes the danger of currenttensions between ethnic groups and the long-term implications ofsocio-political instability. This approach implicitly defines two prioritiesfor policy makers in the Russian Federation: first, the avoidance of violentand deadly conflicts, and second, the stabilization of social, political,and economic life. Both are seen as prerequisites for a successfultransition to democracy. This orientation was emphasized by the Americans,the East Europeans, and a number of Russian Federation participants(primarily those connected with GOSKOMNATS and other state organizations).

The other orientation emphasizes the preservation of ethnic cultures andencompasses pleas for support in recovering traditions and aspects ofculture which had been forbidden, obtaining compensation for pastrepressions, and gaining preferential access to economic resources and statepower in the future. Those embracing this orientation generally make demandson the central state authority either for "affirmative" distribution ofresources or for broadly defined rights of self determination, includingindependent statehood. The principal concern of this group is theimprovement of their demographic, territorial, and societal status.Underlying this position is a strongly felt sense of entitlement tocompensation for gross injustices, in particular the suppression of ethnicculture and forced assimilation under the former Communist regime.

All participants agreed on the inherent value of ethnic identity. DavidHamburg noted that group solidarity, the sense of "my people," played acrucial role in sustaining peoples' hope and will to live during the darkestperiods of dictatorship. While the ethnic orientation may look to the past,it is a powerful current force. As Daniel Matuszewski put it, the diverseethnic groups which make up the Russian Federation might be considered asmany precious and beautiful stones set in a great crown. The loss of even asingle stone would diminish its value. It is entirely natural, Matuszewskistated, that the suppression of memory and heritage over the previousseventy years has now led to the rediscovery and cultivation of ethnicity.We must, however, consider the context in which this process is occurring,namely the collapse of the regional political economy. There are at presentvery few resources available to these long-suppressed peoples, and feelingsof resentment and abandonment are to be expected.


Another central point of disagreement was the relationship of an ethnicgroup to a specific territory or "motherland." Many participants fromrepublics of the Russian Federation who represented "titular" or "stock"nations (i.e. the indigenous ethnic groups) called for the concentration oftheir populations within the "motherland." In the Adygey Republic, forexample, where over 70 percent of Adygeys were evicted during the Tsaristand Soviet periods, the titular nation now forms only 22 percent of thepopulation. The call has been sent out to the diaspora (primarily in Turkey,Iraq, and Israel) to return, and over 130 families have done so. In thiscase, apparently, there were no counterclaims to the territory--an exceptionthat proved the rule.

As Hamburg explained, there has been a tendency to wish to establishseparate ethnic territorial structures at a time when it has becomeimperative both for Russia and for the entire world to understand thenecessity to live together harmoniously. The end of the Cold War and thedisintegration of the Soviet Union, coupled with extraordinary advances intechnology, now present us with the paradox of unparalleled opportunitiesand unprecedented dangers. Worldwide, there are today over 3,000 peoples butonly 180 states. One and one-half billion people would have to be moved tosatisfy the goal of "one ethnos, one state," which some participants in theconference were demanding. The brutality involved in such an operation wouldbe unimaginable.

The problem, as outlined by Vojislav Stanovcic, has been exacerbated by theexplosion of ethnic identity over the past three decades. Thirty years agoaround the globe there were between 800 and 900 politically relevant ethnicgroups, compared with today's 3,000. Once compact ethnic groups have tendedto spread from their point of origin. Ethnic Russians, for instance, are nowpresent in all neighboring states. Worldwide, this identity explosion hasled to more than 600 secessionist movements. Only nine or ten states,representing one-half of one percent of the world's population, aremonoethnic. The tendency in eastern Europe and the Russian Federationcontinues to be to try and achieve what is seen as the ideal--the monoethnicstate--regardless of the violence entailed. Yugoslavia's tens of thousandsdead and millions of refugees illustrate the disastrous potential of thistendency.

Galina Starovoitova, speaking of Georgia, Abkhazia, and the NorthernCaucusus, explained that the situation and its complications cannot be fullyappreciated without an understanding of contemporary Russian history. Thecolonies of the Russian empire were contiguous, allowing great ethnicintermingling. Today, some 60 million people live outside the confines oftheir "home" republics. With the disintegration of the empire and thecreation of fifteen independent states, some 25 million Russians have becomeinvoluntary "immigrants" outside the Russian Federation. Obviously, thestability of borders to which we had become accustomed after World War II,and which was enshrined in the Helsinki Acts, no longer exists. Helsinkimust be rethought and the international legal status of borders must becritically reworked to afford some degree of real security.

