Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What the Nations inside Russia Really Think of Each Other

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 7 – Residents of the Russian Federation have learned that the correct answer about interethnic relations in their country is that there are no real problems. Indeed, 80 percent of them -- a figure that rivals their declarations of support for Putin – say exactly that (nazaccent.ru/content/23096-bolee-80-rossiyan-osuzhdayut-proyavlenie-nepriyazni.html).

            But despite the fact that these figures are routinely trumpeted by Moscow and its supporters, “life itself,” to use a term many Russian outlets love, show that this figure is largely meaningless except as an expression of what the population currently believes its rulers want them to say.

            Not only are there frequent clashes between members of different ethnic groups but there are studies that prove popular attitudes more deeply than the surveys most often cited. One such survey involves ethnic attitudes in Tuva that has just been published by the regional “Tuvinskaya Pravda” (tuvapravda.ru/?q=content/simpatii-i-antipatii-kyzylchan).

            Last December, at the request of the Kyzyl mayor, the Tuvin Institute for Humanitarian and Applied Socio-Economic Research asked 300 respondents about their assessment of ethnic relations in the city, their feelings about representatives of other ethnic groups, and their understanding of why extremism may arise in relations among these groups.

            Not surprisingly, 89 percent of the sample described themselves as “tolerant” and said that inter-ethnic relations in the Tuvin capital are good. But more focused questions cast doubt on the reliability of those answers, with only 27 percent saying interethnic relations there are good and 28 percent more saying they are “more normal than tense.”

            At the same time, nearly one in four – 23 percent – said that relations are tense, with a third of those saying the groups are in conflict with one another. Asked if they felt hostile to members of other nationalities, 29 percent said “very rarely” but 19 percent said they did “sometimes’ and six percent said this was a constant feature of their lives.

            And when the sociologists probed even deeper, asking questions about social distance among ethnic groups, they found that Tuvins had an even less welcoming attitude toward others than their responses to the general question appear to suggest.

            Fifty-nine percent said they could have friends from other nationalities, 47 percent said they would accept them as colleagues at work, 38 percent as neighbors, 26 percent as marriage partners for family members, and 14 percent said they could welcome them as tourists.  “Only five percent did not want to see in their city any representative of other nationalities.”

            Asked to explain interethnic hostility and conflict, those queried said that some fear that outsiders take jobs from them (23 percent), believe that other nations “haven’t mastered elementary culture and don’t know how to behave,” and 17 percent said “they didn’t like the visage, manner, or character of people of other nationalities.”

            The main causes for the spread of extremism, the sample said according to “Tuvinskaya pravda,” include a low level of education (42 percent), unemployment among young people (32 percent), falling under the influence of outsiders (29 percent), and a lack of legal, moral and spiritual culture (27 percent).

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