Nomogenesis and Problem of National Aspects in Public Administration

Ekaterina A. Popova,
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University


The article analyses the problem of national aspects in public administration from the perspective of nomogenesis. The idea of similarity in evolution between biological life forms and public life has been put forward by Russian biologist L. S. Berg. The underlying causes of national problems within the state are considered based on the works of well-known experts in political and social sciences. The scholars point out that the principle of national-territorial division used in the federation with a large number of national minorities remained beyond it is the way to the country’s break-up. Today there are some positive tendencies in the solution of national issues but public government still has a lot to do to overcome divisions. The conclusion is that radical changes are not needed in the ethnic issues and public administration should respect the interests and specific features of each ethnic group.

Key words: nomogenesis, сonvergence, divergence, ethnic issues, ethnic group, federalism, secession, inter-ethnic relations, sovereignty, principle of subsidiarity



There is a continuing debate in modern science as to whether the world is moving towards a single civilization whose values will become the heritage of all mankind, or whether the trend towards cultural and historical diversity will continue and even increase, and the world community will be the sum of a number of civilizations developing independently.

Samuel P. Huntington’s theory of cultures and civilizations is worth noting. His concept of ethnocultural division at the end of the 20th century considered cultural traits more important rather than political and ideological differences.

Earlier, at the beginning of the 20th century, a German philosopher, O. M. A. G. Spengler, developed a philosophy of history. His concept clearly reflects the rational idea in the specific characteristics of different cultures, the irreducibility of cultural and historical types and civilizations, the diversity and uniqueness of the world. His main work «The Decline of the West» was very popular after the First World War.

Earlier, at the beginning of the 20th century, a German philosopher, O. M. A. G. Spengler, developed a philosophy of history. His concept clearly reflects the rational idea in the specific characteristics of different cultures, the irreducibility of cultural and historical types and civilizations, the diversity and uniqueness of the world. His main work «The Decline of the West» was very popular after the First World War.

The questions of national differences and the creation of authorities in a multinational federal state, the USSR, are touched on in the study of the political history of the Russian revolution in the 20th century by A.N. Medushevsky.

In my opinion studying national relations within the states in multi-ethnic societies, we cannot ignore N. M. Dobrynin’s scientific work « New Federalism: A Model of Future State System of the Russian Federation ».

Main body

The consideration of the national relations problems, the so-called ethnic issues, is of scientific interest in determining the causes of difficulties. Government actions taken without thorough analysis of historical and socio-economic factors are unlikely to have a positive impact.

Let’s consider some of them from the perspective of nomogenesis, as a method, the philosophical basis for the study of the ethnic issues in public administration.

          This term was first coined in 1922 by L.S. Berg, Russian geographer and biologist, in the book «Nomogenesis: or, Evolution Determined by Law». He contrasted his theory with Darwinism. Subsequently, this caused a great resonance in the scientific community. 

The basic concepts of Berg’s nomogenesis theory:

  1. Evolution is logically conceivable with natural selection, with infinite number of inherited variations. [1, p.18]
  2. The effects that wildlife undergoes through evolutionary process are internal and external. The unilateral influence of one of the factors can easily lead to the organism’s death [1, p. 46]
  3. Convergent idea of the organic evolution can be considered the basis of the nomogenesis theory. Evolution is mostly convergent and only partially divergent. In biology, convergence pertains to an evolutionary process wherein organisms evolve structures that have similar structures or functions in spite of their evolutionary ancestors being very dissimilar or unrelated. This is due to their adaptation to the same habitat conditions [1 p.167]

The founder of the nomogenesis theory, revealing his idea of convergence in the evolution of biological life forms, compared it with public life. He gave examples of intellectual and material culture and their independent displays among different peoples.

What is the root of the "ethnic issues" in multinational states where indigenous peoples live together at all times, with their ethnic languages, ethno-cultural appearance, and national identity? The answer can be primarily found in the conditions and places where ethnic groups live within certain borders, in relationship with each other and with the Central government.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation remained with its national problems. The same problems have also been identified in Ukraine that strives to be a unitary state along ethnic lines. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have declared secession from Georgia.