In the meantime, however, there are all too many interested parties willingto define new borders. Their lack of prescience is exceeded only by theirenthusiasm. Starovoitova suggested that three criteria should be consideredas a basis for self-determination. The first is, who previously owned theterritory? This criterion, which is most often cited, begs the question ofhow long a territory has to be held, or have been held, in order tolegitimate a claim upon it. Is 600 years enough? A millennium? Doespossession have to be continuous or can different periods of possession beadded together? Does possession during some periods of history constitute abetter claim than possession during others? Does possession during thetwentieth century have priority? Do eighteenth and nineteenth century claimshave priority over eighth and ninth century claims? If so, why? These arenot considerations that proponents of historical claims normally address. Asecond criterion is current demographic reality. Although this would atfirst appear to be the most workable and least troublesome criterion, itruns head on into claims based on history. Finally, the expression of the"will of the entire people" through a referendum is often cited as an"incontrovertible" criterion, regardless of whether the voting majority isqualified or entitled to make such a decision. The problem of who definesthis "will," moreover, is left unexamined.

The chairman of the nationality committee of the North Ossetian Republicnoted that when we talk of national state structure the issue is really oneof territory or, more precisely, the "traditional homeland." But thisapproach, he added, is simply inapplicable. How can we speak today of a"motherland?" How should we choose this elusive defining point in a nation'shistory when humankind has been migrating throughout history? It is thispoint that renders Article Six of the Russian Federation law on therehabilitation of repressed peoples, passed in April 1991, impossible toimplement even though it was conceived with the best of intentions. Forexample, the fatherland of Ossetia, of the Alans, once extended from theCaspian Sea to the Black Sea to the River Don. Should that constituteOssetia today? This would be absurd. Tishkov cited the territorialrehabilitation of the Chechen-Ingush. It is true that at the moment of theirdeportation the Ingush were located in a region of Ossetia. But twenty yearsearlier the area was home not to the Ingush but to the Cossacks. And if wego back even earlier in time, we will find another "indigenous" people.Seeking historical rationalizations for expropriating real estate isunacceptable and diverts us from dealing with the real problems at hand.

Tishkov noted the fundamental dilemma, alluded to earlier by Hamburg andMatuszewski, of satisfying the strong desire of various ethnic groups forjustice after seventy years of cultural suppression and forced assimilation.This desire was particularly strong on behalf of the twelve ethnic groupsdeclared criminal and deported en masse during Stalinist repressions.According to Tishkov, territory belongs to those who live there; this is theconcept accepted by international law. But what of the right to justice?

The difficulties associated with the concept of traditional homelandsprompted a number of participants to recommend a moratorium on territorialrehabilitations, all the more so since, in some cases, fictionaldeportations have been invented in order to obtain property. Starovoitovadescribed the past and present complicating role of the militaristicmentality in the difficult case of the Cossacks. Russian President BorisYeltsin had proposed the rehabilitation of the Cossacks without consultingwith the nationalities experts. In fact, the Cossacks had been an estaterather than an ethnic group, and their proletariat had not been purged. Thecurrent measures provided for by Yeltsin's decree make it possible for theCossacks to become an unmanageable military force retaining their feudalstructure. Their Atamans or chiefs are not infrequently directed by formercommunist leaders, and it is significant that the order of rehabilitationwas also signed by Marshal Yazov.


A number of participants expressed concern that the focus of policy wasbeing misdirected during the present "time of troubles." In view ofincreasing ethnic tensions and violence, noted Allen Kassof, notwithstandingthe undeniable value of preserving cultures, the protection of human livesand fundamental individual rights must take priority in state policy.However, according to Starovoitova, current Russian state authorities areaccused of chauvinism for pursuing this very priniciple.

Andrei Musatescu of Romania asserted that ethnocentric approaches tosystemic problems, including those of interethnic tensions, carry with themthe risk of dangerous, sectarian isolation. One cannot effectively deal withethnic problems within a purely ethnic framework, contended Musatescu. Thecurrent task--and challenge--must be the development of civic society and amarket economy. If the extremely difficult problems of such a complextransition are defined solely in ethnic terms, crises that develop mayquickly escalate from the local to the national--and even to theglobal--level.

Mihail Ivanov of Bulgaria described just such a problem in his country.After a period of ethnic calm and rapprochement following the extension ofequal rights to Bulgaria's Turkish and Roma (Gypsy) minorities, thegovernment now fears a dangerous situation as economic conflicts take on anethnic coloration. At present Bulgaria is in deep recession. While highunemployment is a problem for all Bulgarians, it has hit the minority ethnicgroups particularly hard; 80 percent of Romanies (Gypsies) and 48 percent ofTurks are unemployed, compared with 14 to 15 percent of Bulgariansnationwide. The result has been increasing crime, xenophobia, and racistmanifestations, phenomena also experienced in the Russian Federation.

Speaking of his recent visit to the Caucusus (Southern and Northern Ossetiaand Ingushetia), Tishkov noted that conflicts become superimposed on oneanother. Severe economic dislocation and social disorientation createviolence, which finally leads to military intervention. Inexperiencedmilitary commanders in Southern Ossetia, for example, say that peace keepingcannot achieve its main mission--to disarm paramilitary groups and civilianfighters and to undertake peace-making procedures. They believe that forcewould not be necessary in the first place if bread, gas, and water wereavailable to the local population. Factionalism among leaders is anothercomplicating factor. In Ossetia and Ingushetia, for instance, conflict inthe political leadership has exacerbated economic hardship. The ethnicsituation is vulnerable to many outside and seemingly unrelated factors.

