Window on Eurasia Shorts for July 20 – Part III
MEDVEDEV SAYS FIGHTING NEO-FASCISM A PRIORITY. On July 15, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new foreign policy concept paper which declared among other things that Moscow is committed to opposing “manifestations of neo-fascism, any forms of racial discrimination, aggressive nationalism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, attempts to rewrite history and to use it to exacerbate confrontations and revaunchism in international politics and to revise the results of World War II” (xeno.sova-center.ru/45A2A1E/B645216).
XENOPHOBIC GROUP MOVES TO EXPAND RUSSIAN OPERATIONS. The largest anti-immigrant group in Russia, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), announced on July 12 that it would move “from ‘radical nationalism’ to nationalism of ‘a European type,” a declaration that many human rights advocates believe will do little to change this xenophobic and sometimes violent group (xeno.sova-center.ru/45A29F2/B62F741). Instead, this statement appears to be a product of internal splits in the organization between those who seek to promote change via the Russian political system and those who believe in challenging that system from the outside.
SELF-DESCRIBED RUSSIAN FASCIST ATTACKS ARTIST WEARING DREADLOCKS. An as yet unidentified man attacked artist and comic book author Khikhus in Moscow on July 11 “most likely” because the latter wears his hair in dreadlocks. The attacker beat him with brass knuckles and told Khikhus that “We are fascists. We will kill you.” Khikhus was treated and released at a nearby hospital (xeno.sova-center.ru/6BA2468/6BB41EE/B62F5DB).
RUSSIANS WANT ORDER BUT PERPETUATE THE DISORDER AROUND THEM. Vladimir Boykov, the head of the Sociological Center of the Russian Academy of State Service said that polls show that radical changes in Russian life over the last year have shaken the moral foundations of society. “People want order but seeing disorder, they themselves continue it.” That is, they “don’t like bribes but give them to ease the resolution of their problems.” Unfortunately, he continued, there is no obvious way out of what is an increasingly vicious circle (www.rbcdaily.ru/2008/07/09/focus/359684). Recent polls conducted by the highly respected Levada Center on corruption and bribery in Russia over the last several years reinforces Boykov’s point (www.levada.ru/press/2008071500.html).
NORTH CAUCASUS YOUTH MORE ATTACHED TO NATIONALITY THAN TO RUSSIA. Only 53 to 65 percent of young people in the North Caucasus feel themselves to be citizens of the Russian Federation, according to a poll conducted by the Rostov Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, but 78 to 85 percent of them reportedly “feel proud of their nationality” (www.ajanskafkas.com/haber,19570,caucasian_youth_see_future_as_bleak.htm). Such attitudes, as well as widespread opposition there to ethnic intermarriage and living outside one’s own republic is likely to make any resolution of conflicts in that region far more difficult than either Russian or outside observers currently suggest.
MOSCOW FORCED TO CHANGE VENUES AT SOLOVKI SPORTS MEET. After a protest from the Memorial organization, Russia’s emergency ministry cancelled plans to stage an athletic competition on what had been the site of punishment cells within the Solovki GULAG complex. As the human rights group pointed out, “Russia is sufficiently large that one can organize a competition of any complexity without affecting places that are sacred for any of its citizens,” a principle that the Kremlin has not been willing to follow in the case of venues for the Sochi Olympics (grani.ru/Politics/Russia/m.138924.html).
PETERSBURG GROUP SAYS MOSCOW IMPOSING A MOSQUE THERE TO REDUCE CITY’S WESTERN TIES. According to the Ingria.info site, the Russian government is promoting “the Islamization of Petersburg” by insisting that the city allow the construction of a second mosque there (www.ingria.info/?lenta&news_action=show_news&news_id=4092). “The Asiatic essence of Muscovy requires the destruction on occupied lands of all that is connected with Western civilization,” the site, which backs independence for what is now northwestern Russia, continued. Moreover, it added, those who support the traditions of the northern Russian capital “consider such attempts to impose Asiatic ‘values’ [there] as acts of a conscious policy directed at the de-Europeanization of our land.”
FORMER KAZAN MAYOR TO REPRESENT RUSSIA AT OIC. President Dmitry Medvedev has named Kamil Iskhakov, who earlier served as mayor of Kazan and presidential plenipotentiary in the Russian Far East and has been deputy minister for regional development, to be Moscow’s permanent representative to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jidda, a move that highlights Russia’s push for full membership in that group and one that further elevates the importance of Tatarstan in Moscow’s relations with the Muslim world (www.interfax-religion.ru/islam/?act=news&div=25518).
RUSSIAN-IRANIAN RELIGIOUS COMMISSION CALLS FOR RESPECTING BELIEVERS’ RIGHTS. The Islam-Orthodoxy Commission, set up by the Russian and Iranian governments, issued a call during its July 16-17 meeting for the international community to respect the rights of believers. The head of the Iranian delegation, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rashshad, who heads the Tehran Institute for Research on Islamic Culture, added that “the international community should recognize religious rights as among the most basic,” a view he said Russian Orthodoxy shares. And he concluded that mankind’s move toward secularism over the last 400 years was now “happily being replaced today by a movement toward religion” (www.islamnews.ru/news-13227.html).