12 The institution of citizenship and
practices of passportization in Russia’s
European neighbourhood policies
Thomas Hoffmann and Archil Chochia
Already as early as 1974, Dahrendorf had stated that “there is no more dynamic
gure in modern history than The Citizen” (Dahrendorf, 1974 ), and with
ever- increasing globalization, worldwide mobility and multiple residences the
concept of citizenship has lost even more of its former contours. This chapter
intends, however, not to contribute to re- de ning the concept of citizenship as
such; this task has been in the focus of various recent research as, for example,
in the 2017 multi- volume work “The Transformation of Citizenship”, edited
by Mackert and Turner and published earlier with Routledge. Its endeavour
is rather to focus on extraterritorial naturalization– that is, granting citizen-
ship to citizens of another State residing in that State– as a measure in the
toolbox of Russian foreign policies. These naturalization practices shall be
analysed from a foremost legal perspective. In this regard, thorough research
was carried out (Peters, 2010 ), which covered the issue before the escalation
of many of these measures within the Ukraine crisis since 2013 and has essen-
tially changed the approaches of all parties involved.
Citizenship in a globalworld
Since citizenship in its modern function developed after the French and
U.S.revolutions in the late eighteenth century, this status autonomously con-
stituting both rights and– by far more– duties of the individual was para-
mount to the concept and order of the emerging national States. Globalization
has considerably affected the comprehensiveness of these patterns, as the indi-
vidual identity of residents of highly incorporated States– or of residents
residing in several of these– is far less based on or de ned by the State
entity, which initially granted citizenship to her or him. “Indeed, citizens or
legal residents of a certain state can existentially associate themselves with
a different entity, and these de- nationalized af liations, loyalties and af n-
ities can stretch beyond legal boundaries” (Makarychev and Hoffmann,
2016 ). Extraterritorial naturalization is, so far, a rather new phenomenon, as
“in the past, political membership was seen as a biological condition. Being
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224 Thomas Hoffmann and Archil Chochia
born into a particular community determined a person’s natural subjecthood.
Therefore, persons who did acquire allegiance to a new ruler were considered
to be ‘naturalised’ ” (Herzog 2012 , 795). In extraterritorial naturalization,
there is no “new ruler” in the place of residence of the naturalized person, but
that naturalizing rule stretches from abroad.
Passportization as extraterritorial naturalization
Passportization will generally be seen only as a legal measure if the citizenship
is conferred according to the individual’s will; this chapter will thus focus only
on those cases where passports where given to individuals either upon their
proper application or upon other actions which provide evidence for their will
to be naturalized.
But even in these cases, the practice of passportization is an adminis-
trative act which essentially violates the sovereignty of the State of which
individuals were previously citizens and thus has to follow strict criteria in
order to also be recognized abroad under international law. The main criteria
according to international law had been the “factual relationship” between
the naturalizing State and the individual to be naturalized, meaning a
“personal or territorial link between the conferring State and the individual”
(Hudson, 1952 ). If this criteria is given, it has a reverse effect on the right of
the State of which the individual was previously a citizen, as in that situation
the refusal to abandon the naturalized individual to a foreign citizenship
would generally not be seen as “arbitrary” any more. Just as the factual rela-
tionship has been established as an essential criterion to confer citizenship
to non- resident individuals for naturalizing States, this non- arbitrariness has
been established as an essential criterion for the releasing State to refuse the
naturalization (Peters, 2010 ).
There are various backgrounds against which passportization has been
practised within the last century. Most of them were taken as measures to
“adapt” citizenship of former intra- territorial residents after borders had been
shifted, or in the aftermath of de- colonialization or emigration (Peters, 2010 ).
The rst case has been especially relevant in those central and east
European countries which– previously belonging to multi- ethnical empires–
formed or regained their independence after 1918 and were populated by con-
siderable minorities from neighbouring titular States. The second case refers
to those citizens who were exiled from countries that deprived emigrants of
their citizenship– as, for example, Spain under the Franco dictatorship or
Nazi Germany– and reapplied for regaining their respective citizenship, just
as well as to the descendants of these persons.
