On Tuesday, April 28, Dr. Igor Zevelev delivered a Russia Futures lecture to the CERES community via Zoom. Dr. Zevelev’s talk was titled “New Russian Policy Towards Ukraine: Citizenship Beyond the Borders,” and illustrated Ukraine’s vital place in Russian conceptions of national identity. It further showed the importance of citizenship proliferation as a concrete policy tool that helps to maintain the version of Russian national identity constructed by the Kremlin today. Dr. Zevelev also discussed how after a period in the 1990s in which Russian national identity was openly discussed in public, the years since President Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power in the early 2000s have seen a shift to a more bureaucratic discussion of national identity behind closed doors. At the center of these discussions have been citizenship laws.
Dr. Zevelev highlighted Russian citizenship proliferation in Ukraine as a particularly important case in Russian citizenship law’s evolution, showing that progressive changes to Russian citizenship law have significantly smoothed the process for Ukrainian citizens to acquire Russian passports in recent years. Dr. Zevelev showed that these policy changes are a key part of President Putin’s designs on righting the perceived wrongs of the Soviet collapse – that is, reuniting Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians as one people, though not with a common state yet. Additionally, Dr. Zevelev submitted that easing the naturalization process for citizens of Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine may provide a solution to Russia’s demographic crisis without relying on immigration from Central Asian countries. Following his lecture, Dr. Zevelev responded to questions submitted by the audience on a variety of topics related to other cases of citizenship proliferation in the region and other topics.