In brief

Constitutional amendments certify strengthening of Russian nationalism

New constitutional text upgrades position of Russian language and people above other languages and peoples of the Federation

Putin in constitutional amendment vote.
Putin in constitutional amendment vote.
Russians voted from 25 June to 1 July for a set of onstitutional amendments that raise the status of the Russian language. This is the latest in a series of changes which, for years, have tended to strengthen Russian nationalism and linguistic centralism of the Federation at the expense of minoritised languages.

According to official data, 77.9% of voters supported the amendments, with a 65% turnout. The opposition claims that the vote was not fair.

The new constitutional text will from now on designate Russian as “the language of the state-forming people.” Russian will keep the status, as it was already the case, of the official language of the Federation.

The new wording of Article 68 thus indicates that the Russian people is the official backbone of the country, above all others. Ethnic Russians make up 81% of the population of the Russian Federation according to the 2010 census. More than one hundred other peoples live in Russia, the most numerous being the Tatars (4% of the population) followed by the Ukrainians, Bashkirs, Chuvash, and Chechens, each above 1%.

Chairman of Russian Duma Vyacheslav Volodin said last month that the amendments are “a very important decision”, as “in order to maintain unity, we need to preserve and develop the Russian language as our common treasure and an integral part of our cultural and spiritual heritage.”

In 2018, a new law downgraded the position of the native languages of the republics of the Federation. The law removed the obligation to learn them in school, despite the fact that many of them are official in their respective republics —such as Tatar, Chuvash, or Chechen.

Other amendments: God, marriage and Putin

The constitutional amendments also aim at the rights of other minorities, such as the LGBT community. From now on marriage is defined as “the union of a man and a woman,” which closes the door to same-sex marriages.

The new text also includes a mention to Russians’ “faith in God,” and states that the Russian Federation is united by a “thousand year old history.”

It also allows current president Vladimir Putin to run for re-election twice. With this change, Putin can remain in office until 2036.