However, these practices would in this context not be seen as policy tools
in a strategic sense, as they were not intentionally designed to encourage
extraterritorial residents to repatriate, resulting in repatriation on a much
smaller scale. Russia, in the meantime, has– just as Hungary and Romania–
implemented extraterritorial naturalization into a political scheme, addressing
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Citizenship and passportization 225
individuals directly. The mechanisms of this system will be elucidated in the
The conferment of Russian citizenship
Tsarist Russia provided Russian citizenship to all residents living permanently
in the Russian Empire, and there was no urge yet at that time to naturalize
Russians living beyond the Empire’s border. This policy was not affected by
the Russian Empire’s transition into the Soviet Union; the Soviet Union’s
citizenship Act of 1922 directly refers to citizenship in the previous Russian
empire. The Soviet Union citizenship law stayed generally unchanged until
1991, when the Union was dissolved.
The Russian Federation issued in that year a new citizenship act, which left
the de nition of citizenship unchanged, meaning that all previous Soviet citi-
zens residing on Russian territory would become Russian citizens. This effect,
however, could be averted if individually contested until the 6 February1993.
In 1999, Article 11 of the Compatriots Act extended the scope of Russian
citizenship for the rst time also to Russians living beyond the borders of
the Russian Federation, as it generally assumed Russian citizenship also
of the residents of all other former Soviet republics, regardless of the host
State’s individual citizenship policies (Zevelev 2001, 52). The 2002 Citizenship
Act, however, reduced this extended interpretation towards international
standards, according to which Russian citizenship is now claimed either by
birth, naturalization, restoration of citizenship, or on the basis of parents’
citizenship. “Naturalization criteria boiled down to permanent residence in
Russia for not less than ve years, economic independence, and a thorough
command of the Russian language” (Makarychev and Hoffmann, 2016 ).
Russian compatriot policy in general
Russia initiated a more offensive compatriot campaign with regards to, espe-
cially, Estonia reacting to the Tallinn Bronze Soldier crisis of 2007 (Schulze
2010, 14)– a 4.6 billion rouble budget programme intended to encourage
the repatriation of ethnic Russians residing in Estonia (RIA Novosti 2006).
Reactions in Estonia to the Russian naturalization policy were twofold:In
general, Estonia supported any measure reducing the number of stateless per-
sons, whose statelessness was also seen from an Estonian perspective as a gen-
erally undesirable and temporary (OSCE 1996). On the other hand, the direct
interference of Russia “recruiting” citizens on Estonian territory and among
Estonian residents was a measure Estonia did explicitly protest against.
Until this day, it remains a challenge to specify how many Estonian residents
have been granted Russian citizenship so far; the national Estonian census
estimated a total of 86,000 Russians in 2000 and 114,000 in 2008. From the
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226 Thomas Hoffmann and Archil Chochia
Estonian perspective, the peak of Russia’s compatriot policies was reached
in 2007. As– within the framework of EU accession changes– Estonia had
started thorough reforms of her own citizenship policies, considerably facili-
tating naturalization procedures, the interest in obtaining Russian citizenship
among non- Estonian residents in Estonia has since then steadily decreased.
Already back in 2008, the Russian law and programmes for compatriots
abroad had– according to Zevelev– “practically no connection to the law on
citizenship and immigration” (Zevelev, 2001), putting considerable challenges
to a thorough legal analysis of the Russian compatriot policy. Instead,
“Russian soft power is a clumsy attempt to mirror a variety of Western diplo-
matic (implemented through NGOs) and cultural efforts, most of which the
Russian government has strongly protested against … but has adapted to its
own use in Estonia” (Conley and Gerber,2011).
Passportization as a policytool
Russia has been using passportization as its trans- border policy in ve break-
away regions of other former Soviet republics, namely Georgia’s Abkhazia and
South Ossetia, Moldova’s Transnistria and Ukraine’s Crimea and the Donbas
region. Below, we will describe in more detail the process of passportization
in all of these ve regions.