A.N. Medushevsky, analyzing the failure causes of the structure USSR federalism, as defined by the Constitution of 1927, and referring to scholars of the early 20th century, points out the contradictions in the national-territorial structure of the State.

The principle of national-territorial division was used in the Federation, but a large number of national minorities remained beyond this principle.

Notwithstanding political views, all scholars pointed out the federation formation on ethnic grounds was the way to the country’s break-up. [2, p. 270-271]

S. P. Huntington gave a detailed description and even prescience of the political events in 1990s of the 20th century, the emergence of national-territorial problems and regional nationalisms in the post-Soviet space. He describes Ukraine as a divided country with two different cultures. According to Huntington, 30% of Ukrainian citizens are Russian-speaking. But we know that much more speak both Russian and Ukrainian. [3, p. 256]

It is important to understand the fact that these cultures, peoples have lived side by side for centuries. Social convergence is so high in the process of its development that it manifests in the life and activities of two ethnic cultures. Divergences were caused by external influences, such as the Mongol invasion, the Russian-Polish confrontation. They changed the course of the historical evolutionary process and created branches of one nation. Eastern Slavic and Western Slavic civilizations are two national communities. They should move closer to each other as a natural result. Those who exploit national differences for political purposes have nothing to do with modern scientific public administration and form radical extremist, fundamentalist religious and nationalist associations.

S. Huntington in the mid-1990s believed in three ways in Ukraine, in relations between Ukraine and Russia. 

The first way – an armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This way appeared highly unlikely due to the fact of  civilizations community. [3, p. 256]

The second way of the situation was seemed more likely to Huntington - the division of Ukraine into two parts, the Eastern part would be incorporated into Russia. [3, p 257]

He mostly believed in the third one. Ukraine would remain united but at the same time divided, would remain independent and would cooperate closely with Russia. [3, p. 258]

The formation of Russia and Ukraine as independent states is continuing. They will have to deal with national problems independently, to overcome extremism and to think about renewal of the federal state structure. Negative trends are emerging and extremely dangerous. 

So far an effective governance mechanism for the cohesion of the state through the creation of bilateral and multilateral regional ties has not been created in Russia. [4, p.4]

The process of merging autonomous national districts and large regions began several years ago. The recent example: Heads of Arkhangelsk region and Nenets Autonomous District signed memorandum of intention to combine regions.

The problem of clannishness in the North Caucasus Republics has become sharply apparent in Russia. 

Today, with the general trend towards the reduction of inter-ethnic tension, the attempts to exploit inter-ethnic conflicts to solve political and economic issues by certain individuals continue.

The state of inter-ethnic relations and the nature of conflicts in this field have changed significantly in recent years. Open mass armed conflicts and their consequences (Chechen, Ossetian-Ingush conflicts) were managed to reduce. This can be a serious factor in overcoming the difficulties in the solving of inter-ethnic difficulties.

The desire of state leaders is facing a strong tendency to politicize all aspects of national life, including language issues. They have become heavily involved in the political processes and have become the object of political manipulation. 

The Federal Law «On National Cultural Autonomy» in 1996 had a positive impact on inter-ethnic relations in Russia. [5, p.2965] It granted persons belonging to all the peoples of Russia, notwithstanding their number or place of residence, the right to take the opportunities for preserving national identity, development of native language and culture and education through the establishment of voluntary associations supported by the government.

So far, there are about 300 national-cultural autonomies in the country, which are involved in the development of national education and culture.

The next positive step was the Federal Law «On Guarantees of the Rights of Indigenous Small Peoples of the Russian Federation». [6, p.2208]

An important principle of this legislative act is its supranational jurisdiction, it means that the Act does not apply to certain ethnic groups, but to all Russian citizens living in places of their traditional way of life and carrying out their national economic activities.  The law eliminates discrimination based on ethnicity.

However, all these positive aspects have not yet been able to close off some of the acute problems of the ethnic issues today.