Since the allocation of resources and political participation are at theheart of social competition, this scenario of economic collapse andpolitical instability provides fertile ground for ethnic entrepreneurs andpolitical demagogues. Even when we know this, however, there is no easy wayto resolve the tension between ethnic and civic cultures. The case of thetitular nations in the Buryat Autonomous district of the Ust-Orda-Irkutskregion was characteristic, even if extreme. As the Buryat-Irkutskparticipant, Nikolai Bogdanov, explained, there has been a significantabsolute and relative diminution of the indigenous populations since 1917;they now constitute only 30 percent of the overall population. While theypreviously enjoyed a guaranteed number of important positions, those quotashave now been abolished and there is a serious danger that the indigenouspopulations will no longer even be represented in the republic'slegislature. Moreover, assimilation or Russification is inevitable giventhat there is little prestige in knowing the native language and fewresources available to teach or preserve it.

The rehabilitation of the titular nations and their republics, coupled withdemographic trends unfavorable to the indigenous nations, formed the GordianKnot of the conference. In Buryatia, 24 percent of the population is Buryatand 48 percent is Russian. Bashkirs make up 23 percent of Bashkortorstan. InKhakassia, the stock nation is only 11.5 percent of the population.Astrakhan and the entire upper Volga region have experienced immigrationever since the formation of the Soviet Union. Only a small fraction of theMordvin population now occupies their historic homeland between the Volga,Kara, and Sula rivers. Given the opportunity at last to freely express theircultural identities, these peoples are told that there now are moreimportant problems facing Russia. The choice between accepting theleadership of authoritarian political demagogues and corruptethno-politicians in the name of their ethnicity, or of working for thedemocratic transition regardless of ethnicity has become a genuine "devil'salternative."Voices from within the Federation cautioned that the promises of thedemagogues are ephemeral. As the representative from North Ossetiaexplained, the goal of ethnic self-realization should indeed be subordinatedto a more general goal: the creation of conditions for the fulfillment ofindividual rights within the Russian Federation and the Commonwealth ofIndependent States (CIS). It is toward individual rights that efforts mustbe directed. Unfortunately, the trend is to emphasize group ratherindividual rights. We speak exclusively of the rights of nations,particularly indigenous nations, forgetting that we cannot neatly divide allpeople into nationalities. The first priority of GOSKOMNATS, concludedTeimuraz Kusov, should be to establish practical means of promoting andprotecting human rights.


As Hamburg pointed out, it was crucial that all sides rigorously avoideither blaming or competing with one another in the current situation. Thegoal is joint problem solving. At present one can imagine the Federation asa boat on a river where all the passengers are protesting their perceivedsecond-class status. No one seems to notice that the boat itself is headedtowards a dangerous precipice and that common disaster can be avoided onlythrough cooperation.

As Fiona Hill observed, however, it is troubling to see how sometimes evenWestern social scientists blame the Russians for current ethnic conflicts.For example, when Vadim Remler of Krasnodar complained that the rights ofethnic Russians were being ignored or violated, several of the Americansconsidered the complaint to reflect Russian chauvinism. Hill noted, however,that the former Soviet constitution stipulated only the obligations and noneof the rights of Soviet citizens and did not distinguish ethnic Russiansfrom other nationalities. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, alldiscussion and attention has been focused on the rights of non-Russianethnic groups on the territory of the Russian Federation, while less hasbeen said of the rights of ethnic Russians. If such views are common amongoutsiders, it is no surprise that non-Russian ethnic groups within theRussian Federation are loathe to consider that the Russians also feelvulnerable.

This state of affairs is further complicated by the situation in thoserepublics of the Russian Federation where the stock or titular peoples arein the minority but enjoy preferential treatment--positivediscrimination--vis-a-vis the majority ethnic Russians. There is a dangerthat attempts to redress past injustices against one group will create newinjustices for another. Moreover, movements to equalize the social,economic, and political status of all groups will be perceived--accuratelyor not--as discriminatory unless special attention is paid to how theseadjustments are presented and implemented. Under present circumstances, thisdanger can be minimized only if the effort to achieve equality focuses onthe rights of individuals rather than on those of ethnic collectivities.

Ethnic Russians in the titular non-Russian republics have found it difficultto accept preferential treatment for native populations. Not surprisingly,many feel disadvantaged when faced with discriminatory hiring policies inrepublic organizations, especially during a period of harsh economicstringencies and fierce competition for resources. Moreover, along withtheir diminished access to political and economic resources, ethnic Russiansstand to lose social status as well. In many respects, Russians areexchanging places on the socioeconomic scale with the formerly"second-class" non-Russians. Often the only way for them to retain somesemblance of equal status is to adopt the practices and, in some cases thelanguage, of what was formerly considered the "inferior" culture. Havinglived their entire lives in positions of privileged status vis-a-vis othernationalities, ethnic Russians have developed certain expectations that,given present trends, are unlikely to be met in the "non-Russian" republics.

