Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Managing Diversity through Non-Territorial AutonomyAssessing Advantages, Deficiencies, and Risks$

Tove H. Malloy, Alexander Osipov, and Balázs Vizi

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198738459

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198738459.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.  Subscriber: null; date: 17 September 2019

Non-Territorial Autonomy in 
the Post-Soviet Space

Non-Territorial Autonomy in 
the Post-Soviet Space

(p.207) 10 Non-Territorial Autonomy in 
the Post-Soviet Space
Managing Diversity through Non-Territorial Autonomy

Alexander Osipov

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses non-territorial autonomy (NTA) as a mode of framing ethnic relations; respectively ‘policies of NTA’ are regarded as top-down arrangements which are designed for the accommodation and facilitation of collective activities pursued on behalf of identity-based groups and which imply special treatment of certain activities and organizations. The chapter analyses the post-Soviet official policies which rest on the idea of symbolic and instrumental treatment of ethnic groups as cohesive social entities possessing distinct identities, interests, will, and rights. Three types of arrangements, namely, cultural autonomy, mono-ethnic elected representative bodies, and multi-ethnic representative ‘assemblies of peoples’, fit into this framework. The chapter concludes that although these set-ups basically perform functions of symbolic participation in public life and are regulated by informal rules, they turn out to be efficient in terms of shaping public agendas and satisfying aspirations of ethnic activists and the general public.

Keywords:   framing, symbolic policies, cultural autonomy, elected representative bodies

10.1 Introduction

Non-territorial autonomy (NTA) occupies a specific place in the current scholarly and political debates around ethnic relations. The notion has been extensively referred to as a policy tool or a normative idea and even implanted in some international soft law instruments1 and domestic legislations, but its meaning and content remain unclear. One can talk rather about a multiplicity of interpretations loosely connected to each other than a single normative principle or coherent model. In numerous scholarly publications and political statements NTA is considered as either a general principle according to which people can jointly pursue their interests related to preservation and expression of their ethnic identity in a variety of organizational forms;2 or as a special shape of organization on ethnic grounds—as a rule as a vertically integrated corporation based on fixed membership of persons belonging to a certain ethnic group;3 or/and as a performance of public functions or competences by the said organizations.4

(p.208) At first glance, NTA rests on the assumption that ethnicities can and should be regarded as internally cohesive social entities possessing will, interests, and ability to make decisions collectively, and thus behaving as social actors. If one discards this ‘groupist’5 assumption, the construction collapses and the idea loses any sense in most of its interpretations. Moreover, the ideas labelled as NTA have very few unquestionable substantive referents in the current or past ethno-political designs and thus basically remain a sample of wishful thinking. Therefore, one may also ask the question whether NTA can go beyond the domain of political rhetoric and serve as an analytical tool with a definite conventional meaning.

My suggestion is to address NTA in terms of ‘frame’ and regard it as a framing mode in ethno-politics employed both by experts and practitioners. I assume that from this perspective, the notion of NTA can serve for mapping certain rhetoric, decisions, and institutional settings within broader politics. For the purposes of this chapter, I confine my analysis to official ethno-cultural policies pursued ‘from above’. Therefore, ‘policies of non-territorial autonomy’ can be analysed as interactions between certain ways of framing multi-ethnicity, the adoption of respective normative models, and ultimately their implementation. Briefly, these policies can be defined as top-down arrangements which are designed for the accommodation and facilitation of collective activities pursued on behalf of identity-based groups and which imply special treatment of certain activities and organizations.

10.2 Theoretical Considerations

I assume that NTA is non-existent as a single coherent theoretical or practical model, but that the term can depict a certain way of framing attitudes and action with regard to ethnic and cultural heterogeneity. One can pinpoint similar discursive patterns, descriptive models and popular approaches to contextualize and problematize ethnicity-related issues that share some features with the major interpretations of NTA; sometimes these patterns lead to political decisions and institution-building. Such terms as ‘frame’ or ‘framing’ lack a clear and uniform meaning and still generate controversies,6 although they have been employed in social sciences for about forty years starting from the seminal work of Erving Goffman who defined frames as ‘schemata of interpretation’ which enable people to ‘locate, perceive, identify and label’ ‘infinite number of concrete occurrences’7. (p.209) Basically, ‘frame’ is understood as a ‘scattered conceptualization’8 way to contextualize certain social phenomenon and to define its primary characteristics in public communication.9 Sometimes ‘frame’ is defined as a ‘second level agenda setting’10 or ‘strategic communication’—the imposition of a way to perceive, assess, and prioritize certain issues.11 Most often the notion of framing serves for the purposes of analysing mass media and activities of public movements.12 Nothing precludes us from regarding policymakers and experts as an environment, a ‘discursive 
community,’13 that provides for the problematization and contextualization of ethnic policies and this makes the notion of ‘framing’ relevant in the given context.

Some authors argue that frame comprises four major elements which are (1) setting up the context; (2) formulating the problem; (3) pointing out the problem’s source; and (4) putting forward a solution.14 Respectively, NTA as framing (1) sets up the context as a multi-communal society where ethnicities as such appear as its founding blocks; (2) describes the problem as a need for mutual accommodation and reconciliation of ethnicities taken as social entities; (3) defines the source as a conflict between territorial/political domination of a certain ethnicity and the needs of other ethnicities to pursue their own interests and to develop themselves socially and culturally; and (4) offers a solution in self-organization of ethnic groups and redistribution of resources among them notwithstanding their territorial belonging. This general mode of framing prompts acknowledgement (at least rhetorically) of the need for certain decisions, such as self-organization of ethnic groups, their organizational consolidation and transfer of competences and resources. A complex interrelation between declarations, normative frameworks, decisions, actions, and institutional settings can hardly be addressed as a linear one-way connection; rather one should expect a mosaic of loosely linked ‘talks’, ‘decisions’, ‘actions’, and organizational set-ups. Official statements do not necessarily entail the respective action, but nevertheless in some way set up or change public agendas; similarly, an established practice or rule may lack legal underpinning or explicit clear-cut justification, but nevertheless channel public activities and deliberations.

(p.210) As mentioned before, I regard ‘policies of non-territorial autonomy’ (or ‘NTA policies’) as activities (including rhetorical exercises) of public authorities purporting the need to create conditions for self-organization and activity of ethnic groups as such. In my view, this approach must be instrumental particularly in the analysis of ethnic policies in post-Soviet countries, most of which are still far from the ideals of liberal democracy and which demonstrate the ‘unrule of law’,15 a symbiosis of formal and informal institutions16 and ‘systemic hypocrisy’17 in the form of a gulf between official representations and actions. Respectively, my task here is to trace where and under what circumstances the above-mentioned way of framing multi-ethnicity leads to conceptualization of NTA in legislation and political decisions and subsequently to setting up institutions. We can also expect movements in the opposite direction when certain organizations and practices generate certain discourses and justifications. For the purpose of this study, I single out three potential directions for framing and for the respective practical decision-making: (1) general approval of ethnicity-based public activities as self-organization and self-determination of ethnic groups per se; (2) facilitation of ethnic groups’ self-organization; and (3) vesting of the groups and their representative structures with competences and resources.

