Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Kondopoga-Like Violence Breaks Out in Irkutsk Region and Threatens to Spread

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 15 -- Ever since violence clashes between Russians and Chechens broke out in the Karelian city of Kondopoga in 2008, clashes that claimed at least two Russian lives, Russians have lived in fear in that similar conflicts could spread ( and

            Last summer, some in the Russian capital concluded that these fears are likely to be realized as clashes among various ethnic groups and between non-Russians and Russians increased in number in recent weeks, with one Moscow commentator even saying that today Moscow itself faces its own “Kondopoga” (

            This week, deadly violence broke out between ethnic Russian locals and Tajik immigrant workers in Salari, a city of some 10,000 in Irkutsk Oblast. Vera Zherdeva of Svobodnaya pressa has christened the clash “Kondopoga 2.0” and suggested increasing tensions exacerbated by the pandemic mean that it will likely occur elsewhere (

            According to one version of these events, she writes, some Tajiks showed unwanted interest in a local Russian girl, ten Russians came to her defense, and then about 15 immigrants responded. The resulting clash left two dead, five seriously wounded, and many nearby buildings burned out.

            The police have detained about ten people and have charged them with conspiracy to commit murder, a crime that could lead to a death sentence, Zherdeva says, if that punishment were still available in Russia. For the moment, siloviki are patrolling the town fearful that the violence will spread and that “Zalari will become a second Kondopoga.”

            “The tragedy in this god-forgotten place unfortunately is no accident but the logical result” of growing tensions between local populations and immigrants, tensions that have only grown over the course of the pandemic. To avoid disaster, the authorities say, officials can’t rely on force alone. They need to address the underlying problems.

            But in doing so, they argue, Moscow must avoid taking steps like introducing new covid restrictions without adequate explanations. Unless the powers that be avoid that, they will face more such clashes and Kondopogas will become a widespread phenomenon.


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