As Nailia Malikova of GOSKOMNATS pointed out, the situation is worse forethnic Russians than it is for non-Russians in 11 out of the 20 republics ofthe Federation. In the absence of stable mass political parties, regionalmafias pursuing property and power are able to use nationalistic slogans tomanipulate and mobilize local Russian populations toward questionable ends.

While social scientists and non-Russian ethno-politicians champion therights of non-Russian ethnic groups in the Russian Federation, ethnicRussians can, with some justification, point to a diminution of their rightsand a general lack of concern for their well being. Given the currentintense economic hardship and political instability, arguments abouthistoric redress hold little sway with Russians who find themselves in theFederation's various republics. The result is an insecurity and sensitivityamong ethnic Russians that one would more likely expect from an embattledminority than an overwhelming majority. Indeed, in trying to understand thevarious cross cutting sources of tension in the Russian Federation, it maybe useful to think of Russian ethno-politicians as they think ofthemselves--as another embattled minority--rather than expecting them tocheerfully make concessions and accept a culpability they do not think isequitable. At the same time, the existence of substantial minority Russianpopulations in the newly-independent former republics of the Soviet Unionlends the problem an international dimension that has been exploited byvarious interested parties who have little genuine concern for ethnic orminority rights.


It was evident from the various presentations that ethnic desiderata areoften pursued at the expense of everything else, including physical safety,socio-political stability, and economic progress. This single-minded pursuitcomes from a deeply-felt and widely-held emotional commitment thatoverwhelms cost-benefit analysis and rational decision making. The lesspowerful the countervailing sentiment of loyalty to the overarching state(or, in this case, federation), the easier it is for ethno-politicians tomanipulate the population.

Unfortunately, as Stanovcic pointed out, the disintegration of thefederations of Czechoslovakia, the USSR, and Yugoslavia that we are nowwitnessing can largely be attributed to the brand of federalism that hadbeen practiced under communism. This "facade federalism" was characterizedby state control of all aspects of civil life that prevented the formationof civil society, as well as by a disregard for human rights that underminedthe loyalty of both individual citizens and ethnic groups. Moreover, rulerswere accountable to no one; there were no laws by which they were bound.Many laws existed but none limited the power of government. Instead, lawswere seen as expressions of the government's will.

Pyotr Bokaev asserted that this had been precisely the experience of hisrepublic, Kalmykia. Had all nations united on equal terms, the union couldhave been preserved. Unfortunately, the union came into being throughforce--the destruction of statehoods, the suppression of ethnic identities,and the denial of individual human rights. Although almost four hundredyears ago Kalmykia voluntarily joined the territories that later formed theSoviet Union, Kalmyk leaders now consider that to have been a mistake.

The problem now, according to Bronislav Zadornovsky of GOSKOMNATS, is tofind a useful and acceptable model of federalism when the very concept hasbeen delegitimized. What is true federalism? From a strictly legalstandpoint, there is only one type of federalism. After that one speaks ofconfederations, unitary states, and the like. In practice, however, there isno precise definition of federalism. In the political world, hybridcreations are the norm. Federalism is never the dichotomous contradiction itis often portrayed to be. The history of federalism in practice shows it tobe a dynamic structure, a constant compromise between centralization anddecentralization--between the conflicting aspirations of unification andseparation. These compromises, which are more properly seen as processesthan as final solutions, have been achieved either through agreements orconstitutions. For the Russian Federation, a unique type of federalism isrequired because the question is not one of unifying separate states butseparating a formerly unitary state. We therefore need a specificconstitutional basis and new contractual forms. Unfortunately, however, weface a "Bermuda Triangle" of problems: federalism, sovereignty, andself-determination. Units of the federation wish to retain theirsovereignty. But there can be no sovereignty without the right to secede.And the right of self-determination has been elevated to an absolute point:secession.

The inherently ambiguous nature of terms such as autonomy andself-determination, which can range in meaning from concessions to localself-administration to full sovereignty, has added to the prevailinguncertainty and insecurity. This ambiguity is amplified by the full range ofconflicting interpretations currently in use among both central authoritiesand ethnic groups. Unfortunately, these terms are also regularly usedwithout precision by authorities on ethnic relations. In addition,translation from one language to another often lends these terms unintendednuances. Thus, semantic confusion compounds an already major conceptualproblem.

In the case of the Russian Federation, the term self-determination isinvoked with two contradictory aims in mind: to strengthen the Federation byproviding the sovereignty necessary for a true federalism, and to providethe context for leaving the Federation altogether. Valery Shamshurov, Deputyto Minister Tishkov, using the term in the former sense, spoke of its"misuse," emphasizing the right to self-government at the territorial leveland the right of the individual to his or her own cultural identity, as wellas the ability to actually exercise these rights. Retaining the right of"self-determination" naturally raises questions of sovereignty, but what,Shamshurov asked, will be the result? A new type of federalism or a varietyof nationalisms? Though it is currently popular to assert that within theFederation only Russian ethnicity can be chauvinistic, experience here andelseerwhe has already proven otherwise.

