Friday, March 1, 2019

Muscovites More Negative about Minorities than are Other Russians, New Survey Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 28 – It is commonly assumed that the larger the city, the more tolerant its residents are to representatives of other groups, but a new survey in Russia finds that is not the case. Instead, Muscovites have more negative views toward ethnic minorities than do people living in smaller cities, and both have more negative views than do residents of village.

            Leokadiya Drobizheva, a senior specialist on ethnic relations at the Moscow Institute of Sociology, says that a recent survey shows that 66 percent of Muscovites have a negative view of Roma, while the figure for other large cities is 45 percent; for mid-sized ones, 46 percent; for small cities, 41 percent; and for villages, 44 percent.

            A similar pattern holds for other groups. Fifty-two percent of Muscovites have negative attitudes toward Chechens, while in other cities, the figures are 24 to 29 percent. Regarding Uzbeks, 30 percent of residents of the capital have negative views; and as for all those with “dark skins,” 40 percent of Muscovites and 13 to 19 percent of residents of other cities do.

            Drobizheva reported these figures during a discussion this week at the Moscow House of Nationalities under the chairmanship of Vladimir Zorin concerning the need for greater precision and standardization in the description of ethnic attitudes and conflicts (

            There are at least explanations for the figures the sociologist offered. First, the groups involved are nations whose representatives are more likely to come to Moscow and major cities than to smaller cities and especially to villages. Thus, Muscovites are more likely to have encountered them than are residents of the others.

            Second, Muscovites may feel freer to offer their real feelings to poll takers than are residents of other smaller population points.  People in the latter may be less willing to tell someone they don’t know how they really feel than are residents of the capital who have more experience with pollsters.

            And third, far more media coverage has been given to ethnic problems in the Russian capital than to analogous problems elsewhere. Moscow journalists are far more ready to describe clashes as ethnic than are their counterparts in smaller centers where media outlets are more ready to accept official claims that the conflicts aren’t ethnic but arise from other causes.

            Nonetheless the pattern is significant in two ways.  On the one hand, it calls into question the image of Muscovites as more enlightened and tolerant, an image residents of the capital cling to and that many elsewhere accept.  And on the other, it suggests that mixing people together won’t make them more tolerant but rather the reverse at least in the short term.    

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