Friday, February 10, 2017

Xenophobia and Intolerance in Russia Remain High and May Increase as Economy Gets Worse, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 10 – Xenophobia and ethnic intolerance remain far higher in Russia than in other countries and could easily explode in the near future, according to experts who call for dismissing the overly optimistic reports of some sociologists that because they focus on only one aspect of the problem suggest otherwise.

            Speaking at a roundtable this week on media and ethnicity, Vikor Shpirelman of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, cited Microsoft data showing that 32 percent of Russian Internet posts were infected by the language of hatred compared to only 14 percent for the world as a whole (

            That should cause everyone to be extremely skeptical of reports minimizing the problem or even suggesting that it no longer exists.  Iosif Diskin of the Social Chamber agreed as did ethnographer Dmitry Gromov who said that observed that some statements on Moscow TV talk shows should have brought charges of extremism but haven’t.

            In “Nezavisimaya gazeta” yesterday, the paper’s senior political reporter Ivan Rodin discussed one of the recent reports that some have cited to make overly optimistic comments and showed that a more careful reading of its contents would lead to conclusions diametrically opposite those some are making (

            The report in question is the annual survey by the Moscow Human Rights Bureau of aggressive xenophobia, radical nationalism and extremism. This year it concludes that these phenomena are “gradually becoming less common.”  But it warns that this trend is not yet “stable” and that it reflects largely the collapse of the Russian nationalist camp.

            Because Russian nationalists have become less active and influential in the wake of the annexation of Crimea and the wars in Syria and the Donbass, the report says, the numbers of incidents involving xenophobia, radical nationalism and extremism have fallen each of the last two years.

            But that trend is not necessarily true of other kinds of intolerance, the Moscow Human Rights Bureau says. In fact, its report says, “Islamist movements have become more active as a result of the efforts of ISIS … in the Caucasus and the Middle Volga” and the efforts of Russian law enforcement officials to counter them, which boost the numbers that the group counts.

            Thus, the report continues, while there has been progress in one sector – among organized Russian nationalist groups – there has not been progress in others; and “the nationalist protest potential [in Russia] has been maintained.” Indeed, it says, “in the future, the organs of power and the political elite must be prepared for new outbursts of activity given the crisis in the economy.”

            Two other articles this week make a similar point. One says that Russian hostility toward and even hatred of ethnic Ukrainians is on the rise (, and another says that popular hatred of other ethnic groups is too even if Russian nationalist organizations are weaker than they were (

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