Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Ethnically Based Crime in Russia Declines but Worries about Immigrants Grow

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 7 – Ethnically motivated crimes have fallen in Russia over the last year, the SOVA Information Analytic Center says, with the number of such attacks declining from 242 during the first six months of 2009 to 167 during the analogous period this year and the number of fatalities falling from 52 to 19.
SOVA deputy director Galina Kozhevnikova said that the decline reflected a greater willingness of law enforcement personnel to defend people from such attacks and that “if such work does not become systematic, then the number of crimes in this sphere will grow” in the future (
The most frequent targets of such nationalistically inspired crimes, she continued, were dark skinned people. In second place were representatives of youth subcultures. And in third place among these crimes were immigrants from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, whose numbers continue to grow.
The SOVA analyst said that radical nationalists are attempting “to create ‘a cult of the white hero,’” an effort she said that has helped them mobilize given that they have not as of today “developed a common concept. We are concerned, she added, that the killings could become a model for emulation.”
Kozhevnikova’s colleague, SOVA director Aleksandr Verkhovsky said that Russian officials had improved their work with crimes of this kind, but he said that “very often,” the courts hand out suspended sentences even when the crimes committed are extremely serious. Consequently, others thinking about such actions may not be dissuaded from carrying them out.
An additional reason for these concerns is media coverage not only about what some outlets call “the uncontrolled flood of migrants” into the country who bring with them, some writers say, disease, but also about the ways in which non-Russian groups are engaging in violence to establish their control over criminal activities in Russian cities.
This week, in “Delovoy Peterburg,” Mariya Tirskaya played to the first of these fears. She noted that the North Capital can expect an “uncontrolled” influx of migrants and that their arrival will have “a negative impact” on the epidemiological situation of St. Petersburg (
According to official figures, she says, during the first six months of this year, medical examinations of immigrants uncovered 1400 cases of syphilis, 634 of tuberculosis, and 157 cases of HIV infection. And those figures, she says, reflect “only Gastarbeiters who do not know about their diagnosis.”
Migrants who do, she says, “as a rule acquire forged papers” lest they be rejected. And Tirskaya adds that “according to statistics of the migration service, of the 150,000 people who received permission to work in St. Petersburg – every tenth “required medical attention – about 15,000 people in all.
The increase in the number of Gastarbeiters at a time when the number of jobs is not increasing, she continues, means that many of these people will not find work. And that, she suggests, will lead to an upsurge in the number of crimes they commit. In 2009, such crimes increased 11 percent from the year before.
As incendiary as this report is likely to be among certain Russian groups, another report concerning violence among Gastarbeiters in Moscow could prove to be even more explosive both because it suggests that the amount of ethnic violence in Russia is far greater than SOVA is reporting.
The current issue of “Novaya versiya” reports that immigrant workers from the various CIS countries “are dividing their spheres of influence in Moscow by means of mass armed confrontations,” that there have been “not less than 100” such clashes in 2010 alone, and that these have claimed 72 dead (
On the one hand, this figure almost certainly understates the number of fatalities because officials seldom count as victims those who die not at the scene but later. And on the other, officials typically don’t count such non-Russian on non-Russian violence as ethnic crime. If they did, the 72 deaths in these clashes would be almost four times as great as the total SOVA offers.

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