Staunton, September 18 – A new Levada Center survey showing that levels of hostility among Russians to non-Russians and immigrants have increased dramatically over the last two years has attracted attention and concern, but Aleksandr Verkhovsky of the SOVA Center says that what has taken place is simply a return pre-Crimea levels.
The Levada Center fund that the share of Russians hostile to non-Russians and immigrants has risen from 54 percent to 71 percent over the last two years and now approaches the levels found in 2012 and 2013 when the corresponding figures were 73 percent and 81 percent respectively (levada.ru/2019/09/18/monitoring-ksenofobskih-nastroenij-2/).
While some analysts are alarmed and even imply it was unprecedented (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2019/09/17/811442-ksenofobskie-nastroeniya), Verkhovsky argues what is going on is a shift from attention from foreign enemies (Ukraine) to domestic ones (non-Russians and immigrants) (nsn.fm/society/analitik-obyasnil-rost-ksenofobii-sredi-rossiyan).
To speak about a serious growth in xenophobia, he says, is “incorrect” because what has happened is simply a return to 2012 levels. That year was “exceptionally bad” and so this year is as well. Then domestic xenophobia declined “in connection with Ukrainian events and with the fact that the attention of citizens shifted” to foreign targets.
“This effect has exhausted itself, and we are returning to whence we came.”
Obviously, Verkhovsky continues, something needs to be done; but most of the measures taken or proposed are insufficient. Schools and the media can promote tolerance, but if Russians continue to see their political leaders act in xenophobic ways, they will have little incentive to change on their own.
“It seems to me,” the rights activist continues, such actions are more important than any words.
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