Sunday, April 7, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russian Xenophobes Increasingly Direct Their Anger at Muslims rather than at Jews, Moscow Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 7 – The “main enemy” of “xenophobically inclined Russians” is now the migrant worker from the Caucasus or Central Asia rather than the Jew, although “latent” hostility to the latter continues in Russian society, according to a new study prepared by an experts group assembled by the Eurasian Jewish Congress.

            And the rise of hatred toward migrants has had an important corollary among Russians, the report says. Because Israel is seen among Russians as a major opponent of “aggressive Islamism,” there has been little growth in what is sometimes called “’the new anti-Semitism’” with its criticism of Israel (; for the report itself, see

            At the same time, the study reported, “no less than eight percent” of the Russian population continue to view Jews as “among the main enemies” of their country, with this figure rising among those with overtly nationalistic views and among the followers of the KPRF and LDPR. And anti-Semitic themes are often found in the mass media.

In addition to being a regular part of ethnic Russian nationalist discourse, the authors of the report say, there has been a distinct rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and more rarely actions among Muslims of the Russian Federation and among migrant laborers there from Muslim countries.

“The problem of the growth of anti-Semitism in the Muslim community of Russia remains practically closed for study,” the report says, but indirect evidence suggests that it is being pushed by radical Islamists who see their mission as involving “’the struggle with Zionism.’”

The Russian government’s opposition to anti-Semitism has kept the number of anti-Semitic incidents low, the report continues, but sometimes government officials in the militia or elsewhere, lacking an understanding of how best to proceed, act in ways that “discredit the very idea” of fighting anti-Semitism and may even provoke more of it.

            Any anti-Semitism is a matter of concern, the report concludes, but what is especially worrisome in the Russian context is that the latent form could be transformed into a more openly displayed one in the event of a social, economic or political crisis and re-emerge as a major threat to the Jewish community.

            The report does not say, but studies of xenophobia elsewhere suggest, that a population animated by hatred against one group may find it especially easy to shift its anger toward another, especially if the latter is viewed by members of that population as a traditional enemy of their people or country.

            Consequently, the dramatic increases in xenophobic attitudes and actions among Russians against Muslims almost certainly could, under conditions of the kind of crises this study talks about, provoke a new wave of anti-Semitism however much the Russian government and rights activists may work against that outcome.

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