MOSCOW, October 8. /TASS/. Russians’ attitude to whether it is good or bad for their fellow nationals to be citizens of two or more countries is mixed and varied. More than a third hail the idea of restrictions for those who have dual citizenship while one in seven would like to have the passport of some other country in their pocket — just in case, an opinion poll has found.
Russia in early August enacted a special law applicable to those Russians who prefer to keep quiet that they are also citizens of another country. Such persons were given a two-month deadline for notifying the Federal Migration Service. For filing such an application too late and also for presenting false or inaccurate information those responsible are to be fined 1,000 roubles (roughly a little more than $20). Those who have concealed their double citizenship on purpose face criminal responsibility — a fine of up to 200,000 rubles (about $5,000) or 400 hours of public work. Those residing outside Russia on a permanent basis are obliged to notify the authorities only if they return home.
In two months since the moment the law took effect only 50,000 men and women had contacted the Federal Migration Service to officially declare their second citizenship or foreign residence permit while according to some estimates, no less than one percent of the country’s population are holders of two or more passports.
A Levada Centre opinion poll (held at the request of the RBC company) found one percent of Russians had another citizenship or other countries’ residence permits. Sixteen percent of Russians said they had acquaintances with foreign citizenship or other countries’ residence permits. Fifteen percent of those questioned said they would like to have foreign citizenship or residence permit or a long-term visa. Among youth the rate is noticeably higher — nearly a quarter.
More than a third of the polled (36%) believe that the rights of holders of other countries’ passports should be limited or some sort of sanction should be taken against them.
“The existence of such a large group of those supportive of bans stems from the existence of two large groups in society — older people who were born and grew up in the Soviet Union, still nostalgic for those days and certain that there was far more law and order in the country then, and the class of ‘new patriots,’ shaped by the current political situation and maintaining that the interests of society must be placed above individual interests,” RBC Daily quotes political scientist Tatyana Stanovaya as saying.
In 2012, the Russian authorities set a course towards what was promptly dubbed as “nationalization of the elites.” The political and business elites began to be retargeted in the interests of the country’s development “to avoid double loyalty temptation risks.” The adoption of a law that prohibited civil servants and their families from having bank accounts, assets and other valuables and properties outside the country was one of the mechanisms to translate that plan into life.
“One of the latest trends in the public mind tends to see the West as an enemy that endangers Russian identity,” a senior lecturer at the Russian Economics and Civil Service Academy, Tatyana Vaizer, told TASS. “Russian society is trying to screen itself from this risk and to maintain its identity. This type of mechanism is often set in motion when crises peak. It is a safeguard against external influences.”
Among those sharing this point of view, Vaizer believes, many are nostalgic about Soviet days as an era of political and social stability. As for the 16% eager to obtain another citizenship, Vaizer believes that most are young people whose ways and habits were shaped over the past two decades — when far wider opportunities opened for employment and education abroad or just those not in the habit of perceiving the outside world as something hostile.