Dimitry Kochenov: Why we shall abolish citizenship

Professor Dimitry Kochenov* in conversation with Michał Matlak explains why he believes citizenship is a “perpetuation of the ideas of aristocracy,” sexism, and racism; what can be done to fix this issue; and what motivated him to write “Citizenship” (MIT Press, 2019).

Michał Matlak: Your book tells a story of citizenship. “Not as a tale of liberation, dignity, and nationhood”, which is probably much more popular, but one of “complacency, hypocrisy and domination”.

That’s the back flap [of the book]. So, I’m not the author of this little text, but I’m grateful to MIT for compiling it. It reflects the essence of the book.

Why do you think citizenship is such a flawed concept? 

If we look at citizenship at the national level, then it’s perfect. It’s ideally suited to meet all the liberal democratic institutional aims. It’s a superb tool in order to make sure that everybody’s engaged, that the law applies equally to everybody, and that our democracy is functioning as described. 

When you look at the world from the perspective of two, five, one hundred, two hundred states and territories, then all these gains that we associate with the term “citizenship” disappear because as citizenship functions today, it’s basically a tool to instill absolute inequality between the possessors of different statuses under the guise of the promotion of democratic inclusion, liberation, and fairness.

It works in such a way because once you are assigned by any authority to any kind of state via the distribution of this status -which is distributed at random, of course, it’s not based on your will, identity, or anything else but your blood- citizenship at the international level comes down the perpetuation of the ideas of caste assignment – aristocracy, which the same status precisely fights against at the level of each nation-state since its inception, since the French revolution pretty much.

© Primož Pirih

So how does it work, since ideally the world is presented in any textbook in political science and international law as a world inhabited by equal states? This principle of equality of states also gets extrapolated on citizenship, which means that as a Dutchman I enjoy as glorious a status as someone who’s Pakistani, as someone who is Hungarian, as someone who is American, and normally we don’t compare.

Once we start comparing, and this is an important chunk of my work over the last 10 years, we actually discover that while some citizenships come with rights, the absolute majority of them are about desperate liabilities, and they don’t actually help any of their possessors.

What we see is that a handful of citizenships, usually the citizenship of the former colonizing nations, the so-called “West”, emerge as the “super citizenships” of the world which give very important rights to those who possess them, to those who are granted them. All the rest of the citizenships, citizenships of 4/5ths of the population of the world, are collections of bitter liabilities rather than the depositories of rights. This means that as long as we uphold the story of citizenship as a story precisely of liberation, dignity, and whatever else positive that is connected to it in the popular understanding, we also uphold bringing down those 4/5ths of the world population who were not lucky enough, to quote Ayelet Shachar, to win in the “birthright lottery,” who were not lucky enough to be born in the right places or to the right parents. 

What does it mean to us? It means that, in fact, any story that looks at citizenship benevolently is also a story that replicates neo-feudal, bloodline-based, aristocratic understanding of stratifying human societies without any kind of critical idea about what the implications of that are for all the inhabitants of the world. This is exactly the problem with citizenship.

To sum it up, from the tool of equality and liberation, as citizenship was conceived at the times of the French revolution, it evolved into precisely the opposite, the tool of mass-subjugation and irrational putting-down of the majority of the world’s population in the name of precisely those ideals which citizenship now it very busy destroying at the global level.

Probably the last point, and this is I think absolutely clear to everybody once we look at citizenship from the global perspective: citizenship when regarded globally, when your rights depend on your blood and nothing else and when your place in the world, the opportunities you have, the likelihood of any particular career, the worth of your time and the length of your life, when everything is determined by your blood and your blood only, this is precisely what all the national constitutions of the liberal democracies today preach to have abolished. 

Which means that, when regarded globally, the concept of citizenship will never pass the basic constitutional vetting in any country taken individually. It will be something absolutely repugnant to all the ideals in the name of which the French Republic exists. It will be absolutely repugnant and unacceptable for the Germans and for the idea of dignity. It will be absolutely out of question for Americans, and you can continue this list. So, from something great, citizenship evolved into something absolutely horrible and unacceptable. 

If we accept your line of reasoning, what should be the political consequence? Should it be the deep reform of the concept, or should it be the abolition of it?

Well, to start with we need to ask ourselves the question: Do we believe in the ideals that citizenship is deemed to be promoting? The ideas of basic equality, the ideas of respecting the individual dignity of all those who receive this status by birth, and the idea that humanity, especially now in the world of human rights, is something that counts more than aristocratic or caste-based, birthright certifications.