Georgia regained its independence in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet
Union, by adopting the Independence Restoration Act on the 9 April 1991.
Independence was followed by a dif cult political and economic situation,
which resulted in ethnic con icts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, civil war
and a military coup (Chochia and Popjanevski, 2016 ). Within the rst few
years of independence, Georgia lost control over one- fth of its territory,
suffered from deep corruption and later became a nearly failed State (Nodia,
2007 ; Engvall, 2012 ).
In 1992, Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia, which led
to an armed con ict that lasted 13months and left tens of thousands dead
and about 250,000 people, mostly ethnic Georgians, displaced. Status quo,
and therefore de facto independence of Abkhazia, was protected by Russian
2 who were deployed in the area as a result of a cease re
agreement signed in Moscow in 1994 (Russian Federation, 1994). Georgia
was forced to join the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an organ-
ization dominated by Russia, in 1994, in exchange for Russian support for the
government in ghting against the armed opposition, led by former president
Zviad Gamsakhurdia (Antonenko, 2005). Russia managed to legitimize its
military presence in the country and left Georgia dependent on its Northern
neighbour, which was all part of Russia’s idea to keep former Soviet states
dependent on it instead of looking for support elsewhere (Artman, 2013 ).
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Citizenship and passportization 227
The Rose Revolution of 2003 changed the environment dramatically, as
the new President Mikheil Saakashvili immediately proclaimed the EU as
a main goal for Georgia and set the political vector of the country clearly
towards the West (Chochia and Popjanevski, 2016 ). Russia did not intervene
in the processes as Georgia started rapid development, as well as gaining con-
trol over the Adjara region, however Russia repeatedly communicated to the
Georgian government that a similar scenario would not have been possible in
Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Asmus, 2010 ).
Russia saw threats in these developments and started increasing its military
presence and consolidating political power over the two breakaway regions.
This included Russian passportization, which had begun earlier, but remained
rather dif cult and only become easier and intensi ed in 2004, following the
political process in Georgia, including its Autonomous Republic of Adjara
(Illarionov, 2009 ). The population of Abkhazia before the war, according to
the 1989 census was 525,061 people, from which, Georgians were 239,872,
Abkhaz– 93,267, Armenians– 76,541 and Russians– 74,914 (National
Statistics Of ce of Georgia). During the war, due to the exodus, as well as
the ethnic cleansing of Georgians, the population of Abkhazia decreased by
approximately 85 per cent. However, according to the of cial local sources,
in 2004, the population of Abkhazia was around 300,000 people, including
approximately 47,000 Georgians who did return mainly to the Gali muni-
cipality (Abkhazia, population). Russian citizenship was promoted in
Abkhazia as a guarantee of security and “independence” and in 2008 almost
the entire population had become Russian citizens (Tagliavini, 2009 ). Law on
Citizenship of the Republic of Abkhazia of 2005 automatically grants citi-
zenship to all ethnic Abkhazs
3 “no matter their residence and citizenship”,
other nationals should rst denounce their previous citizenship in order to
become citizens of Abkhazia, while, citizens of Abkhazia are allowed to have
dual citizenship only if the second citizenship is of the Russian Federation
(Abkhazia, Law on Citizenship, article6).
In August 2008, a war broke out between Russia and Georgia over South
Ossetia and Abkhazia’s Kodori Gorge,
4 which resulted in Georgia losing control
over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As soon as the war began, the Russian presi-
dent declared that he was obliged to protect fellow Russian citizens, regardless
of their location (Medvedev, 2008 ). After the war, Russia formally recognized
both breakaway regions as independent states (Russian Federation, 2008 ).
Independence was followed by the signing of cooperation agreements between
Russia and the de facto states, including such elements as the building of military
bases and maintaining them for 49years (plus a 15- year automatic prolonga-
tion of that period), protecting the borders, etc. (Russian Federation, 2008 ).
