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Putin's 'Russkii' Comment Raises Fears Of A New Yugoslavia

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a joint session of Russian parliament on Crimea in the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18.  Putin sparked controversy when he used the word "Russkii" to refer to the Russian people, rather than "Rossisskii." (Alexei Nikolsky/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a joint session of Russian parliament on Crimea in the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18. Putin sparked controversy when he used the word "Russkii" to refer to the Russian people, rather than "Rossisskii." (Alexei Nikolsky/Getty Images)

Political scientist Kimberly Marten says Vladimir Putin “may have permanently changed” Russia and its relationship with the outside world by using the word “Russkii” in Parliament this week.

In her post on The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post, Marten says there are two words for “Russian” in the Russian language, “Rossisski,” and “Russkii.”

“Rossisski” is a way to refer to Russian citizens and the Russian state in a way that includes all citizens, including ethnic minorities who hold a Russian passport. That is the term Putin has always used, and even the aggressive pro-Putin youth movement stuck to that word.

“Russkii” is primarily an ethnic designation — it refers to people and to things that are ethnically Russian, and that is the term Putin used this week when speaking before the Parliament about the annexation of Crimea.

Marten says Putin’s use of “Russkii” signals a “crucial turning point in his regime.” She sees it as a signal that Putin “has become a Russian ethnic nationalist,” and is no longer someone who simply wants to restore the glory of the Soviet days.

With that change, writes Marten, “It is no longer far-fetched to think that Ukraine might go the way of the former Yugoslavia” with “the possibility of ethnically motivated violence” looming on the horizon.

Marten joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss this dramatic shift from a single word.

Guest

  • Kimberly Marten, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Political Science at Barnard College Columbia University blogger for “The Monkey Cage.” She tweets @KimberlyMarten.

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