If we answer this question in the negative, and if we say, “well, actually, who your parents are is much more important to determine whether you should be entitled to rights” or “in terms of asking what kind of duties you should be asked to perform”, well, we should stop here because this is exactly how citizenship works. 

The trouble is that at the national level, once again, the answer to the question which I have just asked is unquestionably clear. There is no debate about how to answer this question. In the modern world, aristocracy, casts, an unjustified distribution of liabilities, is something that is deemed absolutely unacceptable, no matter what, in any decent national constitution. 

So, the question is: What makes us ready to accept, without question, at the international level something that is an absolute no-go, totally non-kosher, and absolutely unacceptable concept at the level of our own constitutional state?

To me, as a believer in liberal democracy and precisely as a believer in modern constitutional ideals, the answer to this question is crystal-clear. Citizenship doesn’t have a place in the modern world because it’s a blood-based justification for bringing people down. We should move on from it. 

When I suggested that it probably should be abolished – I wrote a small piece for I-CON entitled “Ending Passport Apartheid,”- there was a lot of angry reactions from all kinds of quarters. People were writing basically hate mail to me saying “you don’t believe in democracy!” And yes, I don’t believe in blood-based democracy in the sense that all our democratic ideals are mobilized in order to justify to those who get the second-rate kind of status and the second rate- Well, in fact, the set of liabilities instead of set of rights- why they should not be entitled to a better hope, to a better future, and precisely to the all the constitutional ideals which we ourselves hold sacred in our member states.

There is a very simple answer to this question. Historically we had plenty of precedents of how these kinds of difficult questions were answered. The fight against citizenship can be compared to the fight against slavery. You don’t need to convince the slave owners that slavery is something bad (well, you need to in practice) but the slaves already know it.

So if you speak with those who have third-rate or fourth-rate, absolutely despicable, low-quality citizenship statuses, which do not allow them to realize themselves in any way in the world, they already know that their citizenships are second-rate and drag them down. You are not bringing any news to them by saying that, actually in fact, the Central African passport is not to be compared with the passport of the French Republic.

This will only be something that is news to the French, because the French think about the preservation of the aristocratic booster in terms of rights in the world, and well, when you abolish aristocracy, someone will have to share and someone will have to yield, which means that obviously in the Western literatures you don’t frequently find the perspective which I adopt in my little book.

Could we ask you about the consequences for the idea of state, because of course the idea of state is crucial for citizenship. Citizenship defines our relationship with states. Would the idea of abolishing, or fundamental deep reform, require a need to reform our states?

Well, it depends on the perspective you take, because historically, both starting points of your question are rather vague and unclear. When we speak about citizenship, of course, and connect it to states, then there are plenty of problems of how to define it, because 

historically citizenship was a racist and sexist concept, which was only given to white males, essentially.

So if you speak about the, any kind of proto-citizenship of the British Empire, it will not be a citizenship which we can compare to the citizenship, say of Hungary or Liechtenstein today. It’s something radically different because it was presumed (although on paper, sometimes it was different) that someone whose skin pigmentation is not fair enough will not be able to make any utilizable claims to the rights that this status of allegiance brings. 

There are plenty of examples. The dominions of the British Empire, which had their own ability to regulate migration, were simply deeply despicable racist entities from our contemporary perspective. Think about Canada. Think about South Africa. Think about Australia. This line can be continued – the US was also one of the clear examples of the same approach. Which means that it was your race, not your citizenship, and besides your race, it was also your sex, not your citizenship, that actually determined your place in the state and your connection with the polity.

Then the question is open of how citizenship was actually deployed in order to justify the status quo and to sell it to those who were excluded on the basis of race and sex as acceptable, and I proposed some ways of how to look at in my little book. 

What is absolutely clear is that the meaning of citizenship that we have today is absolutely not the same as it was 50 years ago, because at least on paper it’s less racist and it’s infinitely less sexist.

Going to the second part of your question, since it was about two words, “citizenship” and “state”. Once we speak about the state, it’s exactly the same. States are very new. There is a very beautiful book by Poul Kjær that Routledge published that precisely puts it under the spotlight. In the world of empires, the kind of connection between the person and the authority was something radically different compared with what we expect of a liberal democratic state today. They say liberal democratic because, of course it works slightly differently in autocracies theocracies and in horrible regimes. While the connection works differently in theory, in practice the way the ideology of citizenship has always been deployed the world over, from the Stalinist Soviet Union to the Third Reich, to the United States of America, to the British Empire, citizenship served exactly the same function. 