10.3 Between Frames and Normative Models

Public authorities in all post-Soviet countries as a rule recognize explicitly the multi-ethnicity of their populace. Sometimes the official wording goes far beyond merely general formulations on equal rights and minority protection and includes recognition of different communities as social entities possessing distinct identities as well as the right to ‘development’ and participation in public life. In a few cases such symbolic recognition is stipulated in constitutional provisions. The 1993 Russian Constitution refers to the country’s people as ‘multinational’ (the Preamble) and also includes such tropes as ‘national development’ (in the meaning of ethno-cultural development, art 72 (f)) and ‘peoples’ rights’ with regard to the preservation of languages (art 68, part 3) and to small indigenous peoples (art 69). Similar provisions are present in constitutions and charters of most constituent entities of the Russian Federation. For example, the Republic of Buryatia (eastern Siberia) in Article 4(2) of its Constitution declares ‘free development of all nations and nationalities groups resident on its territory’ and in this regard (p.211) encourages activities of ‘national-cultural centres and associations’. The Belarusian Constitution of 1994 (art 14) refers to ‘relations’ between national [ethnic] communities’ which are to be regulated by the state on the basis of their ‘equality’ and ‘respect towards their rights and interests’. The 1996 Constitution of the separatist and internationally unrecognized Transnistrian Moldovan Republic (art 8) contains the same formulation. The 1992 Constitution of Turkmenistan mentions ‘equality between social and national [ethnic] communities’ (art 11). More often references to communal ‘right’ or group development are scattered over pieces of sectoral legislation, in by-laws or official conceptual outlines of ethnic policies. For example, the Concept of Nationalities Policy of Moldova adopted by the Law No. 546-XV from 19 December 2003 contains such notions as ‘interests’ and ‘development’ of ‘ethnic and linguistic communities’. The Ukrainian Declaration of Nationalities’ Rights of 1 November 1991 (which amounts to a constitutional law) stipulates that the ‘state guarantees’ of ‘equal political, economic, social and cultural rights’ are granted to all ‘peoples, ethnic groups and citizens resident on its territory’ (art 1). The Russian State Concept of Nationalities Policy (in force from 1996 until 2012) defined ‘national-cultural autonomy’ as ‘national-cultural self-determination’ of ‘peoples’, and this was on a par with numerous references to ‘interests’, ‘co-operation’, and ‘development’ of ethnicities.

Most post-Soviet countries allow ethnicity-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and consultative or advisory bodies for minorities; official ethno-cultural policies mostly revolve around these two types of institutional settings. For example, Russia has, according to different estimates, between 2,500 and 3,500 NGOs which represent minorities and indigenous populations; Belarus officially reports about 180 minority NGOs on its territory.18 Moldova has a national Coordinative Council of National Minorities—a consultative body on minority issues composed of around 100 ethnic NGOs under the governmental Bureau for Inter-Ethnic Relations.19 The Council of National Minorities functions under the auspices of the Georgian Public Defender (Ombudsman);20 the Council is closely linked to the voluntary coalition of minority NGOs—the Association ‘Multinational Georgia’.21 Several territories of Ukraine (such as the Odesa or Chernivtsy provinces) and constituent regions of the Russian Federation have established minority consultative councils under their governments or executive bodies in charge of ethno-cultural affairs. I would consider these kinds of settings as belonging to ‘policies of non-territorial autonomy’ only under the condition that public authorities consistently frame and justify these arrangements as self-organization and representation of ethnic groups per se. This condition will be (p.212) met when ethnicity-based NGOs function within a special ideological and normative framework, and consultative or representative bodies are officially supposed to speak on behalf of ethnic ‘communities’ as such rather than individual NGOs or experts. In this regard, the space for NTA policies remains rather limited although the domain’s boundary is blurry and flexible. If we reserve the notion of NTA policies for the translation of general vague wording into clearly defined workable models resting on the ‘groupist’ ideas, then only three major frameworks would match this requirement. These are cultural (or ‘national-cultural’) autonomy; bodies supposed to represent the entire ethnicities (so-called congresses of peoples); and structures supposed to be representative of several ethnicities as such before the authorities and to provide dialogue and reconciliation between themselves (in most cases referred to as ‘Assemblies of Peoples’).

Four post-Soviet countries (Estonia, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine) have laws on cultural or ‘national-cultural’ autonomy. In Estonia, the idea of cultural autonomy for minorities is also stipulated in the 1992 Constitution (art 50). In Latvia and Ukraine, the minority laws which contain provisions on cultural autonomy do not create new types of organization, and autonomy is understood to as a general permission for self-organization on ethnic grounds in various forms. In Russia and Estonia cultural autonomy is interpreted both as a general principle and a particular form of organization on an ethnic basis.22 The term ‘people’s congresses’ carries two meanings: a one-off event for discussing issues pertinent to the given ethnic group, and a mass movement (usually formed by a congress in the first sense) supposed to consolidate this group and respectively, to have an organizational structure, governing bodies, and a network of regional branches. Hundreds of ‘congresses’ as single events were summoned within the former Soviet Union from the late 1980s onwards, and most took place in Russia. Congresses in the second meaning are also present basically in Russia (the major ones number thirteen), and most represent so-called titular ethnicities of Russia’s constituent republics (among those groups are Tatars, Bashkirs, Komi, Mordovians, Buryats, Udmurt, etc.)23 and receive financial and administrative support of the respective regional authorities.24 A specific but similar case is the Association of the Nenets People, Yasavey, which has functioned since 1989 in the Nenets Autonomous District (the (p.213) north of European Russia).25 Outside Russia, one can mention first and foremost the Congress (Qurultay) and the Parliament (Mejlis) of Crimean Tatars, nominally formed through public vote of all Crimean Tatars.26

The Assembly of People of Kazakhstan (APK—before 2007, the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan) is a special body created by the president of the Republic of Kazakhstan, who is ex officio the APK chair.27 The status of the APK is protected by the Constitution of Kazakhstan (art 44) and it operates under a special law. The APK is composed of 350 members who represent ethnic and civil society associations, and various state official and public figures all acting in a personal capacity.28 Each province of Kazakhstan also has its Small Assembly of People which also operates under the heads of regional administrations. Candidates for the main APK are nominated by those provincial ‘small assemblies’ upon recommendations of ethnicity-based NGOs as well as other civil society organizations and are then appointed by the president of Kazakhstan. Officially, the major objectives of APK are to elaborate proposals for public policies that take into account the interests of all ethnic groups and also to facilitate and promote social dialogue to preserve the unity of the people of Kazakhstan. The agenda and working plans for APK are officially defined by its chair. The Assembly of Peoples of Russia (APR) is a nationwide NGO established in 1998.29 The very idea of the APR as a kind of inter-ethnic parliament and even an annex to the supreme legislative body has been discussed since the early 1990s30 and was even mentioned in the 1996 Concept of State Nationalities Policy of the Russian Federation. Despite its pretentious name, APR is simply a voluntary association with no public law powers or functions although it works in close cooperation with the government. APR receives public support including funding and is often commented on by high-ranking public officials as an important tool in the management of ethnic relations in Russia. The main proponent of APR has been Ramazan Abdulatipov,31 who started his political career (p.214) in the federal institutions in 1990 as a Member of Parliament and the Chairman of the Council of Nationalities—one of the two chambers of Russia’s Supreme Soviet (the parliament). To date, Abdulatipov remains APR’s permanent and irreplaceable leader. The governing bodies of APR are also composed of retired nomenclature figures and parliamentarians of the 1990s and 2000s with a background in ethnicity-based public movements.

There are dozens of ‘peoples’ assemblies’ in a number of Russian regions. Many of them were established before the federal APR (for instance, in Yakutia in 1994, and in Saratov province—in 1997),32 and for the most part the creation of those organizations was initiated by the regional governments.33 At present, all regional ‘assemblies’ are considered regional branches of APR, but not all regional offices of APR are named ‘assemblies’. According to the APR website, the organization includes seventy-two regional offices; all regional assemblies are also NGOs and include representatives of ethnic (‘national-cultural’ in Russian terminology) societies.34 
The Assembly of People of Kyrgyzstan has been established in 1994 under the country’s president’s auspices as an NGO; to date it is composed of twenty-eight nationwide minority associations under the principle ‘one minority—one member’ and four multi-ethnic social organizations. The organization defines its major goal as the consolidation of Kyrgyzstan’s people through inter-ethnic dialogue, the facilitation of cultural activities, and the coordination of minority communities’ public initiatives. Although the Assembly is a non-governmental association, several ministers (ministers of culture, education, youth affairs; Director of the Public Management Academy under the president; Director of the State Cadre Service and Chair of the Language Board) are considered members of its Council ex officio.35 
The Belarusian Consultative Inter-Ethnic Council (CIEC) functions under the Plenipotentiary on Religious and Nationalities Affairs.36 In Belarus, CIEC includes only heads of national minority associations. It is stipulated that one ethnic group has only one representative council and the Plenipotentiary’s Office makes the appointment only when all NGOs speaking on behalf of a certain group have agreed on their common nominee. In addition, organizations represented in CIEC commit themselves to regard all decisions of the Council as binding.