Attila Pok cautioned that independence, autonomy, and self-determination canlead to either democracy or dictatorship. As Pok noted, there have been manyreferences to the false federalism and the true imperialism of the formerSoviet Union. But it should also be remembered that the imperial center wasrequired to some extent to develop the same areas it exploited in order tomore efficiently exploit them. In other words, the suppression ofnationality did not preclude economic development. Conversely, there is noguarantee that the successful achievement of national and ethnic goals todaywill lead to success in economic development and other areas of publicpolicy.

The problem of secession was the focus of much discussion, with mostparticipants expressing pessimism about the future. As Bokaev explained,though his republic favored continuing the Russian Federation, ethnicRussians were pushing them toward advocating separate statehood because ofthe Russians' continued domination of non-Russian peoples. This, in turn,has led to fears, expressed by one Russian representative, that ethnicRussians living on the territory of a seceding republic would bediscriminated against in their own "motherland." If the titular nationcomprises only six to twelve percent of the population in a republic, andthe remaining population is mostly Russian, what principle is served bysecession? Under such conditions, it is unlikely that secession would beentertained even in principle. The Russian representative criticized asfundamentally flawed the practice of automatically equating unification withgenocide, or nationalism with humanitarianism. What is needed instead, heargued, is a means of ensuring that all ethnic groups are protected withequal vigor throughout the Federation.

While Rasma Karklins agreed that secession--and the extent to which itshould be allowed--is a thorny issue, she maintained that it was extremelyimportant to retain the possibility symbolically since it appears that theonly way to avoid secession is to accept it. At the same time, however,every effort must be made to promote accommodation. The long-term goal ofinstilling democratic values and political culture can be supplemented withpractical measures such as establishing a veto for minority groups toreassure them that no initiatives detrimental to their legitimate interestswill be adopted. Such a model, supported by several other participants,would have to be carefully crafted since the opportunities for abuse wouldbe many. There will inevitably be a lag between acceptance of secession as aprinciple and the ability to provide real, attractive incentives toaccommodation within the Federation. The crux of the matter, of course, isto prevent this lag from becoming so great that saving the Federationbecomes impossible.

Starovoitova acknowledged that the speed of events, especially after theAugust 1991 putsch, caught everyone off guard. For a time, the continuedpresence of the Slavic republics in the CIS had provided somepredictability. But now it is clear that the CIS is a process rather than astructure. Today, Starovoitova noted, we are frequently confronted withtrends in the former USSR that run directly counter to the integration inWestern Europe. Given the disintegration of the USSR, there are reasons tofear for the continued territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. Therapidity with which these developments have overtaken us has been compoundedby the woefully underdeveloped nature of international law in this area.Everyone has concentrated on the final act of the Helsinki Declaration, onthe inviolability of the post-war frontiers, and on the UN Charter andInternational Declaration on Civil and Political Rights, especially theright of people to self-determination. Today, however, all that theseprovisions can guarantee us is more instability and uncertainty. As it nowstands, international law provides us with the right to chaos.

It was quite evident that few were prepared for the extent to whichdifferent ethnic groups in the non-Russian republics of the Federation wouldpush for complete territorial separation. The deputy chairman of theinternational relations department of the Republic of Karelia noted that theidea of Karelian separation has been building, in the hope of forming aKarel-Finnish Republic, despite the fact that three-quarters of Karelia'spopulation is Russian, and that two-thirds of Karels and Russians viewthemselves as belonging to a part of Russia. Such a secession would lead toa disintegration of the Russian Federation.

Likewise, Igor Kosikov of the Institute of Ethnology of the Russian Academyof Sciences explained that a March 1992 referendum on sovereignty inTartarstan showed 68 percent of the population to be in favor of secession.Consequently, Tatarstan has not signed the Federation Treaty and relationswith Russia continue to be conducted on the basis of bilateral agreements.The Russian Parliament maintains that the Tatarstan question does not fallwithin the domain of international law. There has thus far been noagreement. Tatarstan is neither independent, nor is it an acknowledgedmember of the Federation. To date its only entrance onto the internationalstage has been through bilateral agreements with Russia's neighbors.

Donald Horowitz, agreeing with Starovoitova on the dismal state ofinternational law relating to self-determination, pointed out that, wherethe term is taken to imply the achievement of independent mono-ethnicstatehood, a process begins that has no end. Other ethnic groups residing inthe area for which self-determination is being debated begin consideringself-determination for themselves as well. This is especially true where themajority population of the original, larger state finds itself in a minorityin the area for which independent statehood is now being sought. Such agroup may have greater cause than others to fear retributionaldiscrimination, but such fears are by no means limited to this group.Indeed, the capacity of newly independent territories to create newminorities and to discriminate against them has no obvious limit. Even if noother ethnic groups were present--a statistical improbability--establishedethnic groups can and do divide to form new subgroups.