This is precisely something that never finds sufficient reflection in the literature about citizenship. Somehow the understanding of citizenship and the state, which the authors of the main texts about citizenship from T.H. Marshall on have in their mind, leaves no place for sexism, racism, and Empire, which means that they basically failed to distill the main function of citizenship. That main function explains why citizenship is not only found in democracies. It’s found in every single state, anywhere in the world, which means that Putin’s Russia has citizenship, which is as strong and as flourishing as the Myanmar Junta citizenship, and the same applies to the French Republic. 

I argue that citizenship is about governability and about explaining to the people that they should be meek, respectful, and complacent in the context of whatever regulatory environment they happen to be born into.

In this sense, the understanding of citizenship which is purely feudal and blood-based plays equally the same role, no matter what kind of polity we have in mind. This is something that I think is almost new to say in the context of citizenship, because of course when we utter “citizenship”, the main justification usually is connected to democracy. “Citizenship allows you to take part in the elections”. “Citizenship allows you to be a full member of the community”, blah, blah, blah – like what T.H. Marshall wrote. But in fact, democracy is a very poor justification. There is abundant material on the percentage of working, living democracies in the world under which a certain percentage of the world’s population would live.

The majority of the world’s population will never live in a democracy. They have never been exposed to a working democracy. There is no kind of self-government for these billions of people, but there is always a citizenship. This fact that there is always a citizenship, to my mind, undermines if not destroys any cogent, convincing ways of utilizing democracy as a justifier for the perpetuation of this humiliating, blood-based aristocracy at the global level. This is because if you’re protecting democracy which is a mode of governing a minority of the world’s population, while you know that the concept you need in your mind in order to protect democracy – citizenship – actually is omnipresent, and thus very mature and functioning well in the absolute majority of states, which are far removed from your democratic ideal – then obviously we have plenty of inconsistencies to account for. This is also something that I tried to reflect in the book.

This works in practice through the ideal of a good citizen. So where do we get this meekness? Where do we get this absurd submission? This idea that you were born in a democracy, you will die in this democracy. And imagine that this democracy happens to be the Stalinist Soviet Union. In fact, it absolutely doesn’t matter what it happens to be. The only thing that matters is that if you suggest stepping out of the realm of this democracy, or whatever it is in practice as understood by your authority, you will be severely punished and you will be proclaimed as someone who is not a good citizen. Someone, who is not patriotic and who “does not fully belong”, who should be somehow controlled, if not deprived of free speech, if not removed from the polity entirely – exiled, locked in jail, or probably killed. In this sense, meekness is the main product of citizenship – which is of course helped a lot by the idea of national pride and belonging, in the sense that we pretend not to notice that there are plenty of minorities and plenty of those who cannot honestly share this ideal – is an essential part of the concept.

You show very powerfully the discrepancies between 1/5th of citizenships and 4/5ths of citizenships. But, maybe someone could ask if the problem really lies in the actual state or maybe the problem is the quality of states where 4/5ths of people live? Because you agree that if someone is born in the US, France, and many other countries, this might be a powerful, even equalizing tool, I would say, that helps people from…

So, if I can paraphrase your question, “Let them eat cake!” This is exactly what Marie Antoinette told the poor peasants who were starving. Usually blaming the majority is never a good starting point.

If you believe in citizenship, you subconsciously (or sometimes consciously, but then you’re not honest to yourself) engage in majority blaming. Somehow, the absolute majority of states in the world failed to produce a citizenship which is similar in its quality and appeal to the citizenship of the United States.

Or failed to produce a well-functioning state. 

Exactly. Everything is connected. 

But is the reason citizenship, or is it just a product of failed states? 

Citizenship and state are not as straightforwardly connected as it might seem, because of course states pretend that citizens exist in the territory and that the rest of the world is simply a terra nullius. But we know that in practice, this is not the case. One of the most poisonous and one of the most unfortunate aspects of contemporary citizenship is precisely that the status is always global, which means that if you are born an American, you’re always an American. In France, in South Africa, in Fiji, anywhere you go, you are always treated as an American, and the same applies to someone from Angola to someone from Algeria, which means that simple migration does not necessarily cure the deficiency of your legal status if you come from the wrong places. 

This is something that, of course, any kind of statist rhetoric cannot possibly see, because if you start speaking about failed states, if you start speaking about problems elsewhere, you deny that there is a possible discrepancy between life path as imagined of a concrete person who is born in the wrong place, and who might actually be interested in the world as his home – and why not as a human being? – compared with that state and what that government has in mind. 

Here the picture is both shortsighted and hiddenly racist. Why? Because when we speak about this statist approach, we presume that since the status is global, an American will be an American in Angola, but Angolans will never be welcomed to America, and an American will have the world for her playground while all those 4/5ths will stay where they are, unfortunately, in the horrible spaces. Then if we look at the map – say, in the Quality of Nationality Index – of where the best rights are distributed, the best statuses that correspond to those rights and vice versa, and those spaces where the liabilities are distributed under the guise of rights, we suddenly discover that the former colonies are, and the former Soviet space as well to some extent, most uniquely the places where the status of citizenship which are distributed are substandard. 

So, these are the places where you suffer as a result of what is glorified as something good in Western literatures. This suffering is always unacknowledged. I have just published a working paper entitled Victims of Citizenship, where I defend the basic conceptualization of the victims of this very construct, of this mental approach to stratifying the population of the world. To my mind, even though the majority of those victims are absolutely invisible in the context of citizenship discourse and citizenship analysis today, it is important to ask the question “how does it overlap with how empires functioned in their racist times?” 

Here, the overlap is quite clear. If you think about the British empire, just to take one example, (it could be also French, Dutch, or whatever empire comes to mind) your skin color was the determinant of your rights, especially in terms of migration, in terms of your localization, in terms of where you were allowed to settle and live your life, and basically determining all your life chances. This was the case, of course, while your allegiance was the same. At a certain point, these Empires started introducing stratified statuses, so you could be a citizen of the French Union, “un Français Africain”, and then your rights would be diminished compared with the white French, because essentially the status stratification was simply a proxy for race, just like the informal racism in force before. Now decolonization comes, so we proclaimed that we have walked 100,000 miles, mentally speaking, since the time of the empires, when racism was the core principle of state organization. One of your questions was about the glorious connection between the state and citizenship, that was the “glorious” racist connection.

So now racism is discarded. Officially, France is not racist anymore. Officially, the U.S. is not racist anymore. It’s not anymore required in order to be a good US citizen that you never even think about having sex with a person of so-called different race, or that you don’t “share a room at night” with someone who has not the same skin color as yours, as anti-miscegenation laws strictly required. It seems like state-sponsored, state-sanctified racism, which was the backbone of the US and plenty of other key states is now passé. 

Now there are plenty of “equal” states if we believe in equality of states as international law requires. Some of these states are formerly colonized places, others are former colonizers. And now start comparing the rights which the guys in former colonies got globally, based on their citizenship, compared with the rights which the former colonizers got globally, based on their super-citizenship. We come to the same equation of the racist world of empires. We come to the same starting point presuming that there are not so many white Angolans and knowing that Angolan citizenship is absolutely sub-standard in terms of the kind of rights that it gets to you around the world – especially compared with the citizenship Portugal distributes. It’s absolutely clear that the same racism, which was the main principle of imperial governance, is back with us through the principle of equality of states and through the ideology of the dignity of citizenship.

Contrast this with the statist approach, saying that Angolan’s “haven’t sorted out their troubles”, ignoring the past in terms of the evolution of the statuses of citizenship today and in the past, which every single inhabitant of the world inherits based on blood and ignoring the main racist principle of empire building.

We come to the point where it’s not clear to us what kind of ideal the idea of citizenship serves. In fact, once you start distilling that, it is clear that besides meekness and easy governability of populations in any political system, be it a democracy or a terrible authoritarian regime, besides censorship and humiliation of “bad citizens” who fail to follow the state-proclaimed dogmas, citizenship also serves a racist ideal. And once citizenship serves the racist ideal, there’s also interesting economics behind that, especially if we look at economic history. I’m a huge fan of Branko Milanovic’s work for instance, who has done a lot to explain the transformation over the last 200 years, when the world moved from class inequalities, predominantly, to spatialized inequalities. 

Now it’s not the kind of family you come from which is the main determinant of your life or your chances in life globally, it’s the space where you’re entitled to be that is that determinant. And Prof. Milanovic makes it absolutely clear with all the calculations and the historical data on inequalities.

Today it is actually better to be born homeless in Denmark than close to the king in many other places, if we simply presume that we can compare the other kind of life paths and life projects that people from different spaces can have. We know that we can, and that’s why all the boats cross the Mediterranean in one direction, not in two. To say that comparing the aspirations of a Ni-Vanuatu youth to those of a Swiss boy should not be done is a starting point unacceptable from the point of basic humanity and human dignity.  

If space is the core factor in determining the life chances of people, then the idea of the boundary becomes the core determinant of whether we are promoting equality or if we are taking the side of inequality in the world. The main function of citizenship is the boundary function. 

In this context, citizenship becomes the core tool of the preservation of the inequitable structure of the distribution of wealth and life chances in the world today. As I have shown this inequitable distribution is also racist and historically sexist and plays a negative role in a democracy and autocracy alike.

Let’s connect now your two areas of interest, citizenship and the EU law. Of course, I’m thinking of the EU citizenship. From my personal perspective as a Pole, our EU accession meant a drastic increase in value of my citizenship, which can be seen by the way in your ranking of citizenships. Do you think that the idea of EU citizenship is mitigating the negative sides of the ideas that you just presented, or the other way around, that this might be reinforcing it and making the concept even worse.

This is a superb question, and in fact it’s particularly interesting because it’s both. Because of course, as Pole you said you felt strongly this difference in terms of rights that you could derive from Polish citizenship before and after the accession to the EU. It’s true. And people immediately see it. We see that the number of marriages between Romanians and Italians and between Poles and Italians has fallen dramatically after the date of accession of the two countries to the EU. Why? It’s not any more necessary to sleep or to pretend to sleep with someone in order to upgrade your situation from second-rate status to first-rate status globally, because you got the same by virtue of the extension of the rights of EU citizenship to the nationals of Poland and Romania. We see that there is always a conscious awareness among the people of which status is second-rate and which is first-rate, and what can be derived from them in terms of rights.

So citizenship to the European Union, as long as it equalizes the access to rights across the territory of the Union, at least potentially, when applied to the nationals of all the member states, is a clear example of how baseless all the fears are that connect to opening up the borders, opening up rights, and opening up most importantly the idea of non-discrimination on the basis of nationality. Dogmatically, such opening up is virtually unthinkable at the national constitutional level in the absolute majority of states today, yet, it is constantly happening and offers very important lessons to us. 

When an American lawyer tells me, rightly, that the main function of the United States is to put Americans first I fully understand. Indeed, this is the main function and core self-understanding of any constitutional democracy. We now know based on the EU that it’s not necessarily unavoidable, let alone at all necessary as a function and that we can have an equitable living together, organized legally and politically in such a way, that bringing someone down is not one of the core functions of your state, which means that the sky hasn’t fallen down on us based on the understanding that if someone in Brussels does not discriminate against a Hungarian and a Pole, everybody in Brussels is worse off. This is simply not true. Yet, this is the sacred mantra at the base of the majority of the constitutional systems around the world – again, autocracies and democracies alike, since it does not matter for the practical operation of citizenship, which political system those in power have put in place for the better governability of the territory they control. The starting point of all the citizenship ideology, which presumes that the container society has to be locked in order to survive successfully, is flawed. The EU is a great example of why that is and illustrates vividly why this is the case, just by the way how the EU works in practice.

But then there is a second side to this coin, unfortunately, and that is rather than showing an alternative way, the citizenship of the European Union simply emerged precisely as that, as a citizenship. As a citizenship, it is indefensible as any other citizenship would be and it’s obscenely flawed in terms of the basic starting points of justice. This is because if we think of how we use citizenship’s functions in the global context, rather than offering an alternative way, once again, it’s simply a replication of any other super-citizenship in action. So as a European, you perpetuate the same kind of mindset, as is perpetuated and validated by US citizenship, for instance. And in fact, this is worse. It is worse because, in order to check the basic justice of the system, usually it’s necessary to look at, going back to the Bible, how a stranger is treated in that system.

So if you are a foreigner in New York and you have your green card and you suddenly got a job offer in California, you can move and you’re welcomed, and you will not be discriminated against because America is a democracy, and even if it’s a deeply federalized system, it still delivers on the basic promise of justice which it gives to those who are citizens or settled residents.

The European Union is not. If we think about the EU, it is probably the only example of a relatively mature constitutional system in the world today which absolutely fetishizes rights restrictions imposed on lawful non-citizen residents, which means that if you are an Indian working in the IT industry in Tallinn, you have zero rights, notwithstanding all the promises of all these blue card directives, etc., in practice, you don’t have a right to call the EU your home. The whole EU constitutional system, essentially, does not exist for you, as it is designed for “Europeans” only, which means that EU citizenship is radically different at the ethical and moral level from the citizenship of the United States, because EU citizenship automatically and irreversibly looks down at any foreigner as a non-comparable being to us “Europeans”, whose legal situation cannot be in any way measured through the principals and norms of European law. This means that it is great to have an EU internal market. It’s great to have a common working-living space as Oxana Golynker calls it, which applies to all EU citizens. But what is truly horrible in the EU is that basically the entirely of its legal system, territorial scope, core rights, and core principles of law, do not apply to third country nationals – foreigners. The EU’s sacred cow, which is free movement across the non-existent borders within the internal market and non-discrimination on the basis of nationality is framed in such a way that non-EU-citizens are rendered invisible. The shame of the EU’s blue flag with yellow stars is that it is a flag of a legal system that consciously and steeply excludes all the foreigners as its starting principle.

To me, EU citizenship, which is a great achievement and a great illustration of what is possible in terms of departing from the nationalist mantras plaguing so many lives, stands as a repugnant example of how not to organize living together, precisely because it’s a constant spitting on anyone who is deemed a foreigner. Because as a foreigner, you have zero claim to protection by the law, precisely the law that has made European citizenship and “borderless Europe” for those who are “in”. Here, the discrepancy between EU law on the one side, and Indian, Brazilian, Russian, American, and Mexican law on the other, is huge and it’s not in favor of the EU at all. Again, EU Treaties allow the member states to move on this point, but they haven’t so far. We can discuss why, but to me, EU citizenship is a constant reminder of the unused potential – of constantly bringing the foreigner down, by not allowing that person to dream of properly falling within the scope of the law that governs the lives of all Europeans. 

If I could ask the last question – a couple of days ago, we published an interview with Lea Ypi about her book, Free. This is a story about an Albanian girl who was coming of age and experiencing two ideas: Marxism and socialism, and liberalism. She wanted first two to write a book only about the ideas, but then she realized-

…that she herself was also important in this story.

Yes, exactly. Therefore I wanted to ask you about your motivation for writing this book. I could imagine that it could be a deeply personal motivation, it could also be a story of a Russian boy coming to Hungary or to other European countries and feeling the discrepancy of citizenships between him and his colleagues. Or maybe your inspiration was an ideational one – you wanted to show us that we are not as liberal democratic as we would like to think of ourselves?

My motivations were personal indeed. I was fortunate enough to count among my friends deeply impressive thinkers who would not be necessarily from the so-called “First World”. When I speak with my Iraqi, Indian, or Colombian friends, I hear a story of a deep engagement in the world of ideas, and second, a constant attack by all the first-world governments, because all these friends of mine are presumed to be second-rate human beings. This attack starts at every consulate, at the moment of every invitation to every conference, at every job interview. 

The second motivation was my deep suspicion of the state. This would absolutely be indistinguishable from those friends I’ve just cited, because the idea of reliance on the state and that it would help you, this kind of naive trust. 

I tried to make a small survey for myself of who are actually the most cited citizenship scholars. And it’s a disaster. Not that I believe that you are overwhelmingly hijacked by your background, but I do believe that this is sometimes of relevance. If we look at the most notable citizenship scholars, unless we cite those who specialize specifically in the Gulf, in Africa, etc., these are all people who trust and glorify the state. Aristotle was an exception. 

In my personal story, I was always told as a child that I lived in the Soviet Union and that the Soviet Union was forever. Exactly like the Nazi children would be, and what we are all told when we grow up. When the Soviet Union disappeared and we received the Soviet passport stamped “Russian Federation” without actually asking for it, that’s when the idea of Sovietness stopped for me, although I probably had difficulty embracing it to the full, because all this seemingly ephemeral documentation which pretends to guide our lives in fact, in the life stories of the majority of the population of the world, is an obstacle rather than a helping hand. Precisely calling a spade a spade has been the core motivation of problematizing citizenship rather than glorifying it and keep continuing to applaud it. 

All rights reserved

In collaboration with Hannah Vos

* Professor Dimitry Vladimirovich Kochenov leads the Rule of Law workgroup at the CEU Democracy Institute and teaches at the CEU Department of Legal Studies. His research focuses on the principles of law and the global context with a special emphasis on the rule of law, citizenship, and the enforcement of EU values. His first monograph, EU Enlargement and the Failure of Conditionality, was published in 2008. Before coming back to Budapest, where he completed his masters, he was a law professor at the University of Groningen. He has held numerous visiting fellowships, including at Princeton, Oxford, and NYU Law School. His last monograph, Citizenship, was published in 2019 by MIT Press.

Contact Us