- Ethnic group. One principal use of this term refers to Russia’s titular majority, which accounts for approximately 80 percent of the population, that is, residents of Russia who are defined by their ethnic belonging and/or cultural association, including language, religion, and traditions (called russkie in the Russian language). They are thus differentiated from the Russian Federation’s 175 ethnic minorities (Tatars, Chuvash, Udmurts, etc.); the latter are referred to in Russian as rossiiane, a word that stems from the word Rossiia, which linguistically designates Russia as a multicultural, multiconfessional association of different peoples. Alternatively, the term refers to those Russians—or people who view Russianness as their primary cultural identity—living outside the borders of the Russian Federation. From the point of view of their ethnic background, they are not always Russian; however, they have strong links with the Russian Federation and thus define themselves as Russian.There are currently some 19 million ethnic Russians residing in the so-called near abroad (down from 25 million in 1991). Large numbers of diasporic Russians can also be found in Germany, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. Many are descendents of Russian Civil War–era émigrés and Soviet dissidents, as well as post-1991 economic immigrants. The Russian Foreign Ministry estimates the total number of Russians living outside the Russian Federation at 30 million people worldwide. During the first administration of President Boris Yeltsin, the cause of Russia’s “countrymen,” i.e., ethnic Russians living in the Newly Independent States, became a political tool for ultranationalists as well as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. In particular, Russian relations with Estonia and Latvia were compromised by those countries’ treatment of ethnic Russians, particularly after legal changes transformed many “Baltic Russians” into noncitizens in the early 1990s.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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