Staunton, March 24 – The recent events in Yakutsk stand out because unlike elsewhere in Russia, they are “anti-immigrant in a pure form without any signs of racism,” because the Sakha and the Kyrgyz are of one race and speak closely related Turkic languages, Sergey Baymukhametov says.
Elsewhere in Russia, the commentator points out, local protests against immigrants are usually mixed with racism. Thus, Muscovites are upset by the arrival of Central Asians and Caucasians but not by that of Belarusians or Ukrainians (newizv.ru/news/society/24-03-2019/yakutskiy-sindrom-kogda-nechem-gorditsya-nado-unizhat-drugih).
This suggests two things, both of which are worrisome, Baymuhametov says. On the one hand, it almost certainly means that the crime the Kyrgyz migrant worker has been accused of committing was only an occasion for the protests and not the cause and that the authorities played up this case to redirect the anger of the population away from themselves.
And on the other, this demonstration of the ability of the authorities to do that suggests that as things deteriorate, officials elsewhere in Russia will be able to use the media and other means to channel the anger of the population against immigrants even of culturally and linguistically similar groups, like the Ukrainians and Belarusians for Russians.
To the extent that is true, the commentator suggests, that will mean that even if Moscow is able to draw most of the ten million from such closely related nations, such selection by itself will not be sufficient to avoid the spread of xenophobia and attacks on outsiders to those groups as well.
He cites the words of Levada Center sociologist Lev Gudkov: “People will not risk speaking out against the authorities. Instead, they will shift their anger to more suitable figures. That is a typical transference of aggression: if you have nothing to be proud of, you need to humiliate others.”