The Citizenship Law: Russia is on the Edge of the Political Collapse
About 7.5 million people have been illegally deprived of their right to become Russian citizens, although they took part in all elections
As it turns out, the Russian Federation at present is the only country in the world that has legally divided its citizens into two categories. The tense situation of recent weeks connected with the Turkmeni president's decree reveals the cynicism of Russian authorities that run a dual policy as far as citizenship issues are concerned.
As it is well-known, the lower house of the Russian parliament passed the statement last week "On the Observation of Russian Federation Citizens' Rights in Turkmenistan." It seems to be curious, but the State Duma has played the role of a bunch of good old boys covering up the lack of professionalism on the part of the Russian Foreign Ministry. What is it all about? Where does the deputies' anger come from? Why do reporters of state-controlled media outlets direct so much scathing criticism at Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov?
The president of this Russia-friendly country issued a decree that totally corresponds to the Russian law on citizenship. The adequate law imperatively prohibits Russian citizens from having a dual citizenship in Turkmenistan. According to legal norms, Vladimir Putin offered Saparmurat Niyazov to denounce the dual citizenship agreement. The Turkmen president issued a sensible decree.
Russian deputies forgot about the law that they had passed. They started creating rhetorical figures about the issue of human rights in Turkmenistan. It hardly occurs to officials of the Russian political establishment that Russian people perceive their power rather unattractively – both Russian citizens and the people, who have become former Russian citizens because of the way the authorities apply power for power sake.
However, the citizenship issue has been one of the most populist during the latest decade. Authorities are not going to resolve it because the game of promises allows even greater political advantages. Is there anything else these millions of our co-nationals have to do - who have to go from one office to another – to finally attain what is theirs from the day are born? During the latest large press conference, Vladimir Putin urged Russian politicians "not to complicate the situation with inaccurate actions." What about Mr. Putin himself? Below you can find the information about the actions that the president has taken about the issue of Russian citizens.
The presidential draft law about the Russian Federation citizenship was approved by the State Duma on April 19th, 2002. The document prohibits dual citizenship. However, a year before that, Vladimir Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Natan Sharansky that Russia acknowledged dual Russian-Israeli citizenship. Less than a year after adoption of the law, the Russian president suggested the Russian embassy in France should consider an opportunity to let the descendants of the emigrants of the first surge have a second citizenship. The head of the state released other statements on the issue as well. What are they about? There can be only two answers to it: either Putin is not familiar with the law that he has initiated himself, or he is a law unto himself. These two things do not add more authority to the country's supreme official.
Last year, when Putin was communicating with the people of his country through television, the president learnt that Ensign Oleg Kozlov from the 201st army division deployed in the republic of Tajikistan could not get the Russian citizenship. What did Vladimir Putin do? He did not try to solve the problem, which had appeared over the imperfection of the law. He did not say that one had to amend the Russian citizenship law, etc. The head of the state simply made another populist step: he personally granted the Russian citizenship to the military man. The president did the same about Latvia-based WWII veteran Vasily Kononov, who was pursued by the Latvian government.
Having signed the new law about citizenship, Vladimir Putin promised: the people, who wanted to become Russian citizens, would have to "run about" a lot. A year later, the president stated in his address to the parliament that millions of people were "tired of running about."
PRAVDA.Ru addressed to the press service of the Kremlin administration and requested a conversation with Vladimir Shumov, chairman of the citizenship department. One should mention that Mr. Shumov settled in Russia in 1994: when the old law about citizenship came into effect, he was living in the republic of Kazakhstan. This means that Vladimir Shumov can not be considered a Russian citizen either on the previous or on the new law: he was born in the settlement of Nizhny Mashat of the Chimkent region of Kazakhstan, he worked in the Kazakh Interior Ministry and his passport registration does not allow him to obtain the citizenship either. Apparently, Vladimir Shumov is a Russian citizen. Here is what he advised to everyone, who had arrived in Russia after 1992 (he was supposed to do that too): "There are about 1.5 million people in Russia, who have Soviet Union passports. They are wrong when they think that they are Russian citizens. According to the law, they should get national passports in their fatherlands and then they are supposed to obtain a permission to reside in Russia."
The Russian mass media outlet was not given an opportunity to talk to Vladimir Shumov, which is nonsense. Natalia Timakova, chairwoman of the presidential press service has been considering PRAVDA.Ru's request for three months already. Natialia Timakova appeared in Russia after 1992-1993 as well. It is not known, how she managed to obtain the Russian citizenship, if she has it, of course, for she was born in 1975 in Alma-Ata,
We were not really upset with the poorly organized work of the Kremlin press service: Vladimir Putin's administration looks the way that the president wants it to be. He is the master of the situation, taking into consideration the fact that we know nothing about the semi-official point of view regarding the problem for former Soviet citizens to obtain the Russian citizenship.
