Roman owes money to Albanian loan sharks.
Niko then works for Vlad. Roman says he hopes Vlad doesn't get mad that he is drinking at his bar instead of repaying him when you go there for a date. Is Vlad Albanian?
Niko has a eastern European accent. The game starts with radio Vladivostok. Vladivostok is in Russia. You can buy that Russian bear hat. You work with the Russian mob. You are being encouraged to identify the character as Russian.
"Your English is better than my Serbian." Could EASILY mean that he is trying not to belittle him as he speaks NO SERBIAN.
Also Albania and Serbia had a mini war, because Serbians were ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. It is not feasible for them to be working together. Roman even says in one random call (where he is not arranging a date, after I think the first Elizabetha mission) if you get bored go watch TV. The American stuff is so much better than what we have back home. Nico says back home we have all the American shows. Roman says back home you watch TV and your home gets bombed.
So maybe they are Serbian. Maybe not. And maybe Vlad is Albanian. Unlikely.
They encourage you to Russia-fy your character. Some one said he translated them to Serbian so I guess if they are literally speaking Serbian, then they really mustn't be Russian.
Nico has an email, one of the first, where he writes to someone back home. He states their poor English is much better than his. There is also foreign text that is not Cyrillic. That would mean neither Russian or Serbian. If you are to take everything literally.
So I assume I interpreted correctly the tone behind the statement made by Roman when he said Nico's English is better than his Serbian. That he's not a Serbian speaker.
Maybe they are Chechen. Or were fighting Chechen's.
Also Roman is a Russian name. Nico could be Nikolai. Like how Tom is Thomas. Also Brucie refers to 'red army sh*t' frequently.
Now listen here you incessant little sh*t...
I joke, but UT pretty much dissected your theory. The reason you're encouraged to "Russia-fy" Niko is because Hove Beach is predominately a Russian neighborhood and the Russian Shop sells - you guessed it - Russian-themed clothing. Your point about Niko's emails with his mother is actually among the best evidence there is that Niko is a Serb. The opening line of her first email is "Nadam se da si dobro i da si srecan u Americi" - "I hope you are well and happy in America," not in Russian but in Serbian. Why would Niko's mother be writing to him in Serbian if they weren't Serbian? Besides that, Bellic is definitely not a Russian name (rather misspelled and mispronounced Serbian; it should be Belić and pronounced the same way Darko and Florian's last names are).
Here's Niko explicitly saying "I ain't Russian" when the gun shop owner assumes he is, timestamped for your viewing pleasure.
Here's Niko explicitly telling Playboy X multiple times that he's not Russian and he's never been to Russia, timestamped for your viewing pleasure.
This has already been gone over. Roman could be a Russian name. Nikolai definitely is.
This game has a story. A very detailed one. The Lost identify as American and that commies are bad and get beaten up. Like when Niko has to rescue Vlad's daughter.
That is a plot point. There is the radio station WKTT.
Going in to a second amendment store and saying I AM RUSSIAN would ruin the plot.
Many people lie about their origins. It is very common for Chinese people to say they are Japanese when asked in the first 20 seconds of meeting someone where they are from, because of the preconceptions about China.
Nico saying he is not Russian doesn't mean sh*t when you look at the plot.