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The Mechanics of Consensus: Nonterritorial Cultural Autonomy and the Russian State

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 January 2020

Federica Prina*
Central and East European Studies, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
*Corresponding author. Email:


Russia’s institutions on nonterritorial cultural autonomy (NTCA) can be broadly situated within the country’s political community, in the sense that they—for the most part—recognize the government’s rules of engagement and its role as decision maker, leading to overarching consensus and pursuit of shared objectives. At the same time, they remain at the periphery of the political community. This article outlines the reasons for NTCA institutions’ peripherality and limited influence upon Russia’s minority policies. Such reasons are linked to external factors—Russia’s undemocratic political system—but also to conditions intrinsic to NTCA institutions themselves—forms of passivity and (non)participation, and blurred boundaries between NTCA institutions and state actors. The interaction of such factors generates the noted prevailing consensus between NTCA institutions and the Russian state. Interview data further reveal that representatives of NTCA institutions are far from monolithic: the said external and internal factors affect them in different ways, resulting in variations in forms of consensus and cooperation with state actors. This, in turn, allows for multiple interpretative frameworks of state–civil society coexistence in the sphere of Russia’s diversity management.

Special Issue Article
© Association for the Study of Nationalities 2020

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Respondent 2, 2016. Representative of an NGO providing legal aid to migrants. Interviewed by author, May 30. Moscow.Google Scholar
Respondent 3, 2016. Representative of an association uniting communities from the North Caucasus and an NGO providing legal aid to migrants. Interviewed by author, May 30. Moscow.Google Scholar
Respondent 4, 2016. Academic and former public official in Tatarstan. Interviewed by author, May 19. Kazan, Tatarstan.Google Scholar
Respondent 5, 2016. Leader of a regional NCA. Interviewed by author, April 25. Petrozavodsk, Karelia.Google Scholar
Respondent 6, 2015. Member of the Inter-Regional Public Organization of Mordovian (Moksha and Erzya) Peoples. Interviewed by author, June 15. Saransk, Mordovia.Google Scholar
Respondent 7, 2015. Academic specializing in inter-ethnic relations. Interviewed by author, June 24. Kazan, Tatarstan.Google Scholar
Respondent 8, 2015. Academic specializing in inter-ethnic relations. Interviewed by author, October 21. Moscow.Google Scholar
Respondent 9, 2016. Member of Tatar NTCA institutions and local politician. Interviewed by author, May 25. Ufa, Bashkortostan.Google Scholar
Respondent 10, 2016. Director of a Tatar NGO. Interviewed by author, May 23. Ufa, Bashkortostan.Google Scholar
Respondent 11, 2016. Member of the Karelian People's Congress. Interviewed by author, April 27. Petrozavodsk, Karelia.Google Scholar
Respondent 12, 2016. Member of the Tatar regional NCA of the Republic of Bashkortostan. Interviewed by author, May 23–25. Ufa, Bashkortostan.Google Scholar