Deputy chairman of the Kremlin administration, Jokhan Polliyeva comes from the republic of Turkmenistan. She believes that one should use stable European structures like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to solve the problem. "The structure of this organization is divided into three parts. One of them is devoted to civil rights – it gives an opportunity to Russian structures to obtain adequate rights and control the democratic execution of those privileges with the participation of international organizations. To all appearance, the problem is about the absence of the political will to work in such a civilized way," Jokhan Polliyeva said.
Doesn't it remind the typical colonial logic? As it turns out, the OSCE is supposed to grant Russia the rights to solve its own state problem. One shall assume that officials of the presidential press service did not want to talk about it to PRAVDA.Ru.
"I wish I could die this year."
Millions of Russian people are desperate about the status that they are supposed to have by birth, according to the country's international obligation. PRAVDA.Ru receives numerous emails, in which people ask questions and tell their stories about the outrage of officials, about the duties that they make people pay.
A young man wrote from the city of Volgograd – his fate was more successful from the point of view of the Russian citizenship than Natalia Timakova's. In 1992, he came to Russia from Ukraine to study. They did not let him get the new passport, because there was no registration stamp in his old passport. The residence registration has been canceled in Russia by the Constitutional Court. However, the Interior Ministry issued a decree, which said that only the permanent registration stamp could prove the permanent residence of a person.
In the Kaluga region, I heard a 76-year-old man saying a horrible thing (the man has been living in Russia for ten years: "I wish I could die this year. I will not manage to get the passport until the next year, so they will not bury me properly." According to the new law, this elderly man has his blood examined for AIDS every three months, he collects certificates from TB, venerology and lots of other hospitals. Yet, the man does not have the Russian citizenship, because he has lost his marriage certificate. The certificate was issued 50 years ago in the city of Grozny, Chechnya, and it is impossible to confirm the information because everything had been bombed there. Officials want the man to apply for the residence permit, in which they ask him to write that he is residing in the Domodedovo airport, from where he came 12 years ago.
A girl lives next door to the man. She started going to school in the Kaluga region eleven years ago. The girl had a prom on June 25th, at which she received the document of secondary education. However, the girl does not have an opportunity to submit her documents to a professional or a technical school, not to mention a university or an institute: she does not have a passport, because she has no citizenship. There are 7.5 million people like that living in Russia at present.
Can Russian be isolated again?
The state chauvinism appeared the same way as all other fascist movements of the last century. PRAVDA.Ru's human rights service says that Russia should have solved the question of former citizens of the USSR first, before having the citizenship law that corresponds to European norms, as Mr. Shumov put it. To put it in a nutshell, the point of that is as follows (this affirmation is sensational for the majority of Russians): June 12th, the so-called Russian Independence Day, is the event, which has nothing to do with the right. This day is just a tribute to the political establishment of the former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. According to the international right, against which the Russian Foreign Ministry appealed, Russia is not a new country, but the successor of the USSR. Russia is neither the assignee, nor the heir, but the successor. In other words, all Russian people are still living in the state, which has the prefix "former."
In the official note of the Foreign Ministry to the UN, dated January 27th, 1992, it was stressed that Russia continued executing obligations and rights of the USSR's international agreements and treaties. The ministry asked to consider Russia as a side in all valid international agreements and treaties instead of the Soviet Union. The Foreign Ministry also specified that the Russian government would act as a protector instead of the Soviet government on appropriate multilateral agreements. The note was handed over to the leaders of diplomatic representative offices in Moscow. International organization, in which the USSR was a member, also received such notes. Russia did not start accrediting USSR's permanent envoys in those organizations. The majority of the third countries did not issue any decrees to make such recognition for Russia. They agreed to consider Russia as the USSR's successor. A lot of them released official statements about it.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany agreed upon Russia's responsibility for USSR's treaties. It was mentioned in the Russian-German statement of November 21st, 1991 that "valid agreements between the Federative Republic of Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics apply to the relations between Germany and Russia due to new constitutional rights of the Russian Federation."
Speaking of Finland, the practical regulation of diplomatic representative offices complied with the implicit recognition of the Russian Federation's status of the USSR's successor. This notion was used in the protocol that was signed by Russian and Finnish foreign ministers on July 11th, 1992 regarding the agreements, concluded between Finland and the USSR.
However, Russia insisted on its role of the USSR's successor in the international policy and rejected the same stance about the civil rights of the Soviet Union. However, a right for citizenship is one of the fundamental rights of an individual, according to the principles of the United Nations. What conclusion can be made after comparing all those facts?