(p.215) 10.4 Legal Frameworks

Virtually all post-Soviet countries have constitutional provisions which recognize ethno-cultural heterogeneity and the need to create conditions for the preservation and expression of individual and group ethnic identity. All post-Soviet countries are parties to multilateral human rights treaties as well as bilateral agreements which contain provisions on the protection of national minorities. Some countries of the region have special laws on national minorities or on broadly understood ethno-cultural policies, or at least provisions of sectoral laws related to the protection of minorities. These laws are generally declarative and stipulate only general principles; the mechanisms of implementation are set up in by-laws, political decisions, or informal practices. Russia’s federal structure makes the situation in this country even more complex: the constituent regions have their own laws on ethnic relations (which are basically in line with the federal ones), and much of the resources and authority in the sphere of ethno-cultural policy has been transferred to the regional level.

In general, the principle of a ‘narrowing funnel’ applies: states’ obligations are being gradually reduced on the way from general declarations and constitutional provisions to implementation through a series of laws, executive programmes, and individual decisions of the executive. The only real guarantee of implementation is the good will of the executive; no action can be taken in courts on the grounds of declarations, concepts, and programmes on ethnic relations, and the executive branch has a broad discretion in interpreting laws as well as in broader decision-making.37 This description is fully relevant to the legislation on cultural autonomy. As mentioned in section 10.3, the related legislative provisions are present in the national laws of four countries; while in Latvia and Ukraine they mean general approval of civil activities aimed at the protection and promotion of minority languages and cultures, in Estonia and Russia the respective pieces of legislation also envisage specific types of ethnicity-based organizations. Entities referred to as ‘cultural autonomies’ in Estonia and ‘national-cultural autonomies’ in Russia have a special legal framework. In Russia, the latter comprises the 1996 Federal Law ‘On National-Cultural Autonomy’, respective provisions in other pieces of federal legislation, eleven regional laws on the public support of ‘autonomies’, provisions of other regional laws and numerous by-laws, as well as executive orders and target programmes. Estonia has a special law ‘On Cultural Autonomy’ of 1993. In both cases, national legislation offers fewer opportunities and instead creates more difficulties for community initiatives and public support than the laws on ‘ordinary’ non-profit organizations do.38

(p.216) ‘National-cultural autonomies’39 (NCAs) in Russia are a type of civil society organization (‘social organizations’ in terms of Russian law); NCAs are obliged to be incorporated as legal persons.40 They are established on behalf of an ethnic group or a national minority within a defined territory (until 2003 all ethnicities were allowed to establish NCAs); since 2003 only mono-ethnic NCAs are allowed. NCAs may have three levels of territorial organization: local (within a municipality), regional (within a federation unit), and all-Russian ‘autonomies’. The procedures for the establishment of an NCA are more complex than for other types of NGOs. NCAs can be established only on a bottom-up basis: a group of persons belonging to a certain ethnicity (until 2003, only ethnicity-based NGOs) can establish a local NCA; several local NCAs can form a regional one; in turn several regional NCAs can found the federal ‘autonomy’. Parallel federal autonomies of the same ethnicity are not allowed under any version of the 1996 NCA law. The existence of more than one NCA of the same ethnicity within a region is not allowed in accordance with the Constitutional Court decision of 5 March 2004;41 and parallel local autonomies are precluded and denied official registration by the authorities. Local autonomies are not obliged to become members of the respective regional NCA, and regional NCAs can exist independently of their co-ethnic federal ‘autonomies’. The rights of NCAs are restricted in comparison with ‘ordinary’ NGOs which can also be ethnicity-based; only one organizational form based on fixed individual membership is possible, and NCAs until December 2014 were allowed to carry out activities related exclusively to the issues of language, culture, and education. Like ‘ordinary’ social organizations, NCAs can establish mass-media outlets, cultural and educational institutions, own property, and conclude contracts. NCAs, like other ethnic NGOs in Russia, receive small-scale support from public authorities and only a few can rely on regular private sponsorship.

Minority self-governments (also referred to as ‘cultural autonomies’) in Estonia are established by minority cultural NGOs. With permission of the authorities, the founders can set up a register (a list) of persons wishing to be members of the self-government and they may then arrange for the board’s elections. Four ‘traditional’ minorities and other groups that number more than 3,000 persons can set (p.217) up self-governing bodies. Minority self-governments are not legal entities, and at best, a self-government established under the law may function as a coordinating council for ‘its own’ minority.42

People’s congresses in Russia are social movements, and as such almost all of them have not been underpinned by any specific legal framework. Only two constituent units of the Russian Federation—the Komi Republic in the Russian European north and the Khakass Republic in south Siberia—had laws between 1992 and 2003, respectively on the Komi People Congress and on the Chon-Chobi—the Khakass Congress.43 In addition, the Association of the Nenets People, Yasavey, which is not established as a ‘congress’, claims to be the only one spokesperson of this ‘titular’ indigenous ethnicity in the Nenets Autonomous District in Russia’s North. It enjoys a special representative status enshrined in the regional Charter (arts 16 and 29). In the other cases, an ethnic congress is convened by the governing body of the movement and the official authorities of the respective republic, where the movement is based. For example, the Kurultay (Congress) of the Bashkir people was convened and incorporated on the basis of and in pursuit of the decrees of Bashkortostan’s president.44 In a formal sense, the ‘congresses’ exist as NGOs in legal forms, such as ‘social movement’ (organization with no fixed individual membership) or as unions or associations of social organizations.

The position of coalition-type representative organizations looks more complex. The Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan was established in 1995 by a presidential decree as a consultative body under the president; currently it is working on the basis of the national law, On the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, as a special body formed by the president (art 44 of the Constitution of Kazakhstan).45 In contrast, the Assembly of People of Kyrgyzstan has no specific legislative provisions as functions as a social association. The very idea of the APR is present in the Concept of Nationalities Policy of the Russian Federation adopted by a president’s decree in 1996. Some APR documents as well as statements of its leaders argue that the Assembly was created in response to the Concept,46 which is not quite true—the government did not partake in the federal Assembly’s establishment, and still the organization has no public competences and enjoys quite limited support. (p.218) A number of Russian regional assemblies like the ones in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the Republic of Tatarstan, the Saratov province, and others were created earlier than the federal APR with the direct interference of the regional governments. Accordingly, in some regions these local assemblies, being NGOs, are referenced in the regional official conceptual outlines and programmes of nationalities policy.47 As a rule, they also gain the direct support of the authorities; for instance, their conventions are held at the initiative of the regional executive authorities and are in part publicly funded. However, there are no local laws and regulations dealing specifically with regional assemblies. The Consultative Inter-Ethnic Council (CIEC) in Belarus was established in 2004 in accordance with the Statute on the Plenipotentiary on Religious and Nationalities Affairs enacted by the Council of Ministers. The CIEC predecessors were the Coordinating Council for National Minorities under the Council of Ministers (established in 1995) and the latter’s successor, the Coordinating Council for National Minorities under the State Committee for Religious and Ethnic Affairs (founded in 1998). The CIEC rules of procedure are set up by acts of the Plenipotentiary.48

10.5 Between Normative Frameworks and Praxis

Little can be said about ‘cultural autonomies’ in Russia and Estonia. In Russia, NCAs occupy the same niche as all other ethnicity-based NGOs; they engage basically in activities pertinent to the expression and preservation of their groups’ cultural traits. It is worth noting that the number of NCAs is growing although lagging far behind ‘ordinary’ ethnicity-based NGOs; by March 2014 the total number of registered NCAs reached 1,014 throughout the country.49 It should be noted that since 1993 only two self-governments of small minorities, namely the Ingrian Finns and the Swedes, have been established in Estonia, and both are inactive.50 Basically, minority activists work through the already established NGOs which are legal entities or benefit from educational and cultural institutions run by the state and municipal authorities.

