“Every nation is a complex dynamic occurrence. It is impossible to describe belonging to a certain nation with the help of a narrow list of criteria. The bigger the nation, the more influential it is in history, the broader its genetic and social diversity.
The most obvious criterion of nationality is self-consciousness. The group of people who correspond the most with the Russian nation are those who call themselves Russian during the population census.
Obviously, the general Russian citizenship that has united representatives of the most varied nations throughout centuries did not eliminate the multinational nature of our state. Citizens of Russia may be Russian, Karels, Tatars, Avars or Buryats, meanwhile Russians may be citizens of Russia, the U.S., Australia, Romania or Kazakhstan. National and civil overlaps exist in various phenomenological planes.
The Russian people has a complex genetic composition, as it includes offspring of Slavic, Finnish-Hungarian, Scandinavian, Baltic, Iranian and Turkish tribes. This genetic variety never threatened national unity of the Russian people. Birth from Russian parents in most cases is the starting point for the formation of Russian consciousness, which, however, never excluded the possibility of people who come from another national environment joining the Russian nation by accepting Russian identity, language, culture and religious traditions.
The unique nature of the ethnogenesis of the Russian nation lies in the fact that throughout centuries such acceptance of Russian identity by representatives of other nationalities was never the result of forceful assimilation of certain ethnic groups (“russification”), but the result of free personal choice of certain individuals, who tied their lives and fates to Russia. This is how the Russian nation frequently included Tatars, Lithuanians, Jews, Poles, Germans, French, representatives of other nationalities. There is a great number of such examples in Russian history.
In Russian tradition an important criterion of nationalities is the national language (the very word “language” is an ancient synonym of the word “nationality”). Every Russian has to master the Russian language. However, the contrary, that the belonging to the Russian nation is compulsory for every Russian speaker, is erroneous. As the Russian people stood as the state-forming nation of Russia and the nation which constructed Russian civilization, the Russian language has become widespread. There are many people who consider Russian their first language but associate themselves with other national groups.
The orthodox fate played a key role in forming Russian identity. On the other hand, the events of the XX century showed that a big number of Russian became non-believers, having not lost their national consciousness at the same time. And the claim that every Russian person should accept Orthodox Christianity as the basis of their national culture is justified and fair. Denying this fact, and what is more, seeking another religious basis for national culture, is evidence to the weakening of Russian identity to the extent of its complete loss.
As such, belonging to the Russian nation is determined by a complex of relationships: genetic and marital, linguistic and cultural, religious and historic. None of the aforementioned criteria can be decisive. But for the formation of the Russian national self-consciousness, it is necessary for the complex of these relations with the Russian nation (regardless of their nature) is stronger than the complex of relations with any other ethnic community on the planet.
In the end, this can only be felt by the person who adopt national identity by making their personal choice. National self-consciousness inevitably means solidarity with the fate of one’s people. Every Russian feels a deep emotional bond to the main events in their history: the Christening of Rus, the Battle of Kulikovo and the defeat of the Time of Troubles, victories over Napoleon and Hitler. We especially note that pride for the Victory in 1945 is one of the most important integrating factors of the modern Russian nation.
Based on the program theses of this document, we propose the following definition of Russian identity: a Russian is someone who considers themselves Russian; who has no other ethnic preferences; who speaks and thinks in the Russian language; who acknowledges Orthodox Christianity as the basis of the national spiritual culture; who feels solidarity with the fate of the Russian people.”