Staunton, September 28 – Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia doesn’t face any problems with xenophobia even though large numbers of ethnic Russians have told Levada Center pollsters that they don’t like members of other groups and a majority favor organizing the country on the basis of “Russia for the Russians.”
“At the very least,” he said, “we do not encounter any problems in this regard” and such attitudes do not affect the government’s decision making and operations, an indication that the Kremlin isn’t interested in combatting such attitudes but rather accepts them and possibly even encourages them (newsru.com/russia/25sep2020/migrant.html).
This points to more problems ahead for ethnic minorities who currently form more than 25 percent of the population because it suggests that the regime backs ethnic Russian supremacy, something that will only encourage those who feel that way to behave worse, just as refusals to condemn white supremacy in the US have there.
But in the Russian case, as I.A. Kurganov warned in his classic The Nations of the USSR and the Russian Question (in Russian, Munich, 1961), such encouragement will have the effect of generating more anti-Russian nationalism and thus threaten the Moscow-centered country with either more repression to hold things together or disintegration.
The Levada Center asked Russians for their reactions to the idea of “Russia for the Russians” (levada.ru/2020/09/23/ksenofobiya-i-natsionalizm-2/). Fifty-one percent agreed or supported the idea, with 19 percent saying they agreed completely and 32 percent saying that it would not be a bad thing to strive for. Only 29 percent said it was “real fascism.”
These attitudes were reflected in three different ways:
· First, with regard to immigration, 73 percent of those polled said that immigration from abroad must be limited, the highest number saying that since mid-2017.
· Second, with regard to various ethnic groups, many ethnic Russians showed that they preferred greater social distance, with the largest percentage opposing any contact with Roma and the smallest with Jews.
· And third, with regard to the constitutional amendment declaring Russian to be the language of the state-forming people, many Russians are clearly prepared to go far further than new provision does.
Aleksandr Verkhovsky, the director of the SOVA Information and Analysis Center, says that Russian nationalists have wanted since the 1990s the constitution to specify that ethnic Russians are the state-forming nation of the country, are generally pleased with this step forward as they see it, but want to go further.
At the same time, many non-Russians, he continues, see what the Kremlin has done with the constitution as a clear signal that Moscow really supports the Russian nationalist position and are reacting in ways that one might expect. He and other experts say that this difference has introduced “confusion” among the citizenry about the relationship of citizenship and ethnicity.”