Congratulations to those, who gave the right answer. Of course, the conclusion about the state discrimination policy towards a certain category of citizens seems to be the right conclusion to make. Who of the Kremlin officials decided to retrieve the serfdom and on which basis? It does not really matter. The discrimination was given the green light – this is the main thing. From the legal point of view, one may say that the anger on the part of Russian official structures, including deputies of all levels, against former USSR republics about the oppression of compatriots is delirious. It is the manifestation of the perverted double morality policy. The latest decree issued by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was the highest point of the political morality, because it gives an opportunity to Turkmen citizens to choose their citizenship. Turkmen people have a choice: either they become the citizens of the country, in which they live, or they can become virtual Russia-USSR citizens, and then get involved in the discriminating policy, which will make them pay state duties for nothing.
Let us count. Seven million five hundred thousand people pay the state duty for citizenship every six months, although they have a right for the citizenship without this humiliating pay. The sum turns out to be huge, taking into consideration the fact that people have to pay this duty for years.
All these facts show that both the Kremlin and the Kremlin-controlled legislative power roughly violate fundamental human rights. Russia's requirements for Iraq and several other countries to pay Soviet debts seem to be rather ambiguous against such a background. On which basis does Washington have to lift the Jackson-Vanik amendment then? The amendment was instituted when the USSR violated people's right to change their citizenship and country of residence. The same story is happening nowadays too: Moscow is rejecting the right for citizenship of millions of Russian people.
Despite numerous addresses from the deputies and human rights activists, the Kremlin continues insisting on the right to divide Russian citizens into two categories. The civilized world should have blockaded Russia long ago in this respect. Most likely, it may happen if the foreign political situation changes. What will Moscow have to say in return in case of such a blockade?
What is legitimate in Russia?
As soon as the Kremlin acknowledges this problem, it will have to admit that its power is totally illegitimate in Russia. According to PRAVDA.Ru's legal service, all legal acts that have been passed in Russia recently are worthless from the legal point of view, taking into account the present official act about citizenship.
Indeed: any Russian citizen has a right to go to court and say that any decree, law, election results, or even the Constitution are null and void. A court will have to uphold the claim as soon as the claimant presents the evidence to prove illegitimate actions of a legal act against the people, who have taken part in all elections, including the Russian Constitution referendum, although they were not Russian citizens. Is there a president, a constitution that can be elected by the people, who do not have the citizenship of a country, where elections take place?
That is exactly what has been happening in Russia for a decade already: people take part in the voting, but the presidential law does not recognize them the citizens of this country. Does it mean that elected president, deputies, governors are Russian citizens? No, it does not. Only Russian Federation citizens can participate in elections, but it was not like that in Russia. It seems curious, but even the author of the presidential law about citizenship, Oleg Kutafin, admits the problem. In his latest interview to the Literaturnaya Gazeta newspaper, he commented on the situation not as a lawyer, but as a politician. Apparently, Mr. Kutafin had no energy to comprehend the situation from the legal point of view. Oleg Kutafin said that so-called non-citizens were thoughtless, because they had participated in Russian plebiscites and elections. That is very sweet, isn't it? Above mentioned Vladimir Shumov, chairman of the citizenship department of the presidential administration had similar comments on the issue.
The country has been driven in a legal dead end. It has been driven there by the president, his legal advisors, members of his administration, who have apparently lost the feeling of reality. On the one hand, the juridical collapse may appear only if someone sues the state to nullify previous elections. According to the Civil Code of Russia, the protection of non-material rights is not subjected to cessation on account of the expired limitation period. At last, what can prevent legitimate Russian citizens from feeling like numerous Yeltsins, who stand up for Russia's independence on non-citizens? On the other hand, the international community may not stand the Kremlin's violation of the right and its dual policy against human rights. It might also lead to certain consequences.
Goals for the future
It goes without saying that one has to solve the problem. President Putin emphasized the issue in his address to the parliament, and Kremlin officials stated that president's amendments to the law in force would be submitted to the lower house of the parliament before the Duma's spring session was over. The Duma finished its session last week, but there were no amendments submitted from the presidential administration. Thus, it is obvious that the government has made a populist show of the tragedy of millions of people again. What can be opposed to the government, which persistently refuses to do the things, for which it was elected by the society – to build a normal life that would correspond to international standards, at least in the field of the right. I think there can be the following steps taken.
First of all, one may file lawsuits to the Russian Supreme Court claiming the nullity of elections and plebiscites of the latest decade. The suits are to be based on the fact that the people, who had no Russian citizenship, took part in the elections. PRAVDA.Ru is ready to become the main informational sponsor. We are ready to work with any political or public force that has a goal to resolve this issue.
Secondly, PRAVDA.Ru addresses to its European and American readers with a request to express their opinions about the issue and send their emails to the official online office of the Russian president and to PRAVDA.Ru's corporate email.
Thirdly, we would like to address to officials of the world's superpowers, international organizations and human rights activists with a request to respond properly on the violation of rights of 7.5 million people in Russia.
The civil subject will always be touched upon on the PRAVDA.Ru website. We would like to ask our readers to express their thoughts about our suggestions too. In the end, it is not the government that should determine people's lives. People are supposed to take care of their fates themselves, correcting wrong decisions of the government.