Staunton, October 13 – Russian governments since the 19th century have a rich tradition of “administered xenophobia,’” that is, of government promotion of hatred of particular groups. Under Nicholas II, the regime promoted antagonism toward Jews, something the USSR continued while adding hostility to the West, Igor Eidman says.
After 1991, the Russian sociologist says, “administered xenophobia” was overwhelmed by “spontaneous” or popular xenophobia, even though the state-sponsored kind never entirely disappeared, as witness Boris Yeltsin’s attacks on “’persons of Caucasus nationality’” (dw.com/ru/комментарий-монополия-кремля-на-рынке-ненависти/a-36030673).
Over the last three years, spontaneous popular xenophobia against immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia has declined, according to surveys, Eidman says, a trend that one can only welcome -- except for the fact that “xenophobia has not disappeared: it has simply changed direction from the southeast to the west” and increasingly reflects Kremlin efforts.
“Society in Putin’s Russia ever more recalls the Soviet one of the past. There is being established a brotherhood of peoples for show which stands against ‘the hostile world abroad.’ Only now, the role of internal outcasts is filled by homosexuals instead of Jews. Hatred of gays hasn’t weakened for they are associated with the ‘rotting West, and ‘Gayeurope.’”
In recent years, the sociologist continues, “the Kremlin has been able to subordinate xenophobia to its interests. Having monopolized ‘the market of hatred,’ the authorities harshly drive petty players out of it,” including groups like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI).”
And that is the bad news: “Having become part of government policy, xenophobia has only intensified. The level of hostility to people of another nationality … has reached 60 percent,” with “the main enemy of Russians” no longer traders from the south but rather “aggressive Yankees, Ukrainian ‘Banderites,’ or ‘Gayeuropeans.’”
As a result of Putin’s policies, “the negative energy of state xenophobia is directed not at migrants and representatives of national minorities but outside against the Western ‘enemy.’” Paradoxically, “having taken control over and limited anti-migrant attWitudes at home, the Kremlin is doing everything it can to exacerbate them in the West.”
“The Soviet Union tried to export the Bolshevik revolution to Europe,” Eidman says; but “the Putin powers that be are just as actively involved in the export of xenophobia” because in this way they are “striving to weaken their European opponents” by promoting something that is destructive for democratic countries.”
“In the current conflict with the West,” the sociologist says, “xenophobia and hatred of migrants has become the Kremlin’s weapon.”