The ‘congresses’ and ‘assemblies’ in Russia have no special legal framework, but in fact they occupy a special privileged niche. They represent so-called governmental (p.219) NGOs (GONGOs), which are directly or indirectly set up and guided by the government. Within this context, their relations with public authorities, funding, and formation of the governing bodies are subject to informal practices which are closed to the public, non-transparent, and quite often in conflict with the law. The latter means, first of all, that state interventions in the convention of ‘congresses’ and ‘assemblies’ (particularly, in setting up their organizing committees) directly contravenes the legislation on social and non-profit organizations; selective budgetary funding is arbitrary and thus must be deemed discriminatory. In fact, financial support to congresses and ‘assemblies’—like many other organizations and initiatives under the auspices of the public authorities—is provided by enterprises and businesspeople dependent on the government. Thus, the relationships in this triangle (government–donor–recipient) remain closed to the public. Also opaque is the selection of delegates to the conventions of ‘congresses’ and ‘assemblies’. Most ‘congresses’, in the meaning of representative fora, are formed through a two-step scheme. The organizing committee sets up numerical quotas based on the estimated number of people belonging to the respective ethnicity within certain territories; then a meeting of all stakeholders at the local level nominates and elects electors to the regional meeting; afterwards the electors at their regional conferences nominate and cast votes for the delegates to the congress.51 The way in which these meetings and conferences are convened remains non-transparent and still insufficiently studied, especially with regard to the provision of access to those who wish to take part in the electoral procedures, the setting of agendas and rules, and particularly personal nominations and voting, Preparatory processes to all the conventions are also blurred: it is unclear who formulates the agenda and how, and what are the scenarios and internal regulations. In any case, a congress as a meeting of several hundred delegates and guests who work altogether within a short time at plenary sessions and thematic sections can, in principle, be easily manipulated by the organizers.

Similar procedures employed by APR and regional ‘assemblies’ in Russia turn out to be even more confusing. Nominally, ‘assemblies’ claim to represent ethnic groups, but until recently the long-lasting debates about the ways to achieve ‘genuine’ and ‘legitimate’ representation have generated no satisfactory output. As a rule, governing bodies of the assemblies are formed during congresses, and delegates are selected under mixed and complicated principles. The situation is aggravated, first, by the fact that most assemblies also envisage personal membership (and individual members are usually retired high-ranking officials, politicians, and secret service officers) and, second, by an unwritten tradition that the governing bodies of most assemblies are formed during the congresses by a general vote of the delegates and not by the constituent organizations or the ethnicities. These procedures are also vulnerable to manipulations given that ‘assemblies’ are dependent and that all decision-making is closed to the constituencies. A clear and accurate judgment on whether all these opportunities were really employed looks (p.220) impossible, because no reliable and comprehensive study of the assemblies has been done so far.

In other countries, the situation looks simpler. In Kazakhstan, the president directly appoints representatives of ethnic associations as well as prominent public figures like authoritative persons active in public administration, academia, higher education, fine arts, business, and veterans’ organizations. The process of nomination of prospective members of the Assembly is done through regional ‘small assemblies’, which are supervised by regional heads of state administrations.52 In Belarus, CIEC includes only governmental appointees. In addition to making recommendations to the government of Belarus on ethnic issues, CIEC plans and coordinates joint activities of the national-cultural societies and makes decisions on the distribution of public grants and subsidies for ethno-cultural projects of the non-governmental sector. In Kyrgyzstan, the governing bodies of the Assembly of People of Kyrgyzstan are elected during its congresses (except for the ministers who are the Council’s members ex officio); however the selection of candidates and their nomination is strongly (but informally) dependent on the government.

10.6 From Symbolic Policies to Resource Distribution 
and Institution-Setting

Such initiatives as NCA, ‘peoples congresses’ and multi-ethnic assemblies first and foremost provide for the symbolic presence of ethnic groups in the public space. Almost none of these structures play any independent role in politics; they are orchestrated by governments even if they have not been created by the state directly. The role of each in resource distribution, services delivery, and decision-making is highly dependent on the local context, the motivation of the activists, the position of the local authorities, and the availability of sponsors. Theoretically, all structures described here provide multiple opportunities, but are rarely realized in full. Nevertheless, the structures in question claim to partake in cultural and educational projects. For the cultural autonomies this is the main form of activity, while it is an auxiliary one for the ‘congresses’ and ‘assemblies’. All three forms of organization basically have not contributed to the formation of other institutional structures, as well as to setting up standards and sustainable practices related to the protection of minorities. Rather, they engage in holding events like folk festivals, conferences, or round tables on ethnic issues. Only a few NCAs in Russia establish and maintain private educational institutions, basically training courses (p.221) and Sunday schools. The ‘congresses’ and ‘assemblies’ do even less. The APR in the early 2000s contributed to the setting up of a non-governmental House of Peoples’ Friendship in Moscow which comprised a museum, a theatre, and a library.53 This endeavour was funded by private donors, and by 2009 had faded. The APR and the regional assemblies try to create subsidiaries, such as ‘Youth Assemblies’; however, effective social activities of these derivatives remain highly questionable. The Assembly of Peoples of Tatarstan in Russia functions on the basis of the state institution, House of Peoples of Tatarstan, and gets public funding through this channel. The Assembly of Peoples of Tatarstan runs language courses;54 the republican government considers the Assembly as an intermediary between the authorities and migrants,55 and the Assembly is authorized to provide legal aid to newcomers belonging to ethnic minorities.

With regard to resource allocation and distribution, all three types of organizations depend on private donors and on governmental subsidies. In Estonia, no public authority is obliged to provide pecuniary support to minority self-governments or any other minority organizations (however, public subsidies to minority NGOs do take place). Russian authorities also bear no financial obligations to NCAs or other minority associations. In these cases, public donations are selective and not guaranteed. In Russia, direct contributions by public authorities are mainly confined to the provision of free of charge or low rent premises for minority organizations (usually at the regional level there are special public institutions called House of Peoples Friendship or House of Nationalities) or involve minority organizations as junior partners in the preparation of cultural events (such as festivals, exhibitions, and conferences). Private financial sponsorship is irregular and often takes place on the initiative of or under pressure from public authorities. In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus, ethnic organizations’ financial dependence on the state is higher than in Russia, as all activities are carried out under the control of the state and quite often with budgetary funding. In other countries, minority organizations have more independence, but also more problems with financing. Noteworthy is the role of the Belarusian CIEC. Among other things, it makes decisions about the distribution of public subsidies for the projects of national-cultural societies, and also makes recommendations on granting tax-exempt status to ethnic NGOs. Although, formally the final decisions on both issues are made by the Plenipotentiary on Religions and Nationalities Affairs, CIEC recommendations are usually always accepted.

Another issue is the acquisition and fulfilment of public competences and authorities. The largest amount of power has been formally granted to the (p.222) APK. The APK selects nine MPs (out of 154) to the national parliament and takes part in drafting laws and executive regulations which concern minorities or ethnic relations.56 Neither Russian nor Estonian legislation entitles cultural autonomies to participate in government decision-making, in the development of any professional standards and codes, or in the management of public cultural and educational institutions.57 It should be noted that the 1925 Law on Cultural Autonomy in Estonia provided for the transfer of authority to manage minority schools with corresponding budgetary resources to minority self-governments.58 Nothing like this is present in the current law. In practice, authorities in several Russian republics have recognized ‘peoples’ congresses’ as lobbying organizations and authoritative conventions. As a rule, heads of those regions where ‘congresses’ of the respective ‘titular’ nations convene (Komi, Mordovia, Bashkortostan, Tatarstan) report before those meetings, and in turn the ‘congresses’ address their wishes and demands to the republican governments. In the Komi Republic, there has been an established practice of regular reporting of the republican ministries before the Komi Congress and of the local authorities before the local branches of the Congress. On several occasions the Komi Congress has successfully initiated amendments to regional legislation, and such a right was provided for in previous laws on the status of the Komi Congress.59 Similarly, governmental consultations with the Association of the Nenets People, Yasavey, in the Nenets Autonomous District are mandatory under the district’s Charter (art 16), and the Association has the right to take legislative initiatives in the regional parliament (art 29). Federal and regional ‘assemblies of peoples’ in Russia have been conceived as bodies entitled to participate in government decision-making, particularly in the assessment of draft laws and executive acts affecting minorities. In reality, the assemblies remain merely civil society organizations enjoying some ritual piety from regional authorities. There is no evidence that ‘assemblies’ have affected the decision-making processes or that their initiatives materialized in new laws or policy changes. This mode of existence fits in the general framework in which almost all other coalition-type and consultative bodies function in all post-Soviet countries: their real influence on decision-making looks negligible. Something of an exception is the Belarusian CIEC which decides on the allocation of budget funds and on granting tax benefits to national-cultural societies.

