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Citizenship for Ethnic Kith and Kin: The Further East “the Worse”?

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As elsewhere, nationalism is on the rise in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. What was called the “special military operation” and arguably informed by a neo-Brezhnevian Realpolitik of the Kremlin is now more often “justified” in Moscow as an irredentist campaign. Even before the war nationalism was manifested in a migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, the Karabakh conflict, and the plans of the Moscow government to replace labor migrants with “people of different quality” during the pandemic. Does nationalism today get more viral as we move eastwards? Has its rise been preordained by the historical legacies of brutal communist regimes?

By studying citizenship laws in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and archival data Matvey Lomonosov delves into the onset of the recent spiral of nationalism to reflect on these questions. Many studies of citizenship ethnicization focus on the OCDE countries and do not explain the developments in Eurasia and Southeast Europe. Here the legacies of socialist “nationality policy” have worked for a long period in favor rather than to the detriment of ethnocultural inclusion, often outweighing the liberalizing influences of EU conditionality. This suggests that the communist historical legacy does not preordain ethno-cultural exclusion. It can even constitute an independent anti-exclusivist force, which requires attention because it is available outside the immediate reach of the Western institutions. While Christian Joppke finds that the “new left” combats “neoliberal nationalism” and the spread of “earned citizenship” regimes in Western Europe, in Eastern Europe scholars and practitioners should pay more attention to the “old left” and the communist successor parties. Matvey's study is work in progress and, thus, invites debate.

Matvey Lomonosov, Assistant Professor, University of Tyumen and Vucinich Fellow, CREEES