Thursday, January 21, 2016

Economic Crisis Putting Russia at Risk of New Wave of Xenophobic Attacks, Brod Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 21 – Many Russians now suffering from sharp declines in their standard of living or even unemployment may direct their anger at migrants and representatives of non-Russian nationalities, according to Aleksandr Brod, director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights.

            The recent beating of an ethnic Kumyk from Daghestan on a regional train near Moscow by ten men armed with baseball bats is an example of what could happen, Brod says, although he points out that such attacks so far at least appear relatively rare according to Russian government statistics (

            “Undoubtedly,” the human rights activist says, “one must search for in this incident among other things an ethnic component because the youths were looking for representatives and attacked precisely them, according to witnesses.” One needs to ask, Brod continues, why there were no guards on the trains given the threat of extremist activity.

            He says that he does “not exclude the possibility” that this attack was in fact carried out by “some radical youth group” or that it will be followed by others given the tendency of people to want to identify some other group as being responsible for their own problems.  All too often, such objects of attention and attack can be “migrants and representatives of national minorities.”

            Consequently, even though the numbers of such attacks remain relatively small up to now, there is a very real danger that “an outburst of radical nationalism and xenophobia has again become possible.”

            After Vladimir Putin seized Crimea and invaded Ukraine, many Russians redirected their anger from migrants and minorities toward Ukrainians. But now that Moscow is carrying out a new charm offensive about Ukrainians, it is all too likely they will again focus on the traditional objects of their anger -- especially as the economic situation has become much worse.

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