What Are Modern Nations Like?

27 december 2013

Multiethnicity in Russia in a Global Context

Valery Tishkov is Academician-Secretary in the History and Philology Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is Director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, and a Member of the Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations.

Resume: Some political scientists believe there is no common nation in Russia, precisely because of ethnic and cultural diversity. Those who deny the existence of identity in Russia point to the absence of civil society and democratic institutions and, consequently, of a civic nation.

The rise of nation states made cultural homogeneity and social uniformity both a fundamental idea and a political doctrine. In practice, these concepts were embodied in the policies of assimilation and cultural re-melting of mixed populations into a desirable “national type.” From the French Revolution to World War II various assimilationist and integrationist models, along with principles of civil equality, dominated nation building. Yet even in the zone of Euro-Atlantic civilization, democracy and equality did not encompass everything. For a long time, countries in the Western Hemisphere discriminated against and segregated various ethnic groups. In other regions of the world, colonialism reigned due to a system of so-called indirect government. The recognition of cultural diversity and minority rights, not to mention full-fledged nations in the colonial periphery, was simply not part of the agenda. Not until World War I did countries begin to refer to the rights of minorities as a legal and political category crucial to re-arranging the space left after the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires collapsed.

In the second half of the 20th century, nation building, citizenship, and individual and collective rights took shape after the colonial system was dismantled and dozens of new countries emerged. Mass migration, globalization, and new doctrines of self-determination played an important role in this process, encompassing a set of national and international mechanisms of struggle against various forms of discrimination and the protection of ethnic, racial, religious, and language minority rights. In political science and practices, concepts of unity in diversity and multiculturalism became important, along with the right to distinction and identity, etc. In the Soviet Union and its zone of influence, a similar policy was underway; namely, towards prosperity and rapprochement between socialist nations, internationalism, and friendship of peoples. In the 1970s this idea was complemented by the concept of a ‘united Soviet people’ – a community of peoples whose identity relied on common history, culture, and ideological indoctrination.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Western countries witnessed the establishment of different kinds of multiculturalism. Those countries recognized the heterogeneity of civic nations and supported cultural distinctions, including not only so-called historical minorities, but also immigrant groups belonging to different cultures and religions that in many cases had obtained citizenship in the host countries. A concept of collective rights became popular and there was a move away from formal personal equality towards perceiving minorities as groups with a lower social status. That policy bore fruit, but it was fraught with the risk that more rigid boundaries would appear between groups and ‘reverse discrimination,’ or infringement upon the rights of the majority and the latter’s response, would develop.

After an international conference on multiculturalism was held in Moscow in 1999, numerous debates raged about the controversial nature of multiculturalism and the need to complement it with an overall civil identity. Western scientists carried out a similar analysis and arrived at the same conclusions. For instance, Seyla Benhabib tried to answer the question to what extent and how individual cultures that strive to keep their identity can be reconciled with the fundamental values of Western democracy – freedom and equality. In Russia’s case, under the 1993 Russian Constitution the concept of a multiethnic people and the principles of equality among different ethnic groups and support for their cultures established the basis for building a new state. The policy of supporting multinationality (and polyethnicity) has been implemented in Russia despite the fact that peripheral ethnic nationalism had brought the country to the brink of disintegration. In the 1990s, multinationalism manifested itself in what was immediately called “the parade of sovereignties” by Russian autonomies, and an armed conflict in Chechnya.

The experience of many world regions shows that a democratic and stable structure of multiethnic societies is a global problem, because the issues of culture and self-identity – like the problems of resources and the economy, safety, and the environment – are crucial to modern states and the world system in general. Problems with implementing and managing cultural diversity at the level of regions, states, local communities, and even individuals have proven very difficult to resolve these days. After all, the point at hand is not just material resources that can always be negotiated and agreed on, but moral values and outlooks, which seldom result in compromise solutions. For this reason, conflicts that break out over cultural (ethnic, racial, religious, or ethnic) distinctions may prove exceptionally violent, and the hatred they breed may take many generations to eradicate.

The problem under consideration has many important projections onto politics at all levels – global, transnational, national (of an individual state), and regional (inside states). Devising a formula to manage cultural diversity and create mechanisms of civil accord and conflict prevention is the most important aspect of the political functions of ethnicity and culture in the broadest sense, a formula that would be adequate for each society and each specific situation. In other words, what should state policies and social positions look like in order to prevent intergroup discord, xenophobia, and the hatred of one people against another for the simple reason that they look different, speak a different language, and/or worship a different god?