(p.223) 10.7 Social Context and Perceptions

The former Soviet Union basically followed the ethno-nationalist doctrine of state-building, or, more precisely, the ruling elites regarded their country as a form of organization of the ‘titular’ ethnicities. These perceptions were present in national legislations and political declarations in varying degrees of transparency and consistency; in practical terms they served as a basis for preferential treatment of persons belonging to the ‘titular’ groups and of their languages.60 Today, Russia and Belarus can be regarded as partial exceptions. Russia is a federation, and part of its regions are considered ‘ethnic’ entities and follow ethno-nationalist doctrines in legislation and domestic policies, while at the federal level the patronization of ethnic Russians has not manifested itself as a clear-cut trend so far. In Belarus, the ethno-national character of the state is not articulated; Russian remains an official language on a par with Belarusian, and government officials exploit the rhetoric of ‘civil’ nation widely.61

All post-Soviet countries seek to prevent or mitigate social cleavages along ethnic lines, and thus they strive to establish counterweights to ethno-nationalist ideology and to avoid radical manifestations that could provoke civil unrest. For this purpose, official authorities resort to limited and rather symbolic recognition of multi-ethnicity or multi-nationality and support cultural and educational activities on behalf of and for ‘non-titular’ populations. The governments have at their disposal numerous institutions that allow for the promotion and organization of cultural activities on behalf of minorities, as well as for the public recognition of their positive role in society. The post-Soviet official rhetoric derives in large part from the Soviet understanding of the ‘nationalities question’. Throughout the Soviet period, official declarations (including the main programmes of the Communist Party and the founding documents of the Soviet state) as well as semi-official academic publications regarded ethnic groups as social entities with their own integral social and economic life, able to ‘develop’, to pursue interests of their own and therefore to hold group rights, primarily the right to self-determination.62 ‘Self-determination’ was regarded primarily in territorial forms, through the creation of ‘own’ statehood or territorial autonomy.63 The main objective of the Soviet (p.224) ‘nationalities policy’ was modernization and alignment of social and economic conditions for all ethnic communities; therefore, this policy was primarily aiming at economic, social, and cultural investments in ethnic and geographic peripheries of the country and at radical social engineering extensively labelled with the notion of ‘development’.64 Ethnicity-based administrative-territorial units were viewed as an institutional framework for the ‘development’ of the respective ‘nationalities’.65 Even more important is the fact that the underlying assumptions of NTA were compatible with the communists’ understanding of ethnicity’s role in the society. In particular, the idea of non-territorial self-organization on the basis of ethnicity can be easily derived from a theoretical construct of ‘national sovereignty’ (in the sense of ethnic) put forward by some Soviet legal theorists in 1940s and 1950s.66 According to these ideas, sovereignty was in principle threefold: it included popular, state, and ‘national’ (ethnic) institutions; each type was not restricted to one or the other; and ‘national’ sovereignty was enjoyed by all ethnic groups, but could be implemented in different ways and forms of ‘self-determination’.67

Numerous ethnic conflicts of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which were accompanying the Soviet Union’s breakdown, triggered wide political and academic debates about the ways of mitigating tensions on ethnic grounds. A common wisdom of policymakers in Russia and beyond was that driving ethnicity out of the political domain and preventing territorial claims by satisfying minorities’ cultural needs and facilitating inter-ethnic dialogue would be the right strategies. Various forms of cultural and non-territorial autonomy and consultative mechanisms for minorities were extensively referred to as adequate organizational settings.

Having been created in the late 1980s or the first half of the 1990s, all three types of ‘autonomous’ non-territorial organizations continue to exist to date, and two achievements can be noted. First, these structures involve almost all activists 
and experts (especially at the local and regional levels), who can formulate positions and demands on behalf of minorities, and therefore secure governmental control and 
domination. Second, they provide for the agendas, scenarios, and communication protocols which are comfortable for the government and which allow avoiding all disputes and controversies on substantive issues related to social justice and resource allocation. Last, but not least, these undertakings allow governments (p.225) to refer to minority self-organization and inter-ethnic dialogues as evidence of how successful ethnic policies are. One can hardly speak about the failures of the organizations described here, because their rationales were vaguely formulated and not always in line with actual official policies. Thus, cultural autonomy in Russia and Estonia were widely acknowledged as a device for the consolidation of ethnic groups, but they could not perform this function because of legislative flaws, and no one made any real attempt to stimulate self-organization of minorities in the framework of ‘autonomies’. The APR has not acquired any public competence (as assumed before its establishment), but it really benefits from its privileged position and close ties with the government. Likewise, it is also hard to talk about the efficiency of ‘peoples’ congresses’ because of the uncertainty in their goals and objectives.

The main beneficiaries in the cases described above are the governments, because they have established instruments for control over ethnic activists, public agendas, and large support groups. Leaders and activists of ethnic organizations also benefit from those policies since they get a channel of regular communication with public authorities, acquire a high symbolic status, and receive additional material resources and political weight. Ordinary members of ethnic movements and organizations are also favoured with symbolic recognition of their ethnic communities and with the opportunity to participate in politics at least symbolically. The general public also gets a comfortable narrative about the state of ethnic relations. It should perhaps be admitted that in some cases the respective organizations can solve particular problems, for example in Tatarstan, they secure control over immigrants through ethnic ‘communities’ and help governmental agencies to carry out cultural activities. Over the last twenty years, there have been no public critics of those institutions’ fundamentals in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus, and no one has used them as a means to oppose or criticize policies pursued by the authorities. Moreover, there have been no attempts to work out alternative scenarios or frameworks in these countries, even in the early 1990s when the political regimes were much more liberal. Official authorities evaluate all policies of NTA positively, as a remarkable achievement of their own. ‘Cultural’ or ‘national-cultural’ autonomy receive mostly positive assessments by the governments, ethnic activists, and scholars, despite the fact that ‘autonomies’ offer fewer opportunities than ‘ordinary’ non-profit organizations both in Russia and Estonia. Critics touch upon minor details like insufficient public finding, but never the basic issues.

This phenomenon can be explained by the high symbolic status of NCA in public opinion. However, attitudes to cultural autonomy inside Estonia are generally more sceptical than in Russia because of this institution’s complete impracticality.68 ‘Peoples’ congresses’ are evaluated in the local academic literature in two opposite ways: there are either apologetic or highly critical judgements, speculative in both instances. The admirers argue that the ‘congresses’ are legitimate and efficient (p.226) mechanisms for the formulation and representation of ethnic interests through democratic procedures.69 The critics state that they are formed through backroom machinations and fake ballots while the conventions themselves are directly manipulated by the governments and a handful of activists.70 It’s almost impossible to confirm or refute these statements because there have been no reliable empirical studies of those organizations. It may be noted that a large social survey conducted in 2007–8 by the society Finland–Russia showed that only a small part of the ‘titular’ population in Russia’s regions had ever heard of the ‘congresses’ they had supposedly voted for.71 For more than twenty years there has been no evidence of bottom-up oppositional criticism toward ‘congresses’ or attempts to hijack those institutions or change their mode of operation. Finally, people’s assemblies are also judged from opposite directions. Apologetic statements dominate, mainly in Kazakhstan.72 In Russia most positive assessments have been gained by the Assembly of Peoples of Tatarstan which performs a specific job in language training and legal aid for immigrants.73 Mostly critically assessed was the very idea of multiple ethnic groups’ ‘representation’ within a common forum. Nonetheless, critics and apologists draw very little interest 
from the wider public.

10.8 Conclusions and Recommendations

NTA as a mode of framing ethnic issues as relations between ethnic groups which exist as social entities regardless of territorial definition and which perform as social actors, as one can see, persists and has concrete embodiments. Sometimes these frames shape public agendas to a certain degree and are also translated into practice, having contributed to institutional set-up. From this perspective, NTA deserves theorists’ and practitioners’ attention as a process affecting ethnic policies at large and leading to concrete substantive consequences. A condition for an (p.227) effective application of this approach would be avoidance of the ‘groupist’ attitudes and taking NTA not at face value, as a way of group self-organization, but rather as a mode of framing, often introduced on a top-town basis.

Processes entailed by or related to framing also deserve a thorough examination. One may argue that all three organizational forms described here are not authentic models of representation and self-organization of ethnic groups, since they are guided and controlled by authoritarian governments (as in Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan) and/or governments pursuing ‘ethnic control’74 (as in the cases of Estonia and Kyrgyzstan). This objection becomes irrelevant if one questions the very notion of ‘authentic’ self-organization or representation. The role of state coercion must also be questioned in the light of the fact that in most countries of the former Soviet Union most ethnic activists within the last two decades strive to be loyal to their governments and to accept all their offers no matter how authoritarian these are. Given the lack of opposition and alternatives to such mode of behaviour, one may assume that this model of interaction with authorities is legitimate and is as a rule endorsed by those who wish to take part in social activities on behalf of minorities.

