Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Non-Russian Diasporas Angered by Moscow’s Failure to Protect Them

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 20 – The leaders of 90 non-Russian communities in Moscow denounced the city’s leaders for failing to protect their members from racist violence and warned that ethnic Russians could face similar attacks in non-Russian regions and countries if officials in Moscow do not take decisive action soon.
As a result of a rising tide of attacks against and murders of non-Russians living in Moscow as well as a protest last week by the Kyrgyz government about what it said were threats to its diplomats there, the city government hosted a meeting on Monday to outline its efforts to protect all the capital’s residents.
But if officials expected the meeting to go smoothly – and they almost certainly did not, given that Mayor Yuri Luzhkov was supposed to take part but did not show up – they were quickly disabused, with leader after leader of the various diasporas denouncing Moscow for its failures.
Some said that they were convinced that the city’s law enforcement bodies were too inclined to dismiss attacks on non-Russians as simple hooliganism rather than a former of xenophobia and that the courts were unwilling to punish those who attack non-Russians.
Among the most outspoken was Soyun Sadykov, the president of the National Cultural Autonomy of Azerbaijanis of Russia. In remarks published both in Moscow and in Baku, Sadykov said that “in the past year alone,” 50 Azerbaijanis, 30 Georgians and more than 100 Uzbeks and Tajiks had been killed by Russian nationalists.
He continued by observing that the Russian judicial system is riddled with corruption and that “nationalists are to be found among the militia officers and bureaucrats. Otherwise, the Azerbaijani leader asked rhetorically, how can one explain why the militia does not seem able to find the murders?
And Sadykov concluded that if this wave of murders does not stop, people in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan had already declared that they would take revenge against Russians living in their home republics ( and
Other diaspora heads echoed his remarks. But the remarks of city officials and the reporting in both Moscow and the non-Russian capitals this session generated were even more instructive. One official, for example, suggested that things would get better if the city established “a city service of ethno-conflictology,” hardly a short-term solution.
And Lt. Gen. Vladimir Pronin, the commander of the city’s militia, made two comments, each of which helps to explain why things have deteriorated as far as they have. On the one hand, he said, most of those engaged in such attacks are hooligans rather than nationalists, precisely the kind of denial diaspora leaders complained about.
On the other, he said, most crimes are committed by migrants, but migrants from rural Russia rather than from non-Russian countries, a point that Russian officials from Vladimir Putin on down have not been willing to draw the necessary conclusions from (
Were such officials to insist on that rather than play to the crowd by blaming non-Russians as both they and nationalist websites like do on a daily basis, the number of crimes against diaspora representatives – more than 5,000 in the last year alone – would almost certainly be lower.
Meanwhile, in reaction to the diaspora complaints, “Izvestiya” yesterday reported that Russian officials have told Western firms on a confidential basis not to give Asians or Africans positions in their Moscow offices because the city cannot guarantee the safety of such employees or their families, thus confirming the city’s impotence.
In Central Asia, the media continued to feature articles about Russian violence against Muslims ( and publish stories about the upward trend of such violence over the last decade and more
And in Azerbaijan, the press gave prominent coverage to the remarks of Sadykov in particular and to the problems of non-Russian and especially Muslim immigrants in Moscow as well as other Russian cities ( and to the growing fear and anger of the diasporas (
Thus, a meeting called to try to calm the situation and assure both diasporas and their governments and peoples at home that things are getting better or at least soon will has had just the opposite effect, highlighting the extent of the problem and Moscow’s failure to do much about it.
That in turn means that Moscow as a city will find it ever more difficult to attract and hold the non-Russian guest workers it needs and that Moscow as the capital of the Russian Federation will face ever greater obstacles in maintaining good relationships with the countries from which they come.

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