In Russia, some political scientists believe that there is no common nation precisely because of ethnic and cultural diversity. Those who deny the existence of identity in Russia point to the absence of civil society and democratic institutions and, consequently, of a civic nation. Just as in some other European states, the doctrine of polyethnicity (multinationality) and the project of national state building on a civil basis in Russia are confronted with the liberal thesis of civil equality and freedom. (Emil Pain maintains that both are absent in Russia, thus it is impossible to build a civic nation in that country.)

Problems also arise with the ultra-right conservative stance about the right of the majority to ignore minority groups and cultures. “If they want to live in Russia, let they consider themselves Russian.” The list of authors propagating this view is long and it makes no sense to single out any one in particular. Social sciences – including in Russia – still use the terms of ethno-nationalism, interpreting ethnicity as basic groups and coalitions of people who create the regulatory groundwork of nation states. How can these bankrupt views be dismantled and a new vision of polyethnic societies be created? How can countries upgrade politics and the system of governance?CULTURAL COMPLEXITY

Cultural complexity is an inalienable right of modern societies and a necessary condition for their development. It is reproduced under the influence of various factors, causing problems with intercultural communications, inter-ethnic relations, and ethnic conflicts. What are the weaknesses of the traditional approaches to this issue? The answer is that we tend to consider cultural systems as a map, which, however detailed and adorned with various ethnographic types, is in reality simply an abstract and static reflection of the unique richness of the real landscape. The vision of culture as an archetype, and of ethnic identity as a biosocial organism, denies the movement and evolution of cultural forms; it ignores the role of a personally chosen strategy, of project activity by human beings, and of political instructions and managerial procedures.

Firstly, one should agree that biology – including its new branch of ethnogenomics – and ethnic self-identity (national affiliation) are substances that cannot match, and cultural process can be arranged in a different fashion and even turned into reverse if there are sufficient arguments and resources to do so. For instance, Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky devised an ethnic theory for “Little Russians” at the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century. From that moment the theory became Ukrainian, which he would later declare himself after writing A History of Ukraine-Rus. In that fundamental work Hrushevsky made a clear distinction between Ukrainians and Russians. He did so intentionally: “The literary renaissance of the 19th century introduces the term “Ukrainian” for denoting … a new ethnic life… Recently, the simple terms Ukraine and Ukrainian are used in Ukrainian and other literatures not just in relation to modern life, but [in relation] to all of its previous phases, and this term is gradually replacing all the others… This circumstance has forced Ukrainian society to firmly and resolutely accept the names ‘Ukraine’ and ‘Ukrainian.’”

Since the 1980s Russia has seen the emergence or re-emergence of many new group identities. The number of nationalities over the past ten years has increased from 128 (in 1989) to 182 (in 2002). The 2010 census added about a dozen more national groups. The list of indigenous ethnic minorities with certain group rights nearly doubled. We do not know which way the world is moving from the standpoint of the evolution of cultural forms and systems— towards unification or the reproduction and growth of diversity, but we know for certain that diversity itself is different now. New trends and new channels of cultural complexity have developed, along with new technical and informational resources capable of destroying cultural norms or the monoculture, although not necessarily with the end result of cultural marginalization. As a consequence, the phenomenon and concept of cultural hybridity has appeared. This is a global process and most likely irreversible. Countries and regions that find adequate political responses will benefit. Those preferring to move backwards will lose. If this is really the case, then the social and cultural nature of modern nations must be looked at from a different angle. Today the main producers of cultural capital are communities that share one state (multiethnic co-citizenship), and not ethnic groups or religious communities. They support, preserve, and protect themselves from internal and external threats to ethnic-cultural diversity inside the country and even outside it, when so-called compatriots, or “separated peoples,” take center stage. National communities create economic infrastructure, educational and informational institutions, security legislation, agencies and non-governmental organizations, professional culture, and many other innovations that work as key factors to preserve ethnic, linguistic, religious, and other culture-specific systems within ethnic communities. Over the past several decades these protective factors have been complemented by international mechanisms, but these, too, are created by representatives of nation states and exist at their expense.

