How to become “Russian”?

What does it take for a person who is born outside Russia, to get accepted as “one of us”, Russians?

Obviously, the highest authority on the matter of Russian-ness is President Putin. From his pronouncements at different occasions we can conclude the following:

  1. Our government wants to “create conditions” for return of “our compatriots” in foreign countries. In other words, our State is inclusive, not restrictive on the issue of accepting new people as our compatriots.
  2. At one of occasions, Putin called Ukrainians and Russians odin narod, or “same nation”. Interpreting his words, this means that even if you and your parents lived your entire life outside what is now Russia, your Russian cultural background means more than your ethnicity and the place of birth/residence.
  3. Putin refused to define Russian-ness by ethnic roots. Quoting geneticists, he said that then we would need to include Poles, but exclude great many “native” Russians, because there’s “too much Turkic blood in them”.
  4. Putin is very judicious in using words russkiye (“ethnic Russians”) and rossiyane (“Russian subjects”). The latter one is an ancient Napoleonic-era construct revived recently to accommodate the multi-ethnic nature of the Russian state in the post-imperial era. Both are bunched together in the English translation as “Russian”. This means that you as a Russian speaker in discussions with the most pigheaded immigration official who refuses to acknowledge that you are a russkiy, can firmly claim you identity as a rossiyanin on the basis of your ancestry and cultural background.
  5. Putin is a very firm opponent of radical nationalists who claim “Russia for Russians”, i.e. the russkiyes. Any ethnic tension threatens the stability of his power. This leaves plenty of room for technically non-ethnic Russian rossiyanes, like you. Not least because the radicals can’t agree between themselves who to count as a russkiy.

In practical terms, all this leaves the question of your affiliation with Russia in the hands of immigration officials. They certainly would be happy to discuss the matter with you: Putinist Russia loves to reconnect with lost souls among the Soviet diaspora. On the picture below, you see the French actor Gérard Depardieu who was given a Russian passport, not even being close to anything Russian in the past. On the other side, if there is a track record of you participating in such questionable activities as human rights activism, support of Ukraine, feminism, animal rights and nature protection activism (let alone sharing militant videos with quotes from Quran), your chances of being recognized as Russian are severely compromised.

Depardieu shows his new Russian passport
Photo: French actor Gérard Depardieu shows his new Russian passport

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