Monday, April 8, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Crime in Russia Isn’t Where Russians Think It Is

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 8 – The largest number of crimes per capita in the Russian Federation are in the Trans-Baikal region rather than in the North Caucasus republics or in Moscow, as many Russians believe. And the safest places at least with regard to ordinary crimes registered by the authorities include many of those same republics.

            That is just one of the conclusions that new data collected by the Russian Procuracy General and posted online at a new site, But both details on these general patterns and on a wide variety of other issues are possible, according to an article in on Saturday (

            Officials at the procuracy have been working on the site for two years and claim that their agency has less interest in falsifying crime data than do others in the pursuit of bureaucratic goals.  As a result, they suggest, figures offered on this site are significantly more accurate and reliable than those posted on the sites of other agencies.

            According to the site, there were 2,302,168 crimes committed in the Russian Federation that were registered with the authorities.  On a per capita basis, the most were committed in Trans-Baikal kray, followed by the Altay, Buryatiya, Sakhalin oblast, Primorsky kray, and Magadan oblast.

            At the other end of the scale, with the lowest number of crimes per capita, were the North Caucasus republics, Tyumen oblast, and Ryzan oblast, with Moscow situated, according to, “somewhere in the middle of the list.”

            On the one hand, of course, these figures reflect ordinary crimes rather than terrorist acts. And on the other, they show only crimes that are reported to the authorities.  In the North Caucasus, many people who are victims of crime do not trust the authorities enough to report that they have been victimized and use alternative methods to seek justice.

            Another reason for the lower crime rates in the North Caucasus, of course, is that the Muslim populations there on average drink less than do residents of predominantly Russian regions: the largest share of crimes committed while intoxicated was in Chelyabinsk, followed by Perm and Moscow oblast. The lowest in this regard were typically in non-Russian areas.

            On a per capita basis, the greatest number of murders was found in Tuva, followed by the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, and the Trans-Baikal; and the lowest was “however strange” in Moscow, followed by Stavropol kray and then Chechnya.

            The new site has a special section devoted to migrants, a particular concern of many Russians in the largest cities.  It showed that in 2012, citizens of other countries or those without citizenship at all committed 3.7 of all crimes carried out by men in the Russian and 2.2 percent of those committed by women.
            In Moscow, however, these figures were 22.5 percent for crimes by men and 15 percent for crimes by women. Approximately the same levels were found in the Moscow oblast, with slightly smaller percentages for migrant men and women in St. Petersburg, 9 percent and 3.7 percent respectively.

             These figures call into question many assumptions Russians often make, a point made by Andrey Babushkin, a member of the Presidential Human Rights and Civil Society Council of the Russian Federation to a meeting on migration organize by the Yabloko Party and the European Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (

                “Many middle-ranking officials in [the Russian] police really are sincerely convinced that the majority of crimes are committed by non-Slavs, although in Moscow, the share committed by them is between 15 and 23 percent,” Babushkin said.  But these assumptions have real consequences for the migrants.

            According to data he has assembled, Babushkin continued, “over the past year, the police in the capital checked persons of non-Slavic nationality approximately 4.5 million times, brought about 900,00 of them to police stations, and determined that about 300,000” should be referred to the Federal Migration Service.
            He said that such ethnic profiling had not produced impressive results as far as fighting crime is concerned, and as a result, Babushkin continued, he and his colleagues have succeeded in cutting the percentage of Moscow residents of non-Slavic nationality subject to such random checks from 90 percent of all such checks to only 15 to 20 percent.
            Unfortunately, Aleksandr Verkhovsky of the SOVA Analytic Center, told the same meeting, there is strong public support for singling out people from the Caucasus.  In the past, Russian nationalists mostly focused on restoring the empire; now, they are more “purely” ethnic nationalists and view people from the Caucasus as the enemy.
            They are less focused on the Tajiks and Uzbeks, he continued, although there is some evidence that many Russians refer to all non-Slavic Muslim peoples as Caucasians. And Larisa Kazakova from Irkutsk pointed out that in her region, Russian nationalists are focused less on people from the Caucasus than on immigrants from China.

No comments:

Post a Comment