New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Country Conditions: Russia And Ethnic Minorities

Author: Alena Shautsova

Francisco Capotorti (Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities) in 1977, defined a minority as:

A group numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a State, in a non-dominant position, whose members—being nationals of the State—possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics differing from those of the rest of the population and show, if only implicitly, a sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving their culture, traditions, religion or language.

In many cases, we find that minorities whether based on ethnicity, religion, or language are usually prejudiced and discriminated upon. This act is either perpetrated by the majority, state, or both the majority and state. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia face discrimination from both the religious majority and state.

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Minorities. This declaration contains nine(9) articles ensuring their protection by the state, right to enjoy their culture, and exercising of their rights as stated in the declaration. The declaration also set forth instructions for States to ensure that minorities are defended and preserved Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic...

Has the Russian Federation been fair to minorities? Are minorities free to express themselves or are they suppressed? Are the conditions of minorities different from majorities? These are some of the questions we are set to answer in this article.

Ethnic Minorities In Russia

The Russian Federation boasts of a high ethnic diversification with over 40 known ethnic groups. Top of the list is the ethnic Russians who make up 80.9% of the entire population. Some others are Tartars 3.87%, Ukrainians 1.40%, Bashkirs 1.15%, Chuvashes 1.05%, Chechens 1.04%, Armenians 0.86%, Avars 0.6%, Mordovians 0.54%. There are a host of other small ethnic groups accounting for 8.5% including the Roma people of about 205,000 as of 2010.

Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities

While there may be no generally accepted definition of a minority, yet there are persons who -objectively or subjectively- have been considered or consider themselves to be minorities. The right of these persons are equal to the majority and they should not be held in subjection.

The United Nations and other interested parties have often set forth instructions for the favorable treatment of these persons, and also encourages states where they belong to treat them as equals to the majority. They should possess as much freedom as embedded in the Human Rights regulations. Apart from other declarations, Human Rights laws protecting minorities are also included in International Law. Human Rights - OHCHR

Russia and Ethnic Minorities

Although the Russian Constitution guarantees the equality of persons irrespective of race, language, sex, nationality, origin, material and official status, place of residence, attitude to religion, convictions, membership of public associations, or other circumstances, yet these standards have not been fully upheld. True, the Russian Federation has committed to International agreements to uphold the rights of minorities, but the reverse is the case many a time.

There are still cases of discrimination based on ethnicity. Some houses are not open for rent to some ethnic groups. Some pubs are out of bound to certain ethnic groups. Xenophobic sentiments and ethnic violence have been prevalent in Russia since 2012, with the number only increasing. These violent acts are usually targeted at people of Roma, Central Asia, Caucasian, and Negro origins.

The Russian Federation has yet to make provisions for anti-discriminatory legislation despite appeals from international bodies.

Ethnic minorities such as the Roma suffer from poor living conditions and a lack of socio-economic integration. Their children are usually segregated in schools. Their settlements as well as that of other migrants are usually targets of law enforcement.

People of ethnic minorities have often been victims of forceful repatriation, arrest and detentions, derogatory comments, and human rights violations. In short, their rights are not 100% guaranteed. Discrimination in Multi-ethnic Societies: Evidence from Russia

Repatriation of Ethnic Groups

Human Rights Violation of Persons of Ethnic Minorities

Although the ethnic bias in Russia has been hushed up for a while, yet some persons have been bold enough to speak out. Isabel Kastilio, a 27-year-old marketing manager told BBC News how letting ads had "only Slavs" added to them.

Roy Ibonga, a 21-year-old Economics student from Congo tells the story of how he was denied a taxi ride and entrance into a pub because of his ethnicity. See here.

Also, there has been evidence of police harassment of migrants and people of an ethnic minority usually resulting in beatings. Not to mention the poor living conditions, marginalization, and mistreatment of refugees.

You can find more information using the following resources:

US Department of State yearly Human Rights Reports

Youth Human Rights Movement, "Protecting the Rights of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples in the Russian Federation: Challenges and Ways Forward"

Non-Government Organization SOVA “Standing Up Against Racist Violence in Russia, last viewed on 07/14/2016

07 December 2021
Watch Our YouTube Channel Free Legal Videos

We use cookies to deliver our online services. Details of the cookies and other tracking technologies we use and instructions on how to disable them are set out in our Cookies Policy. By using this website you consent to our use of cookies.