It would be a mistake to assess the legitimacy of NTA from the point of whether they were initiated ‘from above’ or ‘from below’. This perception reflects in some way a ‘republican’ vision of ethnicities as aggregates of individuals thinking in a similar way because of their ‘identity’ and respective ‘genuine’ interests and thus being able to adopt and implement collective decisions through democratic procedures. If these assumptions about ‘genuine’ collective interests and ‘true’ substantive representation are discarded, one can talk about a broader range of perspectives and realistically suggest that ethnic politics like other politics in the post-Soviet space develops in a similar neo-patrimonial framework where public activities are subject to patron–client networks and informal institutions, and resources are allocated in exchange for personal and institutional loyalties.75 Ultimately, ethnic activists as a rule do not pursue strategies other than being a loyal junior partner and an agent of the state and its representatives. In turn, governments easily find performers for such initiatives as NCAs, ‘assemblies’, and ‘congresses’.

One may also assume that the experience of the former Soviet republics can be relevant in other contexts in the following respects. First, such initiatives are important as a symbolic policy, or as a way to publicly recognize the role ethnic groups play in society. Symbolic status or a specific label for an organization (such as ‘autonomy’) turns out to overweigh utilitarian considerations; ethnic activists often demonstrate that they feel comfortable with agendas which have little if (p.228) any relevance to people’s daily life. The high level of legitimacy of NTA policies and the institutions set up in this framework (in that they encounter no public criticism) leads to the conclusion that many potential controversies or conflicts can be mitigated or avoided by imitative forms of social participation and social activism. It is also important that such forms of activity and participation really bind people of different political views and really allow removing from public agendas the issues which may cause social unrest. Second, the forms of organization and the related activities described here can be regarded as good examples of neo-patrimonialism76 in ethnic policies resting on patronage relationships, resource distribution in exchange for loyalties, and prevalence of informal institutions partly independent of legal frameworks. An important question in this regard is whether the neo-patrimonialist framework applies only in illiberal environments and whether its components can be observed in countries with a market economy, rational bureaucracies, and the rule of law as well.77 Third, one may assume that the organizational forms in question apply not only in the field of symbolic politics. Organizations of these types can in fact implement ethno-cultural and educational projects, and their affiliation with state institutions can in theory raise capacities. These types of organizations offer flexible and thus potentially efficient schemes of public participation. Particularly interesting are the electoral procedures employed by ‘peoples’ congresses’—a public vote at local and regional ‘primaries’ in theory gives the opportunity to participate in the public movement for everyone who appears in person at the local meeting without establishing any ethnic or other qualifications. Fourth, all models of interaction between civil society and the state must be of potential interest in various social and political contexts because they further joint participation in decision-making as well as the distribution and utilization of public resources for ethnic and cultural policy. Fifth, multi-ethnic coalition-type organizations like an ‘assembly’ seem promising organizational forms. In theory, they can help to overcome ethnic barriers and encourage leaders and activists of different ethnicities to coordinate and reconcile their interests and stances. In addition, multi-ethnic organizations can provide minority organizations with additional recourses such as legal aid, support staff, and premises, and such cooperation may in certain instances be more efficient than separate investments of each individual organization.


(1) Such as the Lund Recommendations on the Participation of National Minorities in Public Life (adopted 1 September 1999) of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.

(2) Brendan O’Leary, ‘The Logics of Power-Sharing, Consociation and Pluralist Federations’, in Settling Self-Determination Disputes: Complex Power-Sharing in Theory and Practice, edited by Barbara Metzger, Marc Weller, and Niall Johnson (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2008), pp. 47, 54–5; Hans-Joachim Heintze, ‘On the Legal Understanding of Autonomy’, in Autonomy: Applications and Implications, edited by Markku Suksi (The Hague; Boston: Kluwer Law International, 1998), pp. 15–16.

(3) Christofer D. Decker, ‘Contemporary Forms of Cultural Autonomy in Eastern Europe: Recurrent Problems and Prospects for Improving the Functioning of Elected Bodies of Cultural Autonomy’, in The Participation of Minorities in Public Life (Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing, 2008), pp. 89–90; Yash Ghai, ‘Ethnicity and Autonomy: A Framework for Analysis’, in Autonomy and Ethnicity: Negotiating Competing Claims in Multi-Ethnic States, edited by Yash Ghai (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 8; Thomas Benedikter, The World’s Modern Autonomy Systems. Concepts and Experiences of Regional Territorial Autonomy (Bozen/Bolzano: European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano, 2009), pp. 39–40.

(4) Tove Malloy, ‘The Lund Recommendations and Non-Territorial Arrangements: Progressive De-Territorialization of Minority Politics’, International Journal on Minority and Group Rights vol. 16, no. 4 (2009), pp. 665–79; Markku Suksi, ‘Personal Autonomy as Institutional Form—Focus on Europe against the Background of Article 27 of the ICCPR’, International Journal on Minority and Group Rights vol. 15, nos 2–3 (2008): pp. 157–78.

(5) Rogers Brubaker, ‘Ethnicity without Groups’, Archives Européennes de Sociologie vol. XLIII, no. 2 (2002): pp. 163–4.

(6) Robert Entman, ‘Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm’, Journal of Communication vol. 43, no. 4 (1993): pp. 51–8; Kim Fisher, ‘Locating Frames in the Discursive Universe’, Sociological Research Online vol. 2, no. 3 (1997), accessed 19 March 2014, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/2/3/4.html>.

(7) Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (London: Harper and Row, 1974), p. 21.

(8) Entman, ‘Framing: Toward Clarification’, p. 51.

(9) Zhongdang Pan and G. M. Kosicki, ‘Framing as a Strategic Action in Public Deliberation’, in Framing Public Life: Perspectives on Media and our Understanding of the Social World, edited by Stephen D. Reese, Oscar H. Gandy, and August E. Grant (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001), pp. 37–40.

(10) Maxwell McCombs and Salma Ghanem, ‘The Convergence of Agenda Setting and Framing’, in Framing Public Life: Perspectives on Media and our Understanding of the Social World, edited by Stephen D. Reese, Oscar H. Gandy, and August E. Grant (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001), pp. 67–81.

(11) Marie-Eve Desrosiers, ‘Reframing Frame Analysis: Key Contributions to Conflict Studies’, Ethnopolitics vol. 11, no. 1 (2012): pp. 1–23.

(12) Robert D. Benford and David A. Snow, ‘Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment’, Annual Review of Sociology vol. 26 (2000): pp. 11–39; Dietram A. Scheufele, ‘Framing as a Theory of Media Effects’, Journal of Communication vol. 49, no. 4 (1999): pp. 103–22.

(13) Pan and Kosicki, ‘Framing as a Strategic Action’, p. 43.

(14) Entman, ‘Framing: Toward Clarification’, p. 55.

(15) Vladimir Gel’man, ‘The Unrule of Law in the Making: The Politics of Informal Institutional Building in Russia’, Europe-Asia Studies vol. 56, no. 7 (2004): pp. 1021–58.

(16) Gero Erdmann and Ulf Engel, ‘Neopatrimonialism Reconsidered: Critical Review and Elaboration of an Elusive Concept’, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics vol. 45, no. 1 (2007): pp. 95–119; Vladimir Gel’man, ‘Subversive Institutions, Informal Governance, and Contemporary Russian Politics’, Communist and Post-Communist Studies vol. 45, nos 3–4 (2012): pp. 295–303.

(17) Nils Brunsson, The Organization of Hypocrisy. Talk, Decisions and Actions in Organizations (Chichester, N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons, 1989).

(18) The official lists are on the Plenipotentiary’s website, accessed 13 October 2014, <http://www.belarus21.by/ru/main_menu/nat/nat_cult_ob/obyed/new_url_1579289175>.

(19) Website of governmental Bureau for Inter-ethnic Relations, accessed 13 October 2014, <http://www.bri.gov.md/index.php?pag=sec&id=91&l=ru>.

