Assessment of the Future of “Russkiy Mir” in Russia’s Grand Strategy

Gabriela Rosa-Hernández was the U.S.-Russia Relationship Research Intern at the American Security Project.  Rosa-Hernández is a David L. Boren Scholar and a Critical Language Scholarship recipient for Russian Language.  Collectively, she’s resided for nearly two years in post-soviet spaces such as Russia, Latvia, and the Republic of Georgia.  Rosa-Hernández can be found on Twitter @GabrielaIRosa.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Editor’s Note:  All translations were done by the author.

Title:  Assessment of the Future of “Russkiy Mir” in Russia’s Grand Strategy

Date Originally Written:  December 10, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  December 31, 2018.

Summary:  In October 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at the 6th World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad and approved a migration policy.  In 2014, Russia utilized its “Russian World” rhetoric to justify its illegal annexation of Crimea and its support of secessionist groups in the Donbass.  Following Russia’s demographic decline, and its economic issues; it is likely that the “Russian World” narrative will continue and focus on compatriot resettlement.

Text:  “Russian World” is perhaps Russia’s most controversial piece of policy.  While the terms “Compatriots” and “Russian Diaspora” were not new when President Vladimir Putin took office, the first time he officially mentioned the term “Russian World” was in 2001 before the first World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad[1].  Specifically, Putin stated, “the notion of the Russian World extends far from Russia’s geographical borders and even far from the borders of the Russian ethnicity[2].”  From this moment on, the Russian government erased the boundaries between ethnic Russians and those who identified themselves belonging to the cultural-linguistic-spiritual sphere of the Russian Federation.  “Russian World,” can be best described as the ideological concept guiding the way in which Russia’s responsibility to “compatriots” abroad manifests itself into concrete policy[3].  Overall, “Russian World” is such a versatile piece of policy that it can be observed in Russia’s 2015 National Security Strategy just as it can be seen in Russia’s 2018 “Decree on the Concept of the State Migration Policy.”

On December 31, 2015, the Russian government released its National Security Strategy and the term “compatriot” was mentioned twice therein.  The first mention of “compatriot” was located under the “Russia in the Contemporary World” section[4].  The document directly read that “Russia has shown the ability to defend the rights of compatriots abroad.”  Right after this, the strategy remarked how Russia’s role has increased in solving important world problems.  The strategy posed “defending the rights of compatriots abroad” as an international issue where Russia could bolster its role in the international arena. “Compatriot” was also casually mentioned under the “Culture” section[5]. 

The “Culture” section of the strategy regarded Russian language as not only a tool of interethnic interaction within the Russian Federation but the basis of integration processes in the post-Soviet space.  It remarked that the function of the Russian language as a state language was also a means of meeting the language and cultural requirements of “compatriots” abroad.  Essentially, Russia visualized Russian language as something far more than its state language.  Instead, Russia views the Russian language as the means to interethnic communication in the post-Soviet space, particularly Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states.  The document also mentioned that Russia supported Russian language and cultural programs in CIS member states to further the Eurasian integration process[6].  Overall, Russian language was politicized in the document, and Russia declared its intent to keep Russian language alive in at least CIS member states.  This intent is crucial to understand because Russia considers all those former-Soviet citizens with a linguistic affiliation to the Russian Federation under its compatriot policy. 

In October 2018, nearly three years after the release of Russia’s National Security Strategy, Putin stated in the 6th World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad, “all together – represent a huge community of Russian-like compatriots, represent one large, huge, Russian world, which has never been exclusively built on only ethnic, national, or religious ground[7].”  Putin further commented that Russian World unites all with a spiritual connection with Russia and all those who consider themselves carriers of Russian language, Russian culture and Russian history[8].  Putin’s words followed the same line as Russia’s national security strategy; a strategy which listed the lowered role of Russian language in the world and the quality of its teaching as a national security threat[9].

Russia effectively visualizes the use of Russian language and culture as a soft power tool to be employed not only in the international arena but the domestic arena as well.  During the same speech, Putin declared that Russia would defend the interests and rights of compatriots by using all the international and bilateral mechanisms available to do so[10].  Putin made this statement after accusing the Baltics and Ukraine of altering historical monuments and Russian language[11].  While Putin’s speech reflected the principles written in Russia’s national security strategy, the speech did not reflect the narrative within the decree he signed and released on the same day on Russia’s state migration policy.

Instead of highlighting the role of the interests of compatriots abroad, the decree focused on facilitating conditions for compatriots to resettle in the Russian Federation.  This decree was a shift from a rhetoric which focused on international presence of foreign citizens who are native carriers of the Russian language.  The shift signaled a change in narrative from an international policy brought down to the domestic level.  Ultimately, the decree stated that the migration influx (2012-2017) into Russia compensated for Russia’s natural population decline before discussing state programs towards compatriots[12].  This present change of emphasis regarding compatriots is likely due to Russia’s demographic decline.  Overall, Russia’s new state migration policy shows how the concept of “Russian World” is adapted to fit the needs of the Russian state in a time of demographic decline. 

In conclusion, the rhetoric of “Russian World” served as justification for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in the Donbass[13].  Because of this, Russia’s “Russian World” is looked upon with suspicion by its neighbors[14].  However, in the latest piece of policy regarding “compatriots,” instead of focusing on “Eurasian integration,” Russia seeks to attract “compatriots” into its territory.  Following Russia’s demographic decline, and its economic issues, it is likely that “Russian World’s” narrative on compatriot resettlement will become stronger.  This narrative will hold more importance over the “defending the rights of compatriots abroad” narrative.  Due to the lack of tangible benefits of “defending the rights of compatriots abroad,” compatriot resettlement is likely to play a larger role in Russia’s future national security strategy. 


Endnotes:

[1] Laurelle, M. (2015, May). The ‘Russian World’: Russia’s Soft Power and Geopolitical Aspirations. Retrieved from http://globalinterests.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/FINAL-CGI_Russian-World_Marlene-Laruelle.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Zevelev, I. (2016, August 22). The Russian World in Moscow’s Grand Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/russian-world-moscows-strategy

[4] President of Russia. (2015, December 31). On the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation. Retrieved from http://static.kremlin.ru/media/events/files/ru/l8iXkR8XLAtxeilX7JK3XXy6Y0AsHD5v.pdf

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] President of Russia. (2018, October 31). World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad. Retrieved from http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59003

[8] Ibid.

[9] President of Russia. (2015, December 31). On the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation. Retrieved from http://static.kremlin.ru/media/events/files/ru/l8iXkR8XLAtxeilX7JK3XXy6Y0AsHD5v.pdf

[10] President of Russia. (2018, October 31). World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad. Retrieved from http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59003

[11] Ibid.

[12] President of Russia. (2018, October 21). Decree on the Concept of the State Migration Policy of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025. Retrieved from http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/58986

[13] Zevelev, I. (2016, August 22). The Russian World in Moscow’s Grand Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/russian-world-moscows-strategy

[14] Ibid.

Assessment Papers Gabriela Rosa-Hernández Russia Strategy