Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Protests in Yakutsk Highlight Dangers of Kremlin Plan for 10 Million New Immigrants

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 19 – A spontaneous protest on Sunday by Yakutsk residents after reports that three Kyrgyz had raped a local girl and a 6,000-strong meeting on Monday at which republic officials who pledged to get to the bottom of this case highlight the dangers ahead if Moscow goes through with its plan to bring in 10 million additional gastarbeiters from abroad.

            Both the population and officials in Sakha are united against having move immigrants come in and are demanding far closer screening lest such crimes by them be repeated, an indication of just how much on edge people there are (novayagazeta.ru/news/2019/03/19/150123-v-yakutske-arestovali-obvinyaemogo-v-iznasilovanii-mestnoy-zhitelnitsy-migranta).

            Such attitudes are not limited to Sakha but the events there on Sunday have provoked an alarmed discussion in the Moscow media as to how immigrants can be handled in such a way that there will not be similar problems elsewhere, problems that some see as triggering a new wave of nationalism beyond the capacity of the regime to cope with (regnum.ru/news/2592708).

            Ildus Yarulin, a political scientist at Russia’s Far Eastern Federal Unversity says that the authorities in Sakha must pay more attention to such things because they are the tip of a much larger iceberg. In fact, he says, it is already clear that this conflict is at risk of exploding given that officials have put guards around the local mosque (regnum.ru/news/accidents/2592619.html).

            The Sakha authorities need to meet with the representatives of all the diasporas in that republic and try to determine why it is that they and the people of the region seem to be so hostile to one another. They need help, the scholar says, but “there are practically no experts on nationalities in the Far East” where they are desperately needed.

            But that problem is not limited to Russia east of the Urals, Yarulin says. “In Russia today to a great extent, no one is involved in the analysis of inter-ethnic relations.  Yes, polls are conducted, but their results are either not very high quality or they are not taken into account by the authorities.”

            Instead, he says, “the authorities which should be regulating these processes, are sticking their heads in the sand.” The result is what is taking place in Sakha and may easily occur elsewhere as well.

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