Working Paper 77

Identity Politics and Indigeneity Construction in the Russian Census 2002

Sergei V. Sokolovski

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 77

This paper presents the arguments in the development of new lists of ethnic categories and languages in the Russian population census of 2002, describes the related census technology, and within this framework elaborates on the topic of indigeneity construction. It also comments on legal definitions of indigenous peoples in Russia and provides an interpretation of the numerical threshold employed in several federal laws on indigenous peoples. To be an officially recognised ethnic group in Russia has always entailed political visibility and often a special status with an associated set of legal and administrative provisions. In addition to ‘titular peoples’ of the republics, the Russian legal system has several legal categories based on ethnicity, such as indigenous peoples and national minorities, whose members claim and attain special status and associated rights. In order to ensure these rights, the state administration needs to periodically collect reliable information on the numbers of people in such categories. Population census is considered the best means for obtaining such information. The paper is a case study of the emergence and construction of politically salient social classifications that underpin such phenomena as ethnicity and nationalism in contemporary Russia.

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