Vienna, June 5 – Russian nationalists who have made no secret of the opposition to the appearance of non-Russian neighborhoods in Russian cities are now mapping where non-Russians live and distributing these maps on the Internet, a development likely to provoke more fear among the migrants and possibly violence against them in the future.
This week, the Volgograd branch of the xenophobic Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) posted on the web maps giving the location of non-Russian neighborhoods there and how these enclaves have grown since 1991. (For the maps, see www.volg-gsm.ru/~dpni/t5/inf/6.html; for comment on them, www.dpni.org/articles/analitika/8861/.)
The maps themselves are inflammatory, with the flags of the countries of origin emblazoned over entire sections of Volgograd, but the commentary DPNI provides about them is even more so. According to the site, the non-Russian areas are growing at what it says is an alarming rate for three reasons.
First, it says, the number of migrants continues to rise. Second, the migrants breed more frequently than do local Russians. And third, the non-Russians buy up the housing stock in particular neighborhoods, displacing the ethnic Russians who had been living there and creating ethnic enclaves.
In Volgograd, DPNI continues, there are now large numbers of Azerbaijanis and Chechens who are importing Islam with them as well as Armenians, Vietnamese and Chinese. Moreover, it says, there are two major Roma (gypsy) encampments which are “the sources of drugs” in Volgograd.
And DPNI warns that the rise of the non-Russian communities is creating a situation in which there will be a constant “reduction in the number of the Russian population in the entire city and oblast,” thus changing the face of what that anti-immigrant group says has always been a Russian city.
The appearance of such maps almost certainly reflects DPNI’s exploitation of what otherwise would be a positive development: the publication by cities across the country of guides to their non-Russian populations and community groups, something Volgograd itself has just done (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1220018.html).
That volume, with more than 400 pages, details the life of the more than 110 peoples and ethnic groups who now live in Volgograd, city officials told “Caucasus Knot.” And it is intended to promote inter-ethnic and inter-religious concord by providing officials and members of various groups with information about each other.
Volgograd mayor Roman Grebennikov is very proud of the publication, believing it will be “interesting and useful” for many. He said that the only shortcoming he sees in it is that the book was printed in such a small number of copies. He promised that his city would “correct” that in the near future.
Unfortunately, the maps the DPNI is distributing via the Internet to its xenophobic and often violent members are an example of the ways in which extremist groups can easily exploit otherwise useful enterprises. But there are two additional reasons why the DPNI maps are especially disturbing now.
On the one hand, clashes between radical nationalist skinheads and non-Russians are increasingly common in Russian cities. Earlier this week, there was a violent clash between Russian soccer fans and “people from the Caucasus,” including Armenians and Georgians according to most account (xeno.sova-center.ru/45A29F2/B2E5331).
As usual, the central media played down this event, and the militia blamed it on hooliganism rather than inter-ethnic hatred. But with maps like those the DPNI is encouraging its branches to produce, more such clashes are likely, and official assertions that ethnicity has nothing to do with the clashes become less and less plausible.
And on the other, new projections about the nature of the migrant mix in the future are adding fuel to the nationalist fires. This week, for example, experts at the Institute of Social-Economic Problems of Demography released figures that are certain to anger many extremist Russian nationalists (www.itartass.ur.ru/redakt/?id=1259).
According to these specialists, the demographic decline of the Russian nation means that Russia will have to attract ever more immigrants and from places where the people are less likely to speak Russian and have been acculturated to Russian standards, things that will make their integration into Russian life even more problematic.
“By 2020,” the Academy of Science demographers say, “45 percent of the immigrants in Russia will be from India, Africa and other Asian countries, 40 percent will be from Central Asia and Kazakhstan, 15 percent from the Caucasus, and [only] nine percent from European countries, Ukraine, and Belarus.”