On 27 November, ICELDS Board Member Dr. Alexander Osipov who is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Russia and Eurasian Studies (IRES) at Uppsala University made a presentation within the series of IRES seminars. The presentation entitled “What lessons could be learned from the post-Soviet ethnopolitics?” was devoted to the origins of the post-Soviet legal and political frameworks of diversity governance, to the sources of the said frameworks efficacy and stability and to methodological approaches to the study of Eurasian ethnopolitics.
The speaker argued that the post-Soviet countries where ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity is politically relevant, demonstrate to a large extend similar patterns, which are important for broader post-Soviet and ethnic studies. The post-Soviet governance of ethnic diversity reproduces the Soviet modes of diversity conceptualisation and to a large extend a similar terminology. In some countries, the legislation on languages and national minorities was adopted or elaborated at the last years of the Soviet rule. In many USSR’s successors states loose formal institutions were combined with ambiguous mainstream discourses about nationhood and its founding principles. This environment provides many opportunities to citizenry for ideological accommodation and offers numerous strategies that individuals can pursue informal networks and institutions. In terms of ethnic relations, the absence of rigid and restrictive institutional frameworks and strictly enforced normative requirements concerning language, citizenship, mass media and educational policies opens up numerous ways for social adaptation. ‘Ethnic relations’ as a segment of post-communist studies are still approached within the discursive framework of the already abandoned transition paradigm. This generates some epistemological problems, and among them are the confusion of the normative with the analytical. In the author’s view, neo-patrimonialism still remains the most promising theoretic framework for approaching the post-communist realities, suggesting that ethnic politics develop in neo-patrimonial environments where public activities are subject to patron-client networks and informal institutions, and resources are allocated in exchange to personal and institutional loyalties.