What are modern nations like? Domestic public opinion is confused over this issue and locked in politicized discussions. Russia still understands the nation in a purely ethnic sense. Only recently has Russia recognized the nation as a dual phenomenon incorporating two components (civil-political and ethnic-cultural) that do not rule out each other – an idea that we proposed twenty years ago. Yet this recognition is often artificial and borders on schizophrenia. Ideological nonsense and conflict-breeding recipes are promoted increasingly, in particular in televised debates and on the Internet. For instance, calls to establish exterritorial ‘national councils’ for all ethnic nations, including Russians, to replace the Russian Federation with an ethno-territorial component that exists today under the constitution. See Gavriil Popov’s article “Let’s Do Away With the Sacred Cow” (2011) in Moskovskii Komsomolets.

One recent provocation was a proposal by Mikhail Remizov to replace the national strategy “Many peoples – one country” with the formula “Many countries – one people” (in an article “Five Reasons for Being Russian” in the 12 September 2011 issue of Expert magazine). In rejecting the Russian project, the author highlights the primary importance of creating a nation of ethnic Russians who live in different countries, but he will at once discover that Ukrainians, Cherkessians, Tatars, Lezginians, and other separated peoples have been quick to follow suit, thereby undermining the integrity of the Russian state and its people.

Seemingly, all elements of “nationhood” and national discourse are in place in Russia – from the economy and healthcare to national projects and national sports teams. In reality, however, the nation proper is nowhere in sight, and many find it difficult to even pronounce its name correctly. One of the reasons for these problems is an inaccurate understanding of civic nations, the way they were understood by the Jacobians or the founding fathers of the United States. In their opinion, an ideal nation consists of free and equal citizens, who speak the same language and are supportive of and loyal to the state they are creating. But the Jacobian ideal has not materialized even in France, and the U.S. national idea has undergone transformations that poorly match racial and ethnic realities. Other countries are also experiencing difficulties in understanding modern concepts, such as “What is a nation?” Many countries are debating who deserves to be called a nation. But the most widespread case is the refusal of the state (represented by the central authorities) to recognize ethnic and regional communities as nations.

But then what is a nation? It is a historical, cultural, and socio-political association of individuals within one state entity, existing under a unified sovereign government and sharing a common identity and values, but which retains cultural complexity. The latter may give way to civil nationalism, or patriotism, during the years of political centralization and civic turmoil. Moreover, it may regain the actualized old diversity or acquire new diversity in the areas of democratization, decolonization, and mass migrations. All this is reflected in the well-tested and widespread formula of nation state building “unity in diversity” (In varietate concordia), a concept deployed from India to Jamaica.LANGUAGE DIVERSITY

Language diversity in modern countries is similar because language is still tightly pegged to identity, particularly in the Russian scientific and socio-political tradition. Russian scholars and practitioners still maintain that humans must have a native language reflecting nationality; furthermore, there can only be one such language. Reservations made during the census such as “the native language may not necessarily be the same as the nationality” are of little help. A variety of languages exist in the world, with many varieties even within one language. Language atlases and lists of endangered languages are common in the Humanities. Indeed, a language is physically felt through speech and written texts to a far greater extent than ethnicity is through self-awareness. A language, as the most important means of communication, contains the interest of very different human coalitions and institutions, for it ensures their solidarity and functioning. Modern armies cannot exist without one language. Government bureaucracies prefer to communicate in one official language. Religious institutions are more flexible in their approach to language practices in their pastoral and mission activities. It is no accident that the pioneers who compiled ethno-linguistic atlases, such as the well-known Ethnologist, included religious institutions or organizations supported by the Christian Church.

The traditional view of languages today is that they are rapidly becoming extinct under the influence of globalization. Speculation and high-profile political statements abound regarding the problem of languages becoming extinct and the need to compile lists of endangered languages. UNESCO and the Council of Europe have adopted a number of declarations and charters concerning the preservation and protection of language diversity. The European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages, which the Council of Europe adopted in 1992, is the most well known international document in that respect. Russia joined the Charter in 2001, but has not yet ratified it.

It might seem that globalization is turning the world into a monolingual state. Dominant languages like English are conquering the world. However, the common language and the situation in individual countries are far more complex. This complexity is seen in the following processes.