The representative from Karelia gave a striking example of this latterprocess. In preparing a conference of Finnish-Ugric nations of the north, hequickly discovered that the kin nations--the Karels, the Vepps, and theFinns--use the term "national revival" very differently, claiming that thereare distinct Karelian, Vepp, and Finnish problems in Karelia. In short,there is neither unity of opinion nor commonly held concepts even amongethnic kin. In most of the republics, in fact, a significant number of otherethnic groups are represented--over 100 in the case of the Khakas and BuryatRepublics. The head of the Astrakhan administration asked, how, when thereare multiple ethnic communities, we are supposed to address even therelatively straightforward concept of cultural autonomy, much less the muchmore treacherous issue of self-determination. Should we institute a nationallanguage for a village? A council? What exactly is the appropriatebreakdown?


The benchmark recommendation of all participants was to increase standardsof human rights. Participants agreed with Hamburg and Tishkov on the needduring the present institutional breakdown to create healthy institutionsfor conflict resolution, and agreed with Karklins and Matuszewski on therequirement for similar institutions to manage democratic ethno-politics.Moreover, a consensus formed concerning the appropriate focus of efforts atthe local level, where participants agreed that practical efforts must beconcentrated. As the old American adage asserts, "all politics is localpolitics." The demonstration effect of successful efforts would be verygreat indeed if the media could be enticed to cover them with some degree ofobjectivity. Assistance from the media, however, was considered unlikelygiven its partisan tendencies, which were condemned by representatives frommany of the republics both inside and outside the Federation: Astrakhan,Chechenya, Georgia, Kabardine, Kalmykia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Tuva, andUdmurtia. Regardless of whether the media can be objective, it is vital,according to Hamburg, that political administrators be so when addressingethnic issues. While there is still a need for expertise at the top, thesuccess or failure of policies at the local level hinges upon the neutralityand fairness of the local personnel and institutions that implement them.William Ury suggested orchestrating a system of reciprocal steps that eachside could take at this level in order to build the minimal trust needed tode-escalate tensions.

The central problem, asserted Kassof, was to place human rights in aworkable framework that included not only the right to self-determinationbut also the right of peoples to live together peacefully. The problem, saidKarklins, is how to make it possible for many nations to live together in asingle state. Karklins suggested that the creation of a democratic politicalculture--of norms and values that favor tolerance and accommodation--iscritical, as many representatives from the federation republics hadacknowledged. Stanovcic explained that what we have at present is anauthoritarian culture, when what we need is a democratic and participatoryculture. Zvi Gitelman, agreeing with Karklins and Stanovcic, stated that,unless compromise is accepted as a norm of social and political life, themost beautifully crafted democratic institutions quickly founder, as theexperience of the Weimar Republic attests. However, while the basis for sucha transformation of values will have to be laid now, the objective will bereached only in the long term.

Nancy Lubin questioned the immutability of ethnicity. Individuals, notedLubin, have many identities. It is not always clear which will become mostimportant and when. Ethnicity is not always the primary source of one'sidentity, and ethnic groups are not always cohesive. Gitelman agreed,suggesting that other, cross-cutting loyalties, for example patriotism orallegiance to a system, might be emphasized. Pok added that there is often astrong non-ethnic component to national identity. Even as late as the earlynineteenth century, for example, Hungarians based their nationalism largelyon German culture; there were other, overlapping regional identities aswell, such as the "Central European" identity. Perhaps these cross cuttingidentities might be emphasized once again.

Stanovcic cautioned that it is very difficult to reach any compromise onissues of a group's identity such as name, religion, and language, and thatthese are best defined by the group itself. Horowitz agreed with Stanovcic,adding that of the three elements at the heart of the problem (symbolicinterests, material interests, and political interests) the first, whichprovides claims to property, collective self-esteem, and confirmation ofrelative status, is not very tractable, at least not in the short term.Symbol-splitting (or enlargement) as suggested by the notion of redefininggroup identity is exceedingly difficult. The tendency of individuals andgroups, as author Henri Tajfel so strikingly illustrated, is to increaserelative differentiation in social status rather than to cooperate withother groups. Citing several cases in Japan and India where suchsymbol-splitting was eventually successful, Horowitz went on to argue that,although this might be a sound long-term strategy, it was not a particularlyuseful tactical recommendation.

Similarly, in terms of material interests, the redistribution of resourcesthrough such preferential policies as affirmative action could incur costsin both the short and long term that might outweigh any benefits. Thehostility of the majority population that results from preferentialism wasemphasized by most of the participants from the Russian Federation. There isan ongoing debate in the United States about whether preferentialism createsa long-term dependency that internalizes a sense of inferiority. Moreover,as Stanovcic noted, introducing notions of preferentialism just as elitesare trying to introduce the concept of free enterprise adds confusion whereclarity is sorely needed.

