Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski

The post-Soviet Russian army, having decided to maintain the draft, must address issues associated with the existence of ethnic and religious minorities; specifically the growing numbers of Muslims and the proselytizing by the Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church’s policy of blessing the troops is the source of growing discontent among the Muslim community. The two conflicts in Chechnya have further contributed to the difficulties faced by the army’s Muslim minority. However, protests by Muslim leaders have lost their legitimacy since 1999. The policies of reconciliation led by Vladimir Putin have born fruit. The Muslim religious authorities have become increasingly involved in the draft, army officers have been educated about the basic principles of Islam, and “stroibaty” have been dismantled. The management of the forces however remains a source of tension, most notably the official policy of using the reorganization of local and ethnic groups to eradicate the “dedovchtchina”. Given the growth of the Muslim population what can we expect from a move to a professional army? Will the armed forces mirror the diversity of the nation or will they be ethnically and religiously homogeneous?

Adeline Braux

Hostile, sometimes even xenophobic discourse towards migrants remains generally the norm in Russia. However, the Russian Federation’s migration policy appears relatively flexible, particularly in regards to the member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), whose nationals benefit from simplified procedures when it comes to entering Russian territory and obtaining a work permit. Russian authorities, reticent after the Western Europe experience, intend therefore to promote labor immigration and limit family immigration. At the same time, in order to encourage the cohesion of the Russian nation as a whole, the Russian Federation intends to undertake an ambitious policy to promote cultural diversity, including both the many different constituent groups among Russians and the immigrant communities in Russia. This multiculturalism “à la russe” recalls the “folklorization” during the Soviet period involving the cultures and traditions of the Soviet Union’s different populations. In the absence of a real political directive a the federal level, local authorities have been more active on the matter, notably in Moscow.

Marlène Laruelle

When the USSR collapsed, about 25 million Russians suddenly found themselves outside the Federation borders. This Russian diaspora has since then been defended by various lobbies based in Moscow. Some have simply the status of an association; others enjoy considerable institutional recognition in Parliament, various ministries or the executive in Moscow. The diaspora theme has undergone a profound evolution in the Russian political space: during the early 1990s it was first considered as a nationalist demand initiated within marginal circles, and since then has progressively been taken up by the state as a “politically correct” stance. In the space of 15 years, organizations defending the Russian diaspora’s rights have managed to become totally institutionalized and have gained influence on legislation regarding federal aid to the diaspora. The wide variety of terminology used to name this phenomenon, the use of the word ‘compatriot’ (judicially improper), the ethnicisation of the discourse, as well as the administrative efforts made to develop new and depoliticized conceptions of the Russian diaspora all show the underlying identity issues behind the diaspora question.

Caroline Dufy

Barter was a prominent issue in public debate during the 1990s in Russia: it prompted a more overall reflection on the nature of the Russian economy and the aim pursued by economic reforms. These major issues shaped a number of divisions: the government opposition portrayed barter as one of the pernicious effects of economic policies that gave priority to finance to the detriment of the national productive sphere. For others, it was to be interpreted as the legacy of the Soviet industrial sector and its lack of competitiveness. The ruble crisis in 1998 paved the way for a reverse trend leading to the sudden decline of barter. Unlike the initial growth phase, the decrease in barter gave rise to little comment. Yet these two colliding changes provide an opportunity to review the relevance of the various interpretations offered. Furthermore, the effort to recontextualizing barter in an historic perspective provides keys to understanding the immense changes that occurred in Russia in the 1990s. The statistical indicator of barter will serve as a basis to formulate a central question: how should this swift decline of barter, offer a long, sustained increase, be interpreted: is it an adaptation in trade behavior to the new economic conditions or the effect of more restrictive legal standards? In the latter case, does this official decrease mask economic practices that are moving toward the informal sector? To understand the barter trade requires looking beyond stylized facts. By nature, statistics tend to objectify multifaceted phenomena. Our analysis fits within the anthropology of economic exchanges, striving to reconstitute the dynamic and subjective dimension that the actors’ practices and discourses give to barter. From this standpoint, we show that barter is the product of constant interactions between legal processes, economic context and socio-cultural context. The statistical decline of the barter indicator in that case seems to be one of the visible effects of deep-seated changes that have marked the new working environment for Russian business.