One is the erosion and blending of language areas. Not many people today would take the risk of compiling language atlases the way it was done in the 19th century, or how it still could be done with ethnicity and religion in the 20th century. Second, the language repertoire is becoming more diversified and the population of many countries is more multilingual. Lastly, there is the trend towards the revitalization of languages. In other words, people are reviving languages after decades of neglect – Breton in France, Gaelic and Cornish in Britain, and Hawaiian in the U.S.

I do not share the views of those who believe that languages are becoming extinct. In defiance of dramatic forecasts by some scholars and politicians, language diversity will remain against a backdrop of ever more complex language situations in modern nations and the expansion of the language repertoire of certain individuals. Firstly, federal policies will evolve to recognize and support multilingualism at the level of the state and its individual regions. Languages used in service encounters will become more complex as the public sector starts using the language of taxpayers. Multilingualism as a personal benchmark and policy alongside official mono- and multilingualism will increasingly become the standard practice of language communication among individuals within national communities. Incidentally, this may improve the case with Russian speakers in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, and other countries.

For Europe, including the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe, as well as Russia and the other CIS member-states, the question of preserving language diversity is of special importance. In Western Europe a large share of the population already has a command of two or more languages, but the language policy issue in the EU is far from resolved. This can be seen in the protracted process of ratifying the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages. Russia is shaping its own attitude towards this issue. The Russian government has signed the Charter and is now considering the possibility of joining that document by ratifying it. Russia is not the only country that has postponed ratification. There are some special features that may stand in the way of a positive solution: the tremendous diversity of languages, uneven social and cultural development of territories, and an unwillingness to make language political in regions where there is a potential for conflict. Lastly, ratification is bound to entail considerable financial costs.

At the modern stage a language (or languages) is not just a means of communication, but is an independent cultural value, autonomous from its speakers, which may be lost, although this will not involve the physical extinction of individuals or “extinction of an entire people.” Transition to another language does not spell the loss of identity; in other words, the sense of belonging to an ethnic group. Religious, emotional, and cultural bonds with the country and its culture and other components of identity may serve to heighten self-awareness. It has become more difficult to keep cultural values autonomous and much harder to loose them without harming social life in the era of globalization. Also, many countries have already realized that some cultural losses, like the disappearance of non-dominating languages, are harmful to the heritage of current and future generations and create a climate of discontent and degradation. Regrettably, Russia has not yet learned how to react to these challenges properly. Russian legislation and law enforcement practices are still based around “language of an ethnic group” or “the language of a nationality,” and often fuel debates over equality and discrimination. For instance, the problem of preserving the Ossetian or Buryat languages may exist in reality, yet both Ossetians and Buryats may be quite successful groups in the country’s population.

The conditions for teaching so-called native languages in Russia largely correspond to international standards. However, the government should make more consistent efforts. The same applies to the mass media and cultural events in various languages. Furthermore, from the standpoint of national strategy, the number one task is to ensure instruction in the Russian language across the entire country and for all citizens in full conformity with official standards.EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS

Education plays a vital role in asserting national self-awareness and in bringing up responsible citizens, although the role of the general cultural and information environment, and individual experience, continues to gain importance. The modern educational standard envisages the spiritual and moral development upbringing of an individual who is aware that s/he belongs to the civic nation and, at the same time, has good knowledge of the culture and traditions of the people of Russia, as well as of his/her people and region. The legal guarantees of such a policy were outlined in a 1992 law on education. Article 2 of that law postulated the protection and development “with a system of education of ethnic cultures, regional cultural traditions, and special features in the context of a multi-ethnic state.” Under that law Russian citizens had the right to receive their primary secondary education in their native language. They could also select the language of instruction.

At the level of federal legislation those provisions were deemed sufficient for quite some time. However, certain problems emerged in the regions. Ethno-centric versions of the history of so-called titular nations began to be taught through the “regional ethnic component.” Russian youths did not know enough about Russian history and the Russian language, which restricted their competitive capabilities. In 2007 and 2009 several amendments were made to the law on education in order to place the regional component of education under greater federal control and to give schools more authority in selecting curricula and subjects. The law that took effect on 1 September 2013 formulated the tasks and principles of Russian education: “The unity of education in the territory of the Russian Federation, protection and development of the ethno-cultural features and traditions of the peoples of the Russian Federation in the context of a multiethnic state.”

