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Russian pundit takes Kremlin's side on ethnic policy

Map of Russia's RepublicsDefining the role of the Russian people in maintaining inter-ethnic peace is an important factor in national policy, head of the Effective Politics Foundation Gleb Pavlovskiy said on 18 January, as quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax. He was commenting on a meeting between Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev and leaders of both chambers of the Russian Federation Assembly held on 17 January.

"Medvedev said rather clearly that the national well-being of Russians is the main aspect of civil peace in Russia. This topic is generally left outside discussion, people are trying not to speak about it. If we compare the number of times when it is said that the (North) Caucasus is part of Russia and the number of times when people speak about Russian territories, then we shall see that people speak about the (North) Caucasus much more often," Pavlovskiy said.

"We got carried away by seeking isolated solutions to problems of Russia's outskirts, having forgotten that the state does not consist of outskirts alone, and that the country's inter-ethnic problems are not related to separatists only," Pavlovskiy said.

Accepting the importance of this factor will allow for ethnic policy to be conducted in a more effective way, Pavlovskiy said. "There arises a question of more active involvement in seeking solutions to problems of the central force that is responsible for inter-ethnic peace in the country - the Russian people. It isn't anyone's big brother but it is the only nation in the country whose political culture is directed at making peace with other nations and at living together with them in peace - it so happened historically, " Pavlovskiy said.

Conducting the ethnic policy by way of dividing Russian territories into gubernias, as the Liberal Democratic Party suggests, is not effective, moreover it is dangerous, Pavlovskiy said.

"The drawback of an approach like this is that it does not take into account the willingness or unwillingness of peoples living in the Russian Federation. If we imagine that it is adopted, this radical decision practically means a rejection of a federal system. And this - at the very least - means that the Russian constitution should be changed completely," Pavlovskiy said.

"Cancellation of federalism in Russia at present would lead to an outburst of local nationalists and authorities would run short of arguments to deal with them. This is why the state would have to be governed with the help of military and police methods. Attempts like this were known in the 19th century, but they did not work, they merely exacerbated the situation," Pavlovskiy said.

President Medvedev chose an effective format to discuss national issues, open discussions on which will allow for all acute problems to be removed, Pavlovskiy said.

"The format of the meeting between the head of state and leaders of both chambers of the parliament, brought together in one corporation, is interesting. Normally, meetings like this are held separately. This shows that Medvedev himself is seeking new forms of a more effective cooperation among the branches of power, it seems," he said.

The fact that issues of ethnic policy are discussed with the aim of promoting a public discussion is positive, Pavlovskiy stressed.

"Sensitive issues, in this case topical issues of the ethnic policy, are removed at least by 50 per cent when they become the subject of public politics and public discussion, involving people of various nationalities who express mutual complaints and proposals. The problem is that we have not had a discussion like this for a long time," he said.

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