Stanovcic proposed that, after so many years of living under models ofdomination, the region needed new models of accommodation such asconsociational democracy as practiced in Switzerland. Horowitz cautionedthat models such as that of consociationalism are more likely the result ofpeaceful ethnic relations than their cause. Continuing with this theme,Kassof suggested that we keep our aims as modest as possible; it wasunrealistic to expect early resolution of problems that have plagued usthroughout this century. Pok related that the Hungarian experience withnationality problems had taught them to aim toward management rather thanresolution. While we can provide general traffic rules, we must accept thatthere will always be bad drivers.

Echoing Kassof, Horowitz agreed that it was imperative to not aim too high.In a severely divided society, Horowitz said, it is futile to devote verymuch attention to trying to make people love and respect one another.Gitelman agreed, adding that it was wiser to settle for peaceful coexistencethan to strive in vain for integration. The immediate goals should benon-violence and equality, even if communities remain separate. Over time,contacts and interaction may lead to healthier relationships, but the shortrun goal is to avoid violence.

Horowitz argued that one area where specific action might be taken is in therealm of political interest or, more precisely, the interest of politicians.At present, there are very large incentives for politicians to exploitethnicity and ethnic tensions in order to achieve political gains. This isparticularly so where there are very few economic resources available forredistribution. A good deal of ethnic conflict revolves around politics andpoliticians, and their pursuit of group advantage. We need to createincentives for accommodative behavior. It is important to realize that themanner of introducing such incentives may be as important as theirsubstance. Often, a good idea is dismissed after a failed attempt atimplementation not because the idea was unsound, but because the method ofimplementation was ill-conceived. Such efforts must be both coherent andpersistent.

In this connection, many participants agreed that foreign expertise andjoint projects were useful ways of tapping into Western experience. Severalsuggested that the West should structure aid so as not to place states andpeoples within the region in competition with one another but to provideincentives for cooperation among peoples.

Conference Participants


Mikhail Ivanov, Office of the Presidency


Attila Pok,  Institute of History, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and theEuropa Institute


Andre Musetescu,  Department for Social-Political Structures, Government ofRomania

Russian Federation

Sergei Aleksandrovich Arutiunov,  Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology,Russian Academy of Sciences.

Victor Nikolaievich Birin,  Committee on Nationality Policy and Inter-EthnicRelations, Karelian Republic.

Nikolai Borisovich Bogdanov,  Committee on the Affairs of Native Peoples ofthe North, Murmansk Oblast Administration.

Engel'sina Ivanovna Bagadaeva,  Head Specialist on Inter-Ethnic Relations,Ust-Ordynsky Autonomous Okrug.

Pyotr Dzorzhievich Bokaev,  Department of Inter-Ethnic Relations, Council ofMinisters, Kalmyk Republic.

Vladimir Barinovich Bagai-Ool,  Advisor to the President of Tuva Republic onNationality Policy and Domestic Affairs.

Viktor Mikhailovich Viktorin,  Department on Nationality Policy, AstrakhanOblast Administration

Mikhail Nikolaevich Guboglo,  Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology,Russian Academy of Sciences

Rafail Yagofarovich Gabitov,  Plenipotentiary on Questions of Inter-EthnicRelations and Inter-Ethnic Links, Sverdlovsk Oblast Government.

Magomed Salikh-Magomedovich Gusaev,  Committee on Nationality Affairs,Dagestan Republic

Anatoly Panteleevich Gabrusenko,  Advisor to the Head of the Tomsk OblastAdministration on Nationality Questions.

Leokadiia Mikhailovna Drobizheva,  Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology,Russian Academy of Sciences

Nima-Tseren Chimidovich Dobaev,  Department on Inter-Ethnic Relations,Council of Ministers, Buriatia Republic

Eduard Khamidovich Dzhetuganov,  Committee on Nationality Policy,Karachaev-Cherkessk Republic

Vsyacheslav Nikolaevich Egorov,  Department on Inter-Ethnic Relations,Ul'ianovsk Oblast Administration.

Bronislav Bronislavovich Zadarnovsky,  State Committee on Nationality Policy(GOSKOMNATS), Russian Federation

Vyacheslav Vladimirovich Igrunov,  GOSKOMNATS

Arkady Stepanovich Istomin,  Komi-Perm Autonomous Okrug Administration.

Ludmila Petrovna Ivanova,  Head Specialist on Inter-Ethnic Questions, Councilof Ministers, Udmurt Republic.

Vladimir Evgen'evich Churov,  Inter-Republican Information Group, Committeeon Foreign Affairs, Office of the Mayor of St. Petersburg.

Aleksandra Georgievna Ivanova,  Deputy Head, Orenburg Oblast Administration

Sergei Vladimirovich Kuleshov,  GOSKOMNATS

Igor Georgievich Kosikov,  Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RussianAcademy of Sciences

Teimuraz El'murzaevich Kusov,  Committee on Nationality Affairs, Council ofMinisters, North Ossetian Republic.

Aleksei Ivanovich Kazannik,  Committee on Nationality Affairs, Religious andSocial Groupings, Omsk Oblast Administration.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Kosygin,  Advisor on Questions of Inter-EthnicRelations to the Representative of the Russian Federation in the KoriagAutonomous Okrug.

