Florence, December 13 – Rising unemployment, cuts in the size of the military, drug abuse and alcoholism, corruption, and increasing attacks on ethnic minorities “have created [in Russia] a very favorable basis for the development of fascism,” according to one of the leading foreign policy commentators in Azerbaijan.
Indeed, the situation is so dire and Russia is so “pregnant with fascism,” Vafa Guluzade said yesterday, that ethnic Azerbaijanis – and presumably members of other groups from other post-Soviet states – now resident in the Russian Federation should “leave there before it is too late” (1news.az/politics/20081212122453929.html).
Guluzade, who earlier served as Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s Arabic translator and as the late Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev’s national security advisor, said that the situation in Russia today resembles the one in Germany in 1933 which brought Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to power there.
“God forbid that Russia will repeat the fate of fascist Germany,” he continued, a danger that could prove threatening to a large number of states given Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. As a result, he said, the entire world should be paying close attention to what is taking place in the Russian Federation now.
“The present leadership of Russia has led its people into poverty,” the Azerbaijani analyst added. “In a week, the losses of Russia have amounted to 20 billion dollars and lower prices for oil will only make the situation worse.” And Moscow may seek a way out for itself by “searching for enemies among “the former Soviet republics.”
Such a search for enemies will lead in the first instance to more attacks against members of these ethnic communities who are now living and working in Russia, Guluzade said. And consequently, he issued a call to “our Azerbaijanis who are living in Russia to leave before it is too late.”
“Bad days are ahead in Russia,” he continued, and “the Russian revolt will be pitiless and cruel.” Indeed, so dangerous is the situation now that Guluzade said he “would suggest to the former Soviet republics to help Russia get out of this crisis because if it does not then the fascists will come to power there, and this would be a tragedy for all of us.”
The beheading of a 20-year-old Tajik worker near Moscow a week ago, an action for which a hitherto unknown group – the “Military Organization of Russian Nationalists” --has taken responsibility, has called attention to the more than 250 attacks on ethnic minorities over the first ten months of this year (grani.ru/Society/Xenophobia/Skinhead/m.145284.html).
And that attack, which has been criticized by the Tajik embassy in Moscow and led to the formation of a special investigative group among the Russian force structures, may represent a new stage in this kind of violence because its organizers say they plan to attack Russian officials if the latter do not reduce the number of Central Asians and Caucasians working in Russia.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently promised to cut the quota for the arrival of such workers in half in 2009, and polls suggest there is widespread popular support for reducing the number of new arrivals although not for the expulsion of those already living in the Russian Federation.
But there are three additional aspects to the current case and the situation it highlights. First, some Russian officials investigating the attack have suggested it may have nothing to do with the Russian nationalists but be the product of “criminal” activities within the Tajik diaspora, a view many Russian nationalists will read as meaning the authorities are on their side.
Second, rising unemployment among guest workers in Russia will have an almost immediate and potentially destabilizing impact on the countries of the former Soviet space. In many of them, transfer payments from their nationals who have gone to work in Russia provide a significant portion of the incomes of many within their home countries.
And third, Guluzade’s warning that guest workers in Russia are likely to be among the first attacked carries with it the implicit suggestion that Moscow might attack another former Soviet republic, given the boost the Russian authorities got among the Russian population for invading Georgia.