(20) For details, see the website of the European Centre for Minority Issues Caucasus, accessed 13 October 2014, <http://www.ecmicaucasus.org/menu/fora_cnm.html>.

(21) Website of the Association ‘Multinational Georgia’, accessed 13 October 2014, <http://pmmg.org.ge/index.php?m=7&lang=Eng>.

(22) David J. Smith, ‘Non-Territorial Autonomy and Political Community in Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe’, Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe vol. 12, no. 1 (2013): pp. 27–55.

(23) A rationalization of these endeavours rests on the fact that most people belonging to these ethnicities reside outside the respective ‘kin’ regions; for example, approximately three-quarters of Tatars live outside Tatarstan.

(24) Alexander Osipov, ‘The “Peoples’ Congresses” in Russia: Failure or Success? Authenticity and Efficiency of Minority Representation’, ECMI Working Paper no. 48 (2011), accessed 15 March 2014, <http://www.ecmi.de/uploads/tx_lfpubdb/Working_Paper_48_Final.pdf>; Yuriy P. 
Shabaev and Anna M. Charina, Regional’nye etnoelity v politicheskom processe: (finno-ugorskoe dvizhenie: stanovlenie, evolyuciya, ideologiya, lidery) [Regional Ethnic Elites in the Political Process (Finno-Ugric Movement: Establishment, Evolution, Ideology, Leaders)] (Syktyvkar: KRAGSiU, 2008), pp. 107–8.

(25) For a description of Yasavey, see its official website, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://www.yasavey.org/>.

(26) OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, The Integration of Formerly Deported People in Crimea, Ukraine: Needs Assessment (The Hague: OSCE HCNM, 2013), pp. 16–17.

(27) L. Shaimerdenova, ‘Assambleya narodov Kazahstana—novyi institut obshestvenno-politicheskoi konsolidatsii’ [Peoples’ Assembly of Kazakhstan—New Institute of Sociopolitical Consolidation], Russkaya kul’tura vne granits no. 6 (1997): p. 16; Bhavna Dave, ‘Management of Ethnic Relations in Kazakhstan: Stability without Success’, in The Legacy of the Soviet Union, edited by Wendy Slater and Andrew Wilson (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004): p. 93; G. Baybasheva, ‘“Rol” Assamblei narodov Kazakhstana v sovershenstvovanii mezhetnicheskih otnoshenii v Respublike Kazakhstan’ [The Role of Peoples’ Assembly of Kazakhstan in Current Inter-Ethnic Relations in the Republic of Kazakstan], Ekonomika i Pravo v Respublike Kazakhstan no. 22 (2008): p. 33.

(28) For a description of the APK and of the regional assemblies, see the APK’s official website, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://www.assembly.kz/pravovaya-baza-ank.html>.

(29) See the APR Charter and Programme, as well as a description of the regional Assemblies history on its official website, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://anrussia.ru/> and Mikhail N. Guboglo, ‘Assambleya narodov Rossii. Teoriya i praktika’ [Peoples’ Assembly of Russia: Theory and Practice], in Etnicheskaya mobilizatsiya i mezhetnicheskaya integratsiya (Moscow: TsIMO, 1999), pp. 105, 117–18.

(30) Leokadiya M. Drobizheva, Social’nye problemy mezhnacional’nyh otnoshenii v postsovetskoi Rossii [Social Problems in Inter-Ethnic Relations of Post-Soviet Russia] (Moscow: Tsentr obshechelovecheskih tsennostei, 2003), p. 29; Guboglo, ‘Assambleya narodov Rossii’, pp. 105, 117–18.

(31) See Ramazan Abdulatipov’s website, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://www.abdulatipov.ru>.

(32) Information about the regional assemblies up until June 2014 was available at the APR’s old website: Deyatelnost regionalnukh otdelenii ANR, accessed 12 May 2014, <http://www.anrorg.ru/Regions/Reg_Index.htm>. See also <http://www.аппр.рф/Regions/Reg_Index.htm> for a brief description of several individual organizations.

(33) e.g. see Decree of the President of the Republic Sakha (Yakutia) No. 39 of 3 February 1997 on Holding the Second Assembly of Peoples of Sakha (Yakutia); Resolution of the Administration Head of Cheliabunsk Oblast No. 711 of 3 December 1996 on the Assembly of Peoples of Cheliabinsk Oblast; Decree of the President of the Republic of Bashkortostan No. UP-493 of 18 August 2000 on Holding the Assembly of Peoples of Bashkortostan. The texts are stored on the legal database ‘Consultant+’.

(34) Deyatelnost regionalnukh otdelenii ANR, accessed 12 May 2014, <http://www.anrorg.ru/Regions/Reg_Index.htm>.

(35) Information about the Assembly’s structure and activities is available on its official website, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://www.assembly.kg/>.

(36) See the official website of the Belarusian Plenipotentiary on Religious and Nationalities Affairs, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://www.belarus21.by/ru/main_menu/nat/consultation_centre>.

(37) Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Third Opinion on the Russian Federation (adopted on 24 November 2011), ACFC/OP/III(2011)010, para 20, pp. 66–70.

(38) Ilya Nikiforov, ‘National’no-kul’turnaya avtonomiya v Estonii: povtorenie proidennogo’ [Ethnocultural Autonomy in Estonia: Repetition of the Past], in Natsional’no-kul’turnaya avtonomiya. Ideya i realizatsiya. Estonskii opyt, edited by Alexander Osipov and Ilya Nikiforov (Tallinn: Tsentr informatsii po pravam cheloveka, 2008), pp. 43–55; Alexander Osipov, ‘National Cultural Autonomy in Russia: A Case of Symbolic Law’, Review of Central and East European Law vol. 35, no. 1 (2010): pp. 27–57.

(39) The word ‘autonomy’ is used in Russian and Estonian to mean organization or body; to avoid further remarks and explanations I follow this approach here.

(40) Most of post-Soviet legislative frameworks do not draw a clear distinction between entities of public and private law; most types of social organizations can function without obtaining legal personality.

(41) Postanovlenie Konstitutsionnogo Suda RF ot 3 marta 2004 goda No. 5 ‘Po delu o proverke konstitutsionnosti chasti tret’ei stati 5 Federal’nogo zakona “O natsional’no-kul’turnoi avtonomii” v sviazi s zhaloboi grazhdan A.H.Dits i O.A.Shumacher’, Sobraniye Zakonodatel’stva Rossiiskoy Federatsii (2004) No. 11, item 1033 [Decision No. 5 of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation from 3 March 2004 on the Constitutionality of the Federal Law (part 3, art 5) ‘On National-Cultural Autonomy’ made in response to A. H. Dits’s and O. A. Shumacher’s appeal’, Compendium of Legislation of the Russian Federation (2004) No. 11, item 1033].

(42) Vadim Poleshchuk, ‘Changes in the Concept of National Cultural Autonomy in Estonia’, in The Challenge of Non-Territorial Autonomy: Theory and Practice, edited by Ephraim Nimni, Alexander Osipov, and David J. Smith (Bern: Peter Lang, 2013), pp. 149–62.

(43) Law of the Republic of Komi on the Status of the Congress of Komi People 1992; Law of the Republic of Khakassia on the Status of the Congress of Khakass People (Chyylyf) 21 April 1994. Copies of the originals are at the author’s disposal.

(44) Decree of the President of the Republic of Bashkortostan No. UP-493 from 18 August 2000 on Holding the Assembly of Peoples of Bashkortostan; Decree of the President of the Republic of Bashkortostan No. UP-229 from 30 May 2007 on Holding the Assembly of Peoples of Bashkortostan.

(45) The texts are available at, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://www.assembly.kz/pravovaya-baza-ank.html>.

(46) Ramazan G. Abdulatipov, ‘Doklad Predsedatel’a Soveta ANR R. G. Abdulatipova’ [Report of the Council Chairman Ramazan G. Abdulatipov], Istoricheskoya dukhovnoya naslediye druzhby narodov Rossii: Traditsii i sobremennost. Materialy Kongressa Narodov Rossii (2007): p. 31.

(47) For examples see: Law of the Republic Sakha (Yakutia) No. 259-Z from 13 July 2005 on the Collaboration of the Governmental and Municipal Organs of the Republic Sakha (Yakutia) with Social Associations; Law of Saratov Oblast No. 166-ZSO from 11 September 2007 on the Regional Target Programme National-Cultural Development of the Peoples of Saratov Oblast for 2008–10.

