Window on Eurasia: Xenophobia in Russia at an All-Time High, Experts Say
March 20 – Xenophobia and hate crimes against members of other ethnic groups,
after having declined in Russia between 2009 and 2012, have now risen to unprecedented
levels, the result of what many see as the Putin regime’s backing for ethnic
Russian pride, according to experts in Moscow.
yesterday’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Vera Alperovich says that “the outburst of
ethnic violence” in Russia “is visible even to the uninterested observer” and
that the main victims are migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus who
suffer both from organized attacks and individual violence (ej.ru/?a=note&id=24711).
other trends are especially worrisome, she writes: the growth in the number of
attacks by organized groups and increases in the number of attacks against
anyone with a dark skin, Jews, ethnic Chinese and Roma (gypsies), the latest
confirmation that xenophobia tends to spread from new targets to old ones,
especially if officials do not counter it.
was a record year in terms of the number of attacks against immigrants, she
says, and she recounts some of the most notorious cases, including the July
violence in Pugachev in Saratov oblast.What made that clash stand out is that ultra-right groups were not
involved; instead, the population appears to have acted more or less spontaneously.
local authorities kept the former away from the site of the violence, but what
that meant in the event, Alperovich continues, is that the ultra-right groups
sought to spark copycat ethnic violence elsewhere. As a result, the efforts of
the authorities to prevent things from getting worse had exactly the opposite
too, she says, the Pugachev case “not only emboldened the nationalists” but led
many candidates in last year’s elections to play “’the anti-immigrant card’”
and promote the idea that it was necessary to take addition steps to “struggle”
against the appearance of “’illegal’” migrants. Few who heard this
distinguished between the illegal and the legal ones.
campaign slogans were replicated by “changes in the ways the authorities”
behaved and those in turn emboldened the ultra-right to adopt more open and
aggressive actions against immigrants,” Alperovich says. Raids by Russian nationalists
against migrant quarters became a regular feature in Russian cities.
in this anti-immigrant wave gave the nationalists the opportunity to “strengthen
their ties with the police and the power structures.” The latter increasingly
often have asked ultra-nationalists to help them in their operations against
immigrants, a pattern that limits the likelihood that the police will rein in
danger was clearly seen inthe October
clashes in Moscow’s Biryulevo where the police did much less to contain the
radical nationalists than they had done earlier. As a result, what began as
simple fighting ended in “open pogroms.”
fall, she says, “the general level of ethnic xenophobia rose to record high
levels,” with “anti-immigrant discourse spreading more broadly than ever
before,” leading to demands for the imposition of a visa regime for
gastarbeiters and even for the expulsion of migrants already in Russia.
too encouraged the radical nationalists and allowed them to encourage more
radical element to their marches and demonstrations, as was the case during the
Russian March last fall. In earlier years, these events had attracted older but
more moderate people; this year, they attracted younger and more openly radical
and racist ones.
up, Alperovich says that during 2013, “the achievements of previous years [in
the fight against xenophobia] were gradually lost, and the problems [in this
year] intensified.” Blame for this lies solely on the regime which has signaled
that it will not mount any intense effort against xenophobic elements.
consequently, the problem feeds upon itself. The authorities’ increasingly tolerance
for or even exploitation of ethnic extremism makes it more acceptable and as it
becomes more acceptable, the authorities feel themselves pressed to be even
more tolerant of intolerance.
show this.Over the last year, the
percentage of residents of the Russian Federation who support the slogan “Russia
for the Russians” has risen from 56 percent to 66 percent, and the share of the
population who favors expelling immigrants rather than helping them adapt has
gone up from 64 percent to 73 percent,according to the Levada Center.
a result, Alperovich concludes, “the social base of ethnic nationalism in the
country continues to grow,” a trend which, in the absence of official efforts
to counter it, is creating a situation in which “outburst of xenophobic
attitudes will occur ever more frequently.”