Not Required or Worthy of Being a Russian Citizen

Not Required or Worthy of Being a Russian Citizen


Chances are such an article on termination of RF citizenship for ideological dissension will soon appear in the Russian penal system. This was not a suggestion made during a "conversation in the smoking-room." The case in hand is a specific punishment that the government is already trying to apply.

To be more exact, the officials are not just trying but successfully applying it. So far, this only applies to the individuals who did not have Russian citizenship "by birth." However, in the current situation, it might concern every Russian.

Bakhrom Khamroyev, a human rights activist and member of the Memorial human rights centre*, for example, says that he is currently being stripped of Russian citizenship which he received 25 years ago. The prosecutor's office in the town of Lyubertsy in the Moscow region has sued him following the claims that he illegally obtained citizenship. According to law enforcers, his marriage to his first wife Margarita Suslyakova, by which Khamroyev obtained Russian citizenship, was fictitious. Therefore, he received citizenship in violation of law.

However, there's one more detail in the case that apparently, the prosecutor's office didn’t take into account. Khamroyev told that he did not have any other citizenship except that of the USSR and then that of the Russian Federation. According to article 6 of the RF Constitution, "1. Citizenship of the Russian Federation is acquired and terminated in accordance with federal law, is unified and equal, irrespective of the grounds on which it was acquired. 2. Every citizen of the Russian Federation shall have all rights and freedoms on its territory and shall bear equal obligations under the Constitution of the Russian Federation. 3. A citizen of the Russian Federation cannot be deprived of his (her) citizenship or of the right to change it.”

However, as Aleksandr Yermolenko, a partner at the FBK Legal law firm **, explained in an interview to, it is impossible to revoke citizenship of the people who have it by birth." That is, if a person was born on the territory of the country, it is difficult to strip him or her of the citizenship of this country. If a person is a naturalised citizen, it is a different story. These are the individuals who had citizenships of other countries before getting the Russian one.

"These are, for example, citizens of former Soviet republics and now independent states," Yermolenko said in an interview with “There were cases where these people had been deprived of their citizenship. Well, these were not even dissidents but ordinary people from Uzbekistan who were engaged in trade, for instance. They had long ago become citizens of Russia. Law-enforcement agencies "found" some violations in the process of their obtaining citizenship. This was categorized as providing false information to the authorities and their citizens’status was annulled."

In this case, according to Yermolenko, the former Russian citizen had to restart the whole process of obtaining citizenship from the very beginning.

Khamroyev was also charged with some similar case by the Lyubertsy Prosecutor's Office. He told that his ex-wife Margarita Suslyakova had simply been persuaded by the security services. She was forced to admit that her marriage to Khamroyev had been a fake that covered up Khamroyev’s obtaining Russian citizenship. Suslyakova was told that she was, in fact, legalizing a terrorist on the Russian territory. Suslyakova herself confirmed this to reporters of the Nastoyashcheye Vremya Internet channel saying that she did not want to write anything against Khamroyev and had only done so under pressure from the security services. However, even in this case, if one takes into account this particular method of acquiring citizenship, there are certain questions. According to Yermolenko, it is very difficult to prove that the marriage was fictitious, especially since, according to Khamroyev, he had been living with Suslyakova for about five years.

Let's get back to a detail that went unnoticed by the prosecutor's office. The statement of claim issued by the Lyubertsy prosecutor's office says that "the acquisition of citizenship of the Russian Federation was the only purpose of B. Khamroyev’s fictitious marriage of.” However, the man got the Russian citizenship on the basis of the USSR citizenship. Previously, he had had no other citizenship. Consequently, as a USSR citizen by birth, he is also a citizen of the Russian Federation. Marriage to Suslyakova could only provide him with a residence permit and nothing more.

Khamroyev himself and his colleagues at Memorial believe that this pressure might be a response to his many years of defense of the rights of political refugees from Central Asia in Russia, as well as ordinary migrant workers from that area and the rights of Muslims who are not linked to extremism and terrorism. Over the past 15 years, at least eight provocations have been organised against Bakhrom Khamroyev. Some of them led to court proceedings and, predictably, never resulted in any real punishment. This fact speaks for itself.

According to Khamroyev, the most recent attempt to deprive him of citizenship was due to the fact that he actively supported rallies in defense of Alexei Navalny, the leader of Russia’s off-parliament opposition, and allegedly called on other people to take part in them.

At the same time, given the recent political events in the country, it can be assumed that the termination of citizenship for some misdeeds might well become a punishment not only for naturalised citizens. Actually, this happens quite often, and they got used to it. Moreover, chances are those who have the Russian citizenship by birth will be also stripped of it for some misconduct. For example, recently, Nikita Mikhalkov, a well-known Russian actor and film director, has told the Rossiya 24 TV channel that those Russian citizens who called on other countries to impose sanctions against Russia should be deprived of their Russian passports.

Given the fact that Mikhalkov is a public figure who is close to people in power, this statement is highly unlikely to be his private opinion. In most probability, no personal opinion, for which there is no consent from the Kremlin will be made public by wise in experience Mikhalkov. Consequently, this measure might be discussed. All the more so since the Constitution allows it. Although it says that citizens "cannot be deprived of or the right to change their citizenship," the same Article 6 also says that "citizenship ... shall be acquired and terminated in accordance with federal law." As the saying goes, where there's a will, there's away.

According to Yermolenko, similar things already happened in the times of the late Soviet Union when, for instance, "defectors" were deprived of their citizenship. Chances are this law will be passed even now, given a certain political order and the fact that the Russians are more engaged in politics today. According to the effective constitution, it can be protected neither by the laws in it nor by anyone else. If the plan is to pass this law, it will be passed. It is not yet clear how it will be implemented. During the Soviet era, deprivation of citizenship automatically meant deportation to one of the states that agreed to accept a deported person. Now, there is no such process, including the Federal Law ‘On Citizenship of the Russian Federation.’

Anyway, if this form of punishment of people does surface in legislation, a relevant procedure will be developed and registered in all necessary documents.

* The Memorial International Historical Educational Charitable and Human Rights Society was included by the Ministry of Justice in the list of non-profit-making organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent

** The Anti-Corruption Foundation was included by the Ministry of Justice in the list of non-profit organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent

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