Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Criminologist Outlines Sources of Xenophobia and Nationalism in Russia Today

Paul Goble

Staunton, December 28 – Yakov Gilinsky, one of Russia’s most distinguished criminologists has outlined the sources of xenophobia and nationalism behind the ethnic clashes this month in major Russian cities and discusses why the reactions of the powers that be thus far have been not only ineffective but counterproductive.
In a comment on this blog (crimpravo.ru/blog/616.html) that has been reproduced by the Polit.ru portal (www.polit.ru/dossie/2010/12/28/ghilinsky_about_nationalism.html), Gilinsky argues that there are five major “of the mass xenophobia and still limited nationalism (Nazism? Fascism?) in contemporary Russia.
The first of these causes, he suggests, are “the biological preconditions,” the differences in human appearance that have been the basis for humans at all times to make distinctions between “we” and “they,” “our own” and “the outsider.” With the development of civilization, these differences have come to matter less.
Indeed, Gilinsky says, “the more civilized the society, the more tolerant it is to ‘outsiders.” But “not all societies are sufficiently civilized and politically correct…” a formulation that suggests the Moscow criminologist believes that Russian society is among those that is not as far along as many others.
The second set of causes, the criminologist says, includes the specific “historical roots” of Russian nationalism. Russian fascism, he notes, has deep roots going back to tsarist times. And he quotes with approval Walter Lacquer’s observation that “there is not any doubt in in the upcoming years, the extreme right will play an important political role in Russia.”
The third causes are “ideological sources” like the Slavophiles, Karamzin and “many others.” “Of course, they were neither Nazis nor fascists! But the idea of national superiority, of Russian ‘uniqueness,’ of opposition to everything ‘Western,’ and so on could not but be used by their less attractive followers…”
The fourth, Gilinsky, says involve “the economic basis” of xenophobia and nationalism. On the one hand, many Russians currently live in extreme poverty, while on the other, the difference between them and the rich is greater than ever, patterns that have often given rise to xenophobic attitudes elsewhere.
Indeed, Gilