Russia and Serbia have been aggressively supporting their compatriots abroad, with their legislative approach being quite similar, also reflecting a strongly Orthodox martyrdom narrative.
Both states use diaspora-related issues as the basis of foreign policy expansion and rational military aggression. In the 1980s, Belgrade spread a "Great Serbia" idea and that of the need to protect ethnic Serbs living abroad. Slovenia's attempt to obtain economic independence led to the Serbian military invasion and war. Later on, Croatia followed the same event scenario, according to the IGTDS think tank.
The Milošević regime started promoting Serbian nationalism, while the leader stated he would not allow humiliating the Serbian people. As a result, his political course led to the Balkan war.
The situation in Russia developed in a similar way. The fall of the Soviet Union and Russia's inability to move towards civilized capitalist development, as well as prevailing ambitions for the Russian elite’s political and economic expansion provoked promotion of the "Russian World" concept at the state level. In fact, it is an analogue of the "Great Serbia" idea.
The "Great Russia" project combines the military-political model of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire in the context of territorial expansion, strength-positioned geopolitical leadership, and confrontational relations with the West. Russia's political elite, arisen during the period of the Soviet Union and supporting a clear internationalism ideology, is now filling a nationalism niche. The Kremlin's attempts to position itself as fighter against fascism is a direct consequence of the policy of ultranationalism based on the territorial, rather than ethnic, principle. In fact, from the political science perspective, modern Russia is seen as a fascist state with the following features observed: radical imperialist political ideology; personality cult (Putin); militarism (ranks 3rd in the world’s defense expenses rating)l; totalitarism (176 out of 208 in the political and civil liberties rating); the idea of uniting and mobilizing the nation and state against enemies (USA, West, NATO); permanent war (the thesis "We can repeat it" in the context of WWII), and domination idea.
The Putin elite are clearly and distinctly transforming the mechanisms of public opinion consolidation into national grounds sounded like "Russians feel offended everywhere". The thesis of a threat to the Russians was at the heart of the annexation of Crimea, the occupation of South Ossetia, and Donbas. However, by positioning themselves as victims, Russians justify their external aggression and territorial expansion. For example, the incidents with Russians detained in the United States and Europe for espionage, cyberattacks, and other anti-state actions are positioned by Moscow as persecution of Russians and Russophobia (Anti-Russian sentiment).
It is important to emphasize that prior to World War II a narrative about Germans being oppressed as the reason for the country's problems was massively spread in Germany. The National Socialists of Germany, just like the modern Russian elite, proclaimed a national revival as the target; Russia presented this very idea as 'rising from the knees". Sacrificial mythology justifies Russia's nationalist policy and external aggression acts.
Serbia sticks to a similar policy with taking into account different military, diplomatic and financial capital. For example, on January 15, 2017, Belgrade threatened to use military force to protect the Serbs in Kosovo.
The situation of protection of compatriots by Belgrade and Moscow may see synergy in the form of granting Russian citizenship to Serbs living on territories beyond Belgrade's control. Thus, in 2011, the Serbs tried to get Russia's protection and security guarantees by applying for Russian passports. At that moment Moscow rejected the idea. However, there is a possibility that the Kremlin may reconsider the citizenship issue in the future to strengthen its position in the Balkans, especially, in the NATO expansion context.
Granting Russian citizenship to Serbs, for example, in Kosovo, will raise the question of Russia's protection of local citizens. A similar situation in South Ossetia in 2008 has already led to the occupation of the territory by Russian forces. Russia is actively granting passports in Transnistria and Donbas, thus laying the foundation for an official military invasion of the territories in case of political necessity.
On February 26, Vladimir Putin shared an idea of the Russian constitutional provision on protection Russian speakers worldwide. According to him, many people living abroad, regardless of ethnicity and nationality, are Russian (by place of birth or previous residence).Thus, Russia is trying to expand the compatriots' protection concept to the fullest to create pretext for invasions.
The Russian Federal Law on state policy regarding compatriots abroad gives an extremely broad definition of a "compatriot". According to the law, this may be a person who has "common features in language, history, cultural heritage, traditions and customs, including their descendants". Moreover, the compatriots abroad are both citizens of the Russian Federation permanently residing abroad, emigrants, and the ones who are citizens of another country but whose ancestors lived in the Soviet Union or even the Russian Empire. Thus, the compatriot concept includes an extremely wide list of those who may not even identify themselves with Russia.
Belgrade is following the similar approach to the diaspora. The Serbian Government Declaration proclaiming relations with countrymen and the diaspora implies not only citizens of Serbia, but also Serbs living in southeastern regions: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Hungary and Romania, regardless of their citizenship. The law rests diaspora work responsibility not only upon the government but the Serbian Orthodox Church as well. This approach coincides with Russia's policy where the Russian Orthodox Church is used for political expansion abroad and diaspora contacts.
Thus, the common approach of Russia and Serbia as of compatriot protection reflects the nationalism policies implemented in these countries, the think tank concludes.