(48) Rules of the Consultative Inter-Ethnic Council under the Plenipotentiary on Religious and Nationalities Affairs, adopted by the Order the Plenipotentiary on Religious and Nationalities Affairs No. 7 from 23 January 2010, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://www.belarus21.by/ru/main_menu/nat/consultation_centre/new_url_1285022831>.

(49) According to the data on the Ministry of Justice official website, accessed 15 March 2014, <http://unro.minjust.ru/NKAs.aspx>.

(50) Vadim Poleshchuk, ed., Chance to Survive: Minority Rights in Estonia and Latvia (Moscow, Paris, Tallinn: Foundation for Historical Outlook, 2009), p. 63.

(51) Osipov, ‘The “Peoples’ Congresses” in Russia’, pp. 6–9.

(52) Nikolay N. Turetskii, ‘Assambleya naroda Kazahstana—knou-how kazahstanskoi mezhetnicheskoi politiki’ [Peoples’ Assembly of Kazakhstan—Know-How of Kazakh Ethnopolitics], Yevraziiskaya integratsiya: ekonomika, pravo, politika no. 5 (2009): pp. 118–21; Gulbakhsha N. Musabaeva, ‘Aktual’nye voprosy mezhetnicheskih otnoshenii v Kazahstane i mezhdunarodnoe sotrudnichestvo’ [Topical Issues of Interethnic Relations in Kazakhstan and International Cooperation], Vestnik Tverskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya: Pravo no. 28 (2011): 
pp. 31–40.

(53) Dom narodov Rossii. 2000–2005 (Moscow: Vserossiiskii Vystavochnyi tsentr, 2006).

(54) A. V. Nabiullina, ‘Osobennosti natsional’noi politiki kak faktora mezhetnicheskogo vzaimodeistviya v Respublike Tatarstan’ [Characteristics of National Policy as a Factor of Interethnic Cooperation in the Republic of Tatarstan], Kazanskaya nauka no. 1 (2012): p. 287; Liliya V. Sagitova, ‘Dom druzhby narodov kak ob’ekt i sub’ekt sotsial’nogo reformirovaniya: ot sovetskoi modeli k globalizatsionnoi?’ [Home of the Commonwealth of Peoples as an Object and Subject of Social Reform: From the Soviet Model to Globalization], Zhurnal issledovanii social’noi politiki vol. 9, no. 4 (2011): p. 504.

(55) Sagitova, pp. 501–6.

(56) Musabaeva, ‘Aktual’nye voprosy mezhetnicheskih otnoshenii’, pp. 31–40; L. S. Zhakaeva, ‘O proportsional’noi sisteme formirovaniya Mazhilisa parlamenta Kazahstana’ [On Proportional Structuring of Mazhilis—Kazakh Parliament], Konstitucionnoe i munitsipal’noe pravo no. 7 (2009): pp. 27–32.

(57) Nikiforov, ‘National’no-kul’turnaya avtonomiya’; Osipov, ‘National Cultural Autonomy in Russia’.

(58) David J. Smith, ‘Non-Territorial Cultural Autonomy as a Baltic Contribution to Europe between the Wars’, in The Baltic States and their Region: New Europe or Old?, edited by David J. Smith (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005), pp. 209–24.

(59) Osipov, ‘The “Peoples’ Congresses” in Russia’, pp. 14–15.

(60) Zoltan Barany and Robert G. Moser, eds., Ethnic Politics after Communism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005).

(61) Nelly Bekus, Struggle over Identity: The Official and the Alternative ‘Belarusianness’ (Budapest, New York: Central European University Press, 2010).

(62) Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); Ronald Suny, The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).

(63) Ian Bremmer, ‘Post-Soviet Nationalities Theory: Past, Present and Future’, in New States, New Politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations, edited by Ian Bremmer and Roy Taras (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Teresa Rakowska-Harmstone, ‘The Dialectics of Nationalism in the USSR’, Problems of Communism vol. 23, no. 3 (1974): pp. 1–22; Philip Roeder, ‘Soviet Federalism and Ethnic Mobilization’, World Politics vol. 43, no. 2 (1991): pp. 197–9.

(64) Walker Connor, The National Question in Marxist–Leninist Theory and Strategy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984); Victor Zaslavsky, ‘Ethnic Group Divided: Social Stratification and Nationality Policy in the Soviet Union’, in The Soviet Union. Party and Society, edited by Peter J. Potichnyj (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 218–28.

(65) Dmitri Gorenburg, Minority Ethnic Mobilization in the Russian Federation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(66) Yuriy G. Sudnitsin, Natsional’nyi suverenitet v SSSR [National Sovereignty in the USSR] (Moscow: Gosyurizdat, 1958); Kiti D. Korkmasova, Natsionalno-gosudarstvennoye ustroistvo SSSR [Ethno-State Structure of the Soviet Union] (Rostov-on-Don: Rostov State University Publishing House, 1984).

(67) Liudvig M. Karapet’an, Federativnoe ustroistvo Rossiiskogo gosudarstva [Federative Structure of the Russian State] (Moscow: Norma, 2001), pp. 229–41; Milena V. Zolotareva, Federatsiya v Rossii: problemy i perspektivy [Federation of Russia: Problems and Perspectives] (Moscow: Probel, 1999), 
pp. 59–109.

(68) Nikiforov, ‘National’no-kul’turnaya avtonomiya’; Andrei Shiryaev, ‘Eshe k voprosu ob avtonomizatsii’ [More on Autonomy Issues], Vesti Dnya (19 March 2009).

(69) Vladimir K. Abramov, Mordovskii narod ot s’ezda k s’ezdu [Mordovian People from Congress to Congress] (Saransk: no publisher, 2004); Vladimir K. Abramov, Mordovskoe natsional’noe dvizhenie [Mordovian National Movemement] (Saransk: no publisher, 2007); V. Markov, Vozrozhdeniye v epokhu peremen. S’ezdy Komi naroda: dokumenty i kommentarii [Renaissance in the Era of Change: The Congress of the Komi People: Documents and Commentaries] (Syktyvkar: no publisher, 2011).

(70) Shabaev and Charina, Regional ‘nye etnoelity v politicheskom processe’, pp. 107–8; Valeriy Aleksandrovich Tishkov, ‘Kazanskie strasti’ [Kazan Passions], Nezavisimaya gazeta (4 October 2002).

(71) Alexei K. Konyuhov, ed., Finno-ugorskie narody Rossii: vchera, segodnya, zavtra [Finno-Ugra People of Russia: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow] (Syktyvkar: no publisher, 2008), p. 104.

(72) R. S. Aryn, ‘Vzaimodeistvie gosudarstvennyh institutov i etnicheskih soobshestv—vazhneishii faktor stanovleniya gosudarstvennosti Respubliki Kazakhstan’ [Cooperation of State Authority Institutes with Ethnic Communities—Key Factor of Statehood’s Establishment in the Republic of Kazakhstan], Vestnik Tomskogo Gosudarstvennogo Universiteta vol. 300, no. I (2007): pp. 79–81; Turetskii, ‘Assambleya naroda Kazahstana’.

(73) Sagitova, ‘Dom druzhby narodov kak ob’ekt i sub’ekt sotsial’nogo reformirovaniya’, 
pp. 495–512.

(74) Ian Lustick, ‘Stability in Deeply Divided Societies: Consociationalism versus Control’, World Politics vol. 31, no. 3 (1979): pp. 325–44.

(75) Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt, Traditional Patrimonialism and Modern Neopatrimonialism (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1973); Daniel Bach, ‘Patrimonialism and Neopatrimonialism: Comparative Trajectories and Readings’, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics vol. 49, no. 3 (2011): pp. 275–94; Erdmann and Engel, ‘Neopatrimonialism Reconsidered’; Robin Theobald, ‘Patrimonialism’, World Politics vol. 34, no. 4 (1982): pp. 548–59.

(76) Neo-patrimonialism is a term that means (1) a type of social systems and political regimes based on a combination of patronage and clienteles, established and utilized by office holders, and legal-rational bureaucratic rule; and (2) a theoretic framework designed for the analysis of these phenomena; this approach is applied to the ‘Third World’ as well as most post-communist societies.