The law guarantees education in the official language of the Russian Federation, as well as the right to select the language of instruction within the range the system of education offers. Education is carried out in the Russian language, but state-run and municipal educational institutions in the territory of each constituent republic of the Russian Federation can introduce instruction in and study of the local state languages. However, that must not be done to the detriment of the Russian language. It is extremely important that Russian citizens have the right to pre-school, elementary, and basic secondary education in their native language, as well as the right to study that language. Those rights are enforced through the corresponding educational organizations, classes, and groups.

Yet even after these adjustments, the problem of multicultural education in regions with mixed populations and in the country in general remains unresolved. For instance, in Russia there are still no school textbooks that demonstrate the multicultural nature of the Russian people and the contribution of different ethnic groups to the country’s history. Two extreme points of view of the past – the historical Russian centric viewpoint and the new ethno-nationalist – often clash, which could fuel tensions and intolerance among students of different nationalities.

At the same time, a number of multiethnic countries, including some in the EU, have revised their versions of national history in favor of more inclusive and multicultural models. They have also cleansed textbooks of any clichéd enemy imagery in relation to other peoples and countries. The problem of a canon, or educational standard, in teaching history has become an integral part of the international community’s agenda. Russia has taken steps to create more objective and less confrontational views of the past. Bilateral commissions of historians from the former Soviet Union, Finland, Germany, and Poland have made similar efforts. Over the past eighteen months Russian intellectuals have discussed at length Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments about a standardized history textbook. It looks like they have agreed on a more or less acceptable option of drafting a unified school standard (concept) for teaching history in Russia. Humanitarian education (including the existence of local, regional, and ethnic versions) as it stands will have to be addressed in rather heated discussions.LOCAL SELF-IDENTITY

Modern nations are distinguished not only by their cultural, linguistic, and religious complexity, but also by inclusion of local communities with strong self-awareness. In Russia, the fundamental constitutional and legal principle of splitting national level state governance and local self-government continues to be an ideological intent rather than a political reality. In polyethnic states with elements of ethnic federalism it is impossible to consider “local self-government” solely the way it is defined in the constitution and other legal documents. Even though republics are determined in the constitution as “states” and their statehood is part of federal statehood, they constitute one of the focal points of the problem of self-government. The republics and autonomous areas are territories populated by local communities culturally different from the rest of the population. Most of Russia’s territories and regions have a complex ethnic composition. In this kind of situation federalism must be combined with strong local self-government. By expanding the rights, resources, and initiatives of local communities, it might be possible to address a considerable number of interethnic relations, as well as the task of preserving cultural traditions and diversity. Yet a number of questions arise.

First, one should bear in mind the nature and cultural conditions that determine the emergence of territorial communities, as well as their day-to-day dynamics. The territorial forms of local government are tightly interconnected with this. How does a phenomenon emerge that can be called a “local community” in its historical and socio-cultural aspects? Is it correct to identify membership in a local community by using purely formal traits, such as permanent residence, or should people be counted who have moved away, but, possessing resources, capital, and interest, still exercise control of the community and have varying degrees of influence over day-to-day affairs, including direct involvement (including sponsorship, cultural activity, and political mobilization in support of a descendant or descendants from the community, criminal ties, etc.) What is a modern local community at a time when a considerable share of funds on which its members live comes from those who are not physically present inside it?

Second, there is a closely related issue of the borders of local communities and of municipalities. Clearly, these are borders and administrative boundaries that do not necessarily coincide with cultural borders and those of local economic complexes. What determines the borders of local entities in Russia’s reality? There is a sense that the Soviet system of administrative division still persists. The only new feature that has emerged is possibly a variation of what in the U.S. is known as gerrymandering, or redrawing borders out of purely political considerations, because administrative borders are crucial to determining constituencies. The question arises of how just is the surviving Soviet system of local and regional administrative territorial division. What “ideal” principles of laying the territorial basis of local self-government could replace it?

Modern anthropology studies of local communities indicate that they take shape under the influence of internal and external factors that are in a dynamic relationship. What seemed – and in many cases actually was – compulsion in drawing the borders of local communities thirty to fifty years ago is becoming an alienable part of identity and a profound bond for their members, a historical norm, and even “tradition.” In other words, modern people have a great ability to adapt. They are capable of not only spontaneously determining the geographic borders of local communities, but also of accepting external instructions, even if they disagree with the will of the local people. For each new generation the borders of a local community are tantamount to the radius of local roads along which one rides a bike or a motorbike in their youth to go to a disco or take a girl out. It is noteworthy that the space of humans’ everyday life tends to expand, and not contract, as transport links improve.

