Staunton, Dec. 1 – Between 2013 and 2018, levels of racist and xenophobic behavior declined in Russia; but “beginning in 2018, we have noted a growth in both racism and xenophobia,” Lev Gudkov says, adding that “undoubtedly, government propaganda with its anti-Western, traditionalism and Russian superiority has played a role in this.”
That propaganda, the Levada Center sociologist says, has had the effect of making many with racist or xenophobic attitudes feel that they are free to express them even if what they do goes beyond the regime’s specific messages, including such things as refusing to rent or sell to non-Russians or non-Slavs (idelreal.org/a/31569601.html).
The regime’s propaganda makes many Russians feel that attitudes they had been careful not to express are now supported by the Kremlin and by the majority. Gudkov says. Political commentator Abbas Gallyamov agrees. He says that “the number of people who back the slogan ‘Russia for the Russians’ significantly exceeds the number who don’t.”
The former Putin speechwriter says that the growth of xenophobia in Russia is also connected with an increase in corruption, with both those who manifest racist or xenophobic attitudes and those who are victims of such attitudes feeling that the authorities for corrupt reasons are backing the one or the other.
Partially as a result of the regime’s apparent backing of these attitudes, popular support for Russian political institutions is continuing to fall, just one more example of the unintended consequences of the Kremlin’s actions and statements in the always sensitive issue of ethnic relations.