MINELRES: New book: National-cultural Autonomy: Ideas, Decisions, and Institutions

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Mar 14 21:07:42 2006

Original sender: Alexander Osipov <aossipov@tochka.ru>

Alexander Osipov

Human Rights Centre 'Memorial'
Moscow, Russia

National-cultural Autonomy: Ideas, Decisions, and Institutions

The Centre for Independent Social Research (Saint-Petersburg, Russia)
still distributes the following book:

Osipov, A. (2005) Natsionalno-kulturnaya avtonomiya: idei, resheniya,
instituty. [National-Cultural Autonomy: Ideas, Decisions, and
Institutions] Saint-Petersburg: Centre for Independent Social Research.
508 p.

The book was issued in Russian with an English summary.

The book is the outcome of a multidisciplinary study of the role played
by the concept of ethnically based 'national-cultural autonomy'
(hereafter referred to as NCA) in politics and ethnic relations in
Russia and some other countries.

The term 'national-cultural autonomy' is spread primarily in
Central-Eastern Europe and Russia together with its synonyms like
'exterritorial' or 'personal' autonomy. NCA has become one of the basic
notions of the Russian public debates on ethnic issues. It affects the
conceptual organisation of ethnicity-related agendas and determines the
framework of discussion on official ethnic policies. It is also employed
by the federal and regional lawmakers and has an impact on institutional
arrangements within the official ethnic policies. The book focuses on
the term's meanings in different contexts, on the related public debates
and institutional arrangements. A special attention is paid to the
comparison between the Russian and Western discussions around NCA and
similar arrangements as well as the links between NCA and other thematic
areas like minority protection, non-discrimination, group rights and

The Introduction clarifies the research framework, goals and
significance of the study.

Part I includes three chapters which are devoted to the research
methodology, basic terminology and the pre-history of the idea. The role
played by the notions of 'ethnicity', 'territoriality' and 'autonomy' in
public debates and policies is analysed from the perspective of social
constructivism. In the meantime, the book distinguishes between symbolic
and instrumental policies, or between rhetoric and actions. A separate
chapter touches upon the basic terms like 'ethnicity', 'autonomy',
'self-government' and others as well as on the shifts in meanings
emerging on crossing the borders between disciplines and field of
practical policies. It was shown that the term NCA might be used in
different meaning including individual and group rights in cultural and
linguistic areas, derivatives from the idea of social boundaries between
ethnic groups, and special type of organisation. One chapter is devoted
to the origins of the idea of NCA; special attention is paid to the
Austro-Marxist theorists of the late XIX - early XX centuries Karl
Renner and Otto Bauer, whose publications launched the very notion of
NCA and triggered the further debates.

Part II (four chapters) focuses on the history of the idea in Russian
Empire, the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet Russia.

Part III (eleven chapters) is devoted to the adoption of the 1996
Russian Federal law 'On National-Cultural Autonomy', its content,
amendments and the course of implementation.

Part IV (three chapters) addresses the issue how the idea of NCA was
implemented outside Russia and which practical arrangements bear the
features of ethnic non-territorial autonomy. For the pre-World War I
period, the institutions of the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires are
examined. The chapter devoted to the period between World War I and II
addressed the overall satiations in East-Central Europe with a special
focus on Estonia and Latvia. The chapter on the post-World War II era
describes the practices and institutions of 14 countries including
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Hungary, Cyprus, Slovenia and

Part V (two chapters), devoted to the international contexts and links,
has two focuses. One is on the international legal aspects the idea of
NCA might have; the other one is on the connections between NCA and
other basic concepts related to ethnicity. The chapter examines the
parallels and differences between the idea of NCA, on the one hand, and
such notions as 'autonomy' in general, minority protection, group
rights, consocialism and participation, multiculturalism and

The Conclusion focuses on the fact that although the arrangements like
ethnic non-territorial autonomy are technically feasible in many
political contexts, the real decisions resembling this approach belong
within and outside Russia to the sphere of symbolic rather than
instrumental policies. NCA or similar slogans contribute to the
(re)production of the world-wide socially acceptable ethnocentric
narrative. This narrative and, wider, discourse basically rests on the
assumptions and terminology affirming the vision of ethnic groups as
social actors with internal organisation and clear-cut boundaries.

The edition is still available in several bookstores of Moscow and
Saint-Petersburg. A copy could be also received upon an agreement with
the author (aossipov@tochka.ru) or via the Centre for Independent Social

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