However, the rst ethnic con ict which Georgia had to deal with after its re-
independence erupted in South Ossetia. Tensions in the region began back in
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228 Thomas Hoffmann and Archil Chochia
1989 and rapidly escalated during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia-
backed local separatists proclaimed independence from Georgia, to which the
of cial Tbilisi responded by sending armed forces. Clashes between Georgian
and local forces, including shelling the villages, claimed at least 250 lives and
left almost 500 wounded, while thousands from both sides had to ee their
homes (Human Rights Watch, 1992 ). Armed confrontation was stopped by
a cease re agreement
5 signed between Georgia and the Russian Federation in
June 1992. With the document, Georgian and South Ossetian parties agreed
to withdraw their armed forces, the process being controlled by Russian
peacekeepers who had to be deployed into the region and remain there, sep-
arating con ictingsides.
Much like in the case of Abkhazia described above, the situation in South
Ossetia remained largely unchanged until the Rose Revolution of 2003.
Russia remained in total control over South Ossetia, as well as maintaining
its peacekeepers between the two sides. The situation changed after the Roles
Revolution, as the of cial Tbilisi started offering South Ossetia different peace
proposals and even establishing an alternative South Ossetian administration,
led by Dmitry Sanakoev, that maintained authority over the Georgian villages
of South Ossetia (Human Rights Watch, 2009 ). In response, a referendum
was held in South Ossetia, where 99 per cent of the voters supported the inde-
pendence (Roudik, 2008 ). At the same time, Russia intensi ed passportization
of the local population, by making the process of obtaining Russian citizen-
ship easier and promoting it via local authorities as a guarantee of freedom
and security against possible Georgian aggression. The population of South
Ossetia, according to the 1989 census, was approximately 90,000 people, while
after the war of 1992 it decreased to 70,000 people (South Ossetia, popu-
lation). According to the local authorities, by the end of 2007 some 97 per
cent of the South Ossetian population held Russian passports (Kokoity, 2007 ;
Tagliavini, 2009 ). The law on citizenship of the Republic of South Ossetia is
similar to that of Abkhazia, to which we referred above, and it allows the citi-
zens of South Ossetia to have dual citizenship only if the second citizenship is
that of the Russian Federation (South Ossetia, Law on Citizenship, Article6).
Tensions between the sides rapidly escalated during the summer of 2008,
and on 8 August 2008, a full- scale war broke out between Russia and Georgia.
In response to Russian military manoeuvres and intensi ed shelling against
several Georgian villages, as well as after receiving intelligence reports about
additional Russian forces moving into the Roki Tunnel and ordered to cross
over, “there was no longer any doubt in Saakashvili’s mind that an invasion was
coming” and the order to stop the Russian columns and suppress the Ossetian
shelling of Georgian positions was given (Asmus, 2010 ). The Kremlin accused
Tbilisi of starting a military attack on the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali
in order to regain control over this breakaway region, which was, according to
the of cial Russian position, the reason for the military invasion by its troops
into Georgia:in order to defend Russian citizens and Russian peacekeepers.
Russian President Medvedev ( 2008 ) declaredthat
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Citizenship and passportization 229
in accordance with the Constitution and the federal laws, as the President
of the Russian Federation it is my duty to protect the lives and dignity of
Russian citizens wherever they may be. It is these circumstances that dic-
tate the steps we will take now. We will not allow the deaths of our fellow
citizens to go unpunished. The perpetrators will receive the punishment
Russia deployed over 20,000 troops into South Ossetia and nearly the same
amount to Abkhazia within hours (Asmus, 2010 ). Russian forces poured
across Georgia’s borders, defeated Georgian forces in a ve- day war, moved
deep into the country, approached its capital Tbilisi, bombed civilian and
military targets all over the country, and destroyed its military, transporta-
tion and economic infrastructure. Of cials in Tbilisi claimed that a Russian
column of a large number of tanks and armoured vehicles had advanced
into South Ossetia before the Georgian attack on the South Ossetian cap-
ital Tskhinvali. Therefore, the military action from the Georgian side was an
attempt to defend its territory and its population from foreign aggression
(International Crisis Group, 2008 ).