We define inter-ethnic relations as a special type of social relations that are formed between national, economic and social groups, but politically and historically connected with each other, with groups of people and nations.

These relations can be allied or conflicted.

Neither Russia nor the global society recognized Chechen secession from Russia. Here, in the 1990s, ethnocratic clans merged with Islamic fundamentalism [7, p.165]

Analyzing Islamic fundamentalism, Huntington highlights that this movement is characterized by a desire to create an empire in the name of Islamic unity, to create a Caliphate by abandoning the nation-state. [3, p. 270-272]

The right of secession is not absolute and unlimited. The theory of public administration must take into account historical factors, federalism traditions of the certain country, the expediency of secession, the interests and rights of the other constituent entities of the federation, as well as the federation itself. Secession cannot be an arbitrary and entirely unilateral act.

In practice, in our country the secession of three Baltic republics was relatively peaceful. Article 1 in the Constitution of Tuva, a republic within the Russian Federation, allows its secession from Russia. There was an unsuccessful attempt of Balkarian secession from Kabardino-Balkarian, a unitary constituent entity within the Russian Federation. It was in view of the formation of a separate Balkarian republic within Russia. This attempt, organized by elites, was not supported by the population, it was declared unconstitutional.

There is practically no recognition of the right to secession in the constitutions of federal states now, including those formed on the basis of the union, although the attempts, most commonly, unsuccessful, are made and in many cases led to negative results and grave consequences - a decrease or loss of historical ties, a declining living standards of the population, the deterioration of the legal situation of other ethnic groups in the secession entity and often mass of civilian casualties. [7,p. 164-166]

The State Ethnic Policy Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2025 involves major efforts of all structures to improve the management of the complex system of the Federation and its state-territorial administration. The President of the Russian Federation uses his powers to establish federal districts and to appoint plenipotentiaries. At his discretion, the President divides the entire territory of the country into certain administrative units, regardless of the federal division of the country. This political and legal phenomenon is called discretion. [4, p. 53]

The principle of subsidiarity is taking on greater and greater importance in the distribution of responsibilities and between different levels of governance in Europe. The principle of subsidiarity in Russian Federation is thought of as the basis of the relations between the center and the regions. The Federation, realizing sovereignty, has and exercises the rights of an independent state. At the same time, the constituent entities also have their own competence.  [7, p.140] 

This principle also applies to the relationship between public and government institutions: government authorities intervene only when the citizens and their self-organized associations are unable to solve the problem.


The development of society can be compared to the development of wildlife. They develop according to the same laws of dialectics. Both society and nature develop in the struggle of opposing forces, undergoing internal and external influences. Biologists and social scientists specify that each living organism, on the one hand, strives to preserve its uniqueness, and, on the other hand, it has a need to interact with others, different from it. As a result of evolution, peoples move from an ethnographic state to a national and from it to civilization.

Modern public administration must take into account the specifics and sensitivity of national relations issue. 
Evolution is a slow and gradual process, therefore fast and drastic decisions should be avoided.  Revolutionary changes are not needed for national issues. It will come to nought. The natural process of inter-ethnic relations development is the most acceptable in public administration.


  1. Berg L.S. (1922). Nomogenesis: or, Evolution Determined by Law. Peterburg, State publishing house
  2. Medushevsky A.N. (2017). Political History of the Russian Revolution: Norms, Institutions and Forms of Social Mobilization in the 20th Century. М., Centre for Humanitarian Initiatives
  3. Huntington S. P. (1993). The Clash of Civilizations
  4. Cherkasov K.V. (2014). State and Territorial Governance in Russia: Formation, State and Prospects. Direct Media
  5. Russian Federation Code (1996) №25
  6. Russian Federation Code (1999) №18
  7. Dobrynin N.M. (2003). New Federalism: A Model of Future State System of the Russian Federation. – Novosibirsk: Nauka
  8. Lippmann W. (1922). Public Opinion. New York. Harcourt, Brace and Company
  9. Spengler O. M. A. G. (1926). The Decline of the West. Alfred A. Knopf