It goes without saying that in this sphere of social life some group (ethnic) boundaries sill remain and may manifest themselves in a public form, which, however mental their origin, may acquire geographic parameters. Members of some ethnic communities (to be more precise, economic and cultural complexes) are capable of occupying vast spaces on which to live and use other spaces for economic activities. Sometimes representatives of two different cultures might use different resource niches in the same territory and lead a mixed or separate-mixed existence (in mono-ethnic rural communities or mountain villages, but commonly shared larger localities). The special parameters of ethnic communities remain in modern life, in particular, in rural areas and in smaller towns (Russia’s large cities still have no “ethnic neighborhoods”). All of this forms the image of the Little Motherland over which different groups begin to fight and sometimes erupt into open conflicts.

Third, to what extent can an ethnic-cultural factor serve as the basis for determining the boundaries of local communities? As far as rural communities are concerned, the factor can perform this function, for the cultural homogeneity of populated areas stems not only from a long history, but also from modern humanitarian strategies: convenience of language communication, the similarity of economics systems, customs, values, rituals, etc. The value of cultural particularity does not disappear with the modernization and leveling of economies and lifestyles under the effects of free market economics and mass culture. The diversity of local communities will not fade away, and its symbolic importance (as a form of human identity) may even grow. Consequently, the ethnic-cultural factor can be recognized as a priority in determining the boundaries of local communities, and preserving cultural diversity, as one of the tasks of self-government and government policies in relation to local communities. But how far can cultural determinism stretch in that respect once we have already noted the high adaptability and mobility of human societies?

Several public activists and ethnologists have called for a system of a grassroots cantonization of culturally complex societies and for promoting local communities and municipalities along ethnic lines. This solution has been proposed for Dagestan, Karachai-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and other Russian regions. The argument offered in favor of this option is confined to a need to ensure the protection and proper representation of ethnic minorities in larger multiethnic entities, as well as to the postulate that ethnically homogenous communities are more stable. Serious doubts exist on this score, but it is clear that this issue deserves further discussion. The cultural basis of the local communities’ geographical boundaries is a problem found not only in the North Caucasus or its individual republics, but also elsewhere in the country. Local cultural diversity is present and reproduced in every corner of the nation, although some observers may leave this unnoticed. Apparently, it is up to the local people to decide how important cultural diversity is. But to what degree does this factor enjoy top priority as the basis for making decisions about borders? To what degree do such decisions rely on the genuine will exercised by the people, and not on manipulations by “ethnic wheeler-dealers” and local intellectuals fooled by pseudo-scholarly writings?

Fourth, are there enough arguments to back up the term “local communities” when it is applied to rural and urban communities? In Russia, the city-village dichotomy is very complex, and urban and rural lifestyles, as well as the nature of the urban and rural authorities, differ considerably. An analysis of everyday life and the real meaning of power institutions for urban and rural residents may help clear up those distinctions and, consequently, the need for different legal norms and administration—let alone the eventual possibility of establishing two different categories of social phenomena: of urban and rural (self-) government. Nor is there any way to sidestep the issue of Russia’s mixed municipalities consisting of urban and rural territories. According to the latest findings gathered “in the field,” in this particular case we are witnessing what might be appropriately described as an administrative “eruption” of very personalized political and commercial rivalries, while the territory in question becomes a resource of survival and security, precisely the way it was in the days of intertribal conflict.

Fifth, it looks like the district authorities in a number of regions have fully subjugated village and community leaders to transform the latter into an artificial institution or a tool to perform certain functions. In any case, in Russia a discrepancy exists between officially proclaimed realities (laws, charters, resolutions, polls, etc.) and real practices built on informal ties, tight inter-dependencies, and purely personal or corporate interests, etc., which make the final evaluation of local self-government far less optimistic. Many political and cultural fundamentals of local self-government are not in place, and in some regions conditions do not exist for the normal operation of the local authorities at all.

In summary, the Russian nation as a form of collective identity is largely built from above and has to confront both internal challenges (grassroots and top tier) and external ones. All modern states have experienced this. The same is true of nation state building in the modern world in the above-described context.

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