Shortly after the war, Moscow recognized South Ossetia, along with
Abkhazia, as an independent country. On 25 August 2008, both houses of the
Russian parliament issued a resolution calling on President Dmitry Medvedev
to recognize the independence of these two breakaway regions. The next day,
on 26 August, President Medvedev issued two decrees, of cially recognizing
South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states (Russian Federation,
2008 b). Identically, as in the case of Abkhazia, the recognition was followed
by the signing of several cooperation agreements between Russian Federation
and South Ossetia. These included agreements on the mutual protection of
borders, as well as building and maintaining the military bases for 49years
(Russian Federation, 2008 a).
Transnistria ( Pridnestrovie in Russian) is de jure part of the Republic of
Moldova, located on the left bank of the river Dniester. Similarly to Abkhazia
and South Ossetia, Transnistria declared its independence and is known as a
territory of one of the frozen con icts on former Soviet space. Even though
Transnistria was never a separate political unit within the Moldovan Soviet
Republic, the latter was composed of two regions with historically different
roots:Bessarabia, on the right bank of the river Dniester, being a part of
Romania between 1918 and 1940, and Transnistria on the left bank of the
river Dniester, never being part of Romania (B ü scher, 2016 ).
Moldova became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in
1991, however, in the summer of 1990 it declared its sovereignty even though
it was within the USSR. Two months later, on 2 September 1990, Transnistria
declared its independence from Moldova as the “Pridnestrovian Moldovian
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230 Thomas Hoffmann and Archil Chochia
Soviet Socialist Republic”. Soviet Interior Ministry troops moved into the
region to protect the separatist region. In May 1991, Transnistria established
its own police, while receiving weapons from the 14th Soviet Guard Army units
(International Crisis Group, 2004 ). At the end of 1991, the Transnistrian gov-
ernment appointed the commander of the 14th Soviet Guard Army, Gennady
Yakovlev, as a head of its defence (B ü scher, 2016 ).
The situation rapidly escalated in spring 1992 and the war broke out when
of cial Chisinau attempted to regain control over the Transnistrian city of
Bender. The war lasted until July 1992 and left approximately 1000 dead
and 100,000 displaced to the rest of Moldova or Ukraine (Human Rights
Watch 1993), while separatist forces, with the help of the 14th Army, defeated
Moldovan troops. On 21 July 1991, the presidents of the Russian Federation
and the Republic of Moldova signed a cease re agreement and a trilateral
peacekeeping operation was enforced, where Russian forces played the leading
role. Peace talks were arranged in the “ ve- sided format” that involved the
Transnistrian regime, Moldova, OSCE, Russia and Ukraine. Later, in October
2005, the format was changed, when the United States and the European
Union joined in (Popescu, 2006 ). And even though the cease re agreement
ended the bloody war, it meant the deployment of Russian troops separating
the sides and keeping the status quo of de facto independence of the separ-
atist region, similar to the cases of Abkhazia and South Ossetia described
above. Of cial Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, even issued a presidential
decree in February 1995, forbidding a withdrawal of Russian forces; later that
year a referendum was organized where 99.3 per cent of the voters backed
that decision (International Crisis Group, 2004 ). Peacekeeping forces of the
Russian Federation remain in the con ict zone to thisday.
The population of Transnistria is approximately 500,000 people, from
which one- third are Moldovans, one- third Russians and one- third Ukrainians,
while Russian language is an of cial language of Transnistria and dominantly
used throughout the region. Many locals still use their old USSR documents,
while Transnistria issued its own passports in 2001. In response, Moldova
liberalized the regulations that previously restricted the ability of residents
of Transnistria to retain their Moldovan citizenship, and additionally started
issuing passports free of charge. However, it is estimated that almost 200,000
of the local population possess Russian citizenship (B ü scher, 2016 ). Similarly
to the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia uses its passportization
policy in Transnistria as well, while likewise, Russian citizenship is seen as a
guarantee of security for the local population. Therefore, Russia creates the
basis for its possible intervention into the region with the excuse of wanting
to protect its citizens from eventual threats (Popescu, 2006 ).