Viktor Aleksandrovich Kremeniuk,  Institute of USA and Canada, RussianAcademy of Sciences.

Nailia Ramazanovna Malikova,  GOSKOMNATS

Oleg Konstantinovich Malyshev,  Head Specialist on Inter-Ethnic Relations,Volgograd Oblast Administration.

Aleksandr Anatolievich Magleev,  Department of Inter-Ethnic Relations,Irkutsk Oblast Administration.

Oleg Inokent'evich Osogostok,  Plenipotentiary, Evenko Autonomous Okrug.

Vladimir Pavlovich Narezhnyi,  Mordovian Republic

VADM Yur'evich Ovchinikov,  Department on Nationality Questions, Altay Kray

Eduard Nikolaevich Ozhiganov,  Sector of Analysis and Forecasting ofInter-Ethnic Relations, Supreme Soviet, Russian Federation

Nikolai Vasil'evich Pyrkin,  Department on Inter-Ethnic Relations, Council ofMinisters of the Chuvash Republic.

Evlogii Alekseevich Popov,  Department of Nationality Questions and Culture,Council of Ministers of the Komi Republic.

Anatoly Nikolaevich Pshenichnov,  Deputy Chairman, Committee on NationalityPolicy and Nationality Relations, Adygei Republic.

Vadim Valer'evich Remler,  Department of International Relations, KrasnodarKrai Administration

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Susokolov,  GOSKOMNATS and Ministry of Education ofthe Russian Federation

Stalina Vasil'evna Sergeeva,  Head Specialist for Nationality Questions, PermOblast Administration.

Viktor Stepanovich Solov'ev,  Advisor to the State Secretary of the Marii ElRepublic for Inter-Ethnic Questions

Dimitrii Alekseevich Sortyiakov,  Head Specialist for Inter-Ethnic Relations,Government of the Republic of Altai.

Sergei Nikolaevich Semenov,  Sector on Nationality Policy, Council ofMinisters of the Bashkorostan Republic.

Irina Vasilievna Terent'eva,  Departmant of Inter-Ethnic Relations and Linkswith Social-Political Groupings, Staff of the President of the TatarstanRepublic.

Galina Alekseevna Troshkina,  Council of Ministers of the Khakasia Republic.

Valery Aleksandrovich Tishkov,  GOSMKOMNATS and Institute of Ethnology andAnthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Mara Yanovna Ustinova,  Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RussianAcademy of Sciences

Nikolai Gavrilovich Tsyganash,  Laboratory of Analysis of Inter-EthnicRelations, North Caucasus Scientific Center (Rostov Oblast).

Evgeny Ustinovich Chayauskas,  Department of Nationality Policy, KaliningradAdministrative Oblast.

Valentina Georgievna Chebotareva,  GOSKOMNATS

Valery Sergeevich Chibisenkov,  GOSKOMNATS

Valery Nikiforovich Shamshurov,  GOSKOMNATS

Yuri Khapagovich Shurdumov,  Standing Commission on Questions of Developmentof Inter-Ethnic Relations, Culture, Language, National and InternationalTraditions, Supreme Soviet of the Kabardino-Balkarsk Republic.

Aleksandr Ivanovich Shundulidi,  Kemerovosk Oblast Administration

Anatoly Nikolaevich Yamskov,  Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology,Russian Academy of Sciences

Leonid Valer'evich Chikov,  Inter-Regional Department for the Peoples of theNorth and Nationality Questions, Sakhalin Oblast Administration.

Irina Nikolaevna Prokhorova,  Sector of Inter-Ethnic Relations, SaratovOblast Administration.

Gennady Semenovich Korepanov,  Committee on Nationality Affairs, TiumenOblast Administration.

Valentin Mikhailovich Molotkov,  Council of Peoples' Deputies,Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug.

Sergei Nikolaevich Khariuchi,  Yamalo-Nenetsk National Okrug Administration.

Vatanar Saidovich Yag'ia,  Office of the Mayor of St. Petersburg.

United States

Graham Allison,  Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

David Hamburg,  Carnegie Corporation of New York

Allen H. Kassof,  Project on Ethnic Relations

Livia B. Plaks,  Project on Ethnic Relations

William Ury,  Conflict Management Group

Fiona Hill,  Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Zvi Gitelman,  University of Michigan

Rasma Karklins,  University of Illinois at Chicago.

Bruce Allyn,  Conflict Management Group

Daniel C. Matuszewski,  International Research and Exchanges Board

Donald Horowitz,  Duke University Law School

Nancy Lubin,  U.S. Institute of Peace

Larry Watts,  Project on Ethnic Relations


Vojislav Stanovcic,  Belgrade University

Other PER Publications

Romanian-American Symposium on Inter-Ethnic Relations in Romania

The Romanies of East-Central Europe: Illusions and Reality

Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation: Proceedings of the PER Consortium, Budapest, December 1992 (forthcoming)

Ethnic Relations and the Restructuring of Europe: American-Hungarian-Romanian Symposium, Bucharest, February 1993