Reflections

Being Russian in Putin's Russia

Nov 2, 2016 | 01:38 GMT
Being Russian in Putin's Russia
Russia is still struggling to define itself nearly a century after the Soviet Union was established.
(MAX VETROV/AFP/Getty Images)

From the Russian Empire to the Russian Federation, the world's largest country has always struggled to define itself. Russia sprawls across the top of the Eurasian landmass and encompasses a dizzying array of ethnic groups and petty regional identities. Leaders at the center have each taken their turn in the never-ending quest to overcome these centrifugal forces. President Vladimir Putin is no different. He has searched throughout his nearly 17-year reign for the common thread that will knit together these divisions and muffle dissent against his rule. In 2012, after two years of fractious political protests, he formed committees to debate social and ethnic policies with the aim of defining what it means to be Russian. The committees failed to reach consensus and fizzled out. Putin has recently decided to renew those efforts. On Oct. 31, he said he supports federal legislation that would clarify the government's understanding of the...

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