Crimea was integrated into the territory of Ukraine politically and admin-
istratively in 1954 when it was gifted to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine by
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Citizenship and passportization 231
Nikita Khrushchev, Secretary General of the Communist Party at the time.
Kyiv administration had been keen on developing culturally signi cant
spaces and invested in the culture of the region, for example by sponsoring
Ukrainian translations of Russian works by Crimean writers. However, legit-
imacy of the Ukrainian authority in Crimea was largely dependent on Kyiv’s
ability to restore the region’s economy, the task to which Ukrainian SSR
applied itself eagerly by engaging in several governmental projects that were
largely funded by the central budget. The cultural landscape in the region
was rather complicated, bearing scars of the Second World War and the
brutal deportations of Crimean Tatars in 1944, with little to unite the society
(Wojnowski, 2017 ). Aprevalent majority of the population spoke Russian at
the time and Kyiv made cautious measures to promote Ukrainian language
instead, by opening Ukrainian schools and theatres and regularly delivering
Ukrainian language newspapers into Crimea.
After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine gained independence and Crimea
was given signi cant authority within its own borders and a status of autono-
mous republic within the united Ukraine. On 21 May 1992, the Russian
Duma declared the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 illegal, although
subsequently the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership signed
between Russia and Ukraine in 1997 acknowledged Ukrainian borders,
including Crimea. Concerning its international political orientation, Ukraine
was divided by a preference for a pro- Russian or pro- Western course. Both
Eastern Ukraine and Crimea were predominantly pro- Russian, with their
strong support to the Region’s party and its pro- Russian political orientation.
In 2010, leader of the Region’s party, Viktor Yanukovych, became the presi-
dent of Ukraine. His last- minute decision in November 2013, to not sign the
Association Agreement with the EU, suspend talks with the EU and NATO
and declare the resumption of negotiations with Russia to join the Eurasian
Customs Union, promoted large- scale demonstrations and clashes in the
streets of Kyiv, which eventually resulted in the overthrow of the govern-
ment and Yanukovych’s escape to Russia in February 2014. In response, pro-
Russian demonstrations erupted in Crimea and, a few days later, protesters
together with unidenti ed uniformed troops, which later were admitted to
being its military personnel, seized governmental buildings (Mastroianni,
2016, pp.645– 646).
Those events were followed by a referendum on 16 March 2014, the main
goal of which was for Crimea to of cially secede from Ukraine and reunify
with Russia, which was supported by the majority of voters (International
Criminal Court, 2014). The UN General Assembly (Resolution No. 68/ 262,
2014)proclaimed the referendum as having no validity. After the annex-
ation, Russia proclaimed all the Ukrainian nationals in Crimea as its citizens
and endowed them with Russian citizenship. The opportunities for Crimean
residents to decline Russian citizenship and keep their Ukrainian citizenship
were restricted, as only a limited period of one month was designated for that,
and only four service points would take relevant applications (International
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232 Thomas Hoffmann and Archil Chochia
Criminal Court, 2014). The situation had also been complicated by the fact
that the rights of the Crimean inhabitants who did not have Russian citi-
zenship were severely impaired, for example their access to healthcare was
restricted (Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, 2017 ).
Even though, by the estimation of the Ukrainian government, around
200,000 Russian passports were distributed in Southern and Eastern
Ukraine and Crimea, Russia did not claim to defend its citizens, as it did
in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but promised protection to ethnic Russian
and Russian speakers (Biersack and O’Lear, 2014 ). In the situation with
Crimea, annexation came before the conferral of citizenship, therefore a
sovereignty breach was already being committed before the passportization
process had even begun, so it was a logical continuation of the course of
action taken by the Russian Federation. En masse conferral of citizenship
on Crimean inhabitants is also an attempt to assimilate them culturally
and to change Crimean identity to make it more Russian (Biersack and
O’Lear, 2014 ).
The Donbas region, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk, is historically a
part of Ukraine, even despite strong pro- Russian tendencies that manifested
themselves in the region during the last decades. The region has also been a
stronghold for a political group, the Regions’ Party, with its close ties with
Russia and anti- Western rhetoric. The Donbas region shares its history with
modern Ukraine and it used to share Ukrainian identity as well. The case of
Donbas in that respect is different from that of Crimea due to the lack of his-
torical bonds with Russia and the wide usage of the Ukrainian language in
rural areas of the region (Shelest, 2015 ).
As to Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People’s Republic
(DPR), there was no conferral of Russian citizenship as such, instead both
LPR and DPR started issuing their own travel documents, which were
recognized by Russia, an action that was criticized by OSCE Secretary
General Lamberto Zannier ( 2017 ) as “a possible step toward recognizing
the region’s breakaway governments”. The Minsk Declaration, in the
Resolution on the restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of
Ukraine (OSCEPA, 2017 ), also called on the Russian Federation to reverse
its decisions on recognition of the documents issued by LPR and DPR, as
well as to refrain from seizing local, State and private economic entities in
The situation is complicated further by the fact that the Ukrainian State
has no mechanisms to prevent dual citizenship or to track citizens who have
dual citizenship, even though the Ukrainian Constitution (Article 4)prohibits
it. Shortly after the collapse of the USSR, part of the Ukrainian population
that had close ties with Russia, in order to avoid having to make a choice
between Ukrainian and Russian citizenships and receive certain bene ts,
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Citizenship and passportization 233
started the rst wave of passportization, obtaining Russian citizenship. There
is almost no way of knowing whether a citizen has dual citizenship unless
that person renounces citizenship of Ukraine, or the other State issues a cer-
ti cate con rming that this person has dual citizenship (Malyarenko and
Gailbreath, 2013 ).
Conclusion:Common denominators of Russian Passportization
There are mainly two components, which all policies– with different regional
contexts– have in common:First, these passportization policies are unlawful
from an international law perspective. From an international law standpoint,
residents in Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia do, of course, generally
have a right to change their citizenship if they wish to do so. As these regions
do not form a part of the Russian territory under international law, their
right is restricted by the sovereignty of Moldova and Georgia, respectively
(that is, if they hold citizenship of these States, which is usually the case).
They can, of course, apply to these States to be released from their Moldovan
or Georgian citizenship, but as their residence is on the territory of these
States, refusal by Moldova or Georgia to release them into Russian citizen-
ship would not be arbitrary. Peters claims that these passportizations were an
abuse of rights, as they were “performed on a massive scale”, “intensi ed in
times of rising tensions”, “implemented without really examining individual
cases” and “employed as a rhetorical justi cation for the use of force” (Peters,
2010 ). This force was especially prominent in the Georgian war of 2008, when
the protection of Russian citizens was used as a justi cation for attacking
A second common denominator lies in a phenomenon which can be
described as the “petri cation of the exceptional”, deriving from the fact
that Russia actually does intend to make use of lawful measures on an
international scale, but simply concentrates on non- public (and most often
hard- power- driven) measures intending to factually gain or keep control
over Russian- speaking individuals in these States. Conceptually, as Artman
passportization succeeded because it exploited the still- potent discourse
of the nation- state, which binds together state, population, and terri-
tory. At the same time, however, it fundamentally undermined that order
by producing a paradoxical situation in which the populations being
embraced, and the land on which they lived, already legally belonged to
another sovereign state. (…) What is important about passportization is
not that it is extraordinary, but rather the fact that the discourses that it
drew upon and the conditions that it produced are, increasingly, anything
(Artman, 2013 )
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234 Thomas Hoffmann and Archil Chochia
This reach for the normality of the conceptually unusual was, from a purely
legal point of view, already described by Minca in2006:
The aim of the permanent state of exception is precisely that of not
de ning a stable relation between political- juridical order and terri-
tory, but rather, of always keeping open the possibility of playing at the
threshold of indistinction between the norm and its (dis)application.
(Minca, 2006 )
But while Minca in 2006 still referred to a purely theoretical framework of
such measures, this framework has, since the 2014 Crimea crisis, become a
fully- edged pattern in political practice, and Russian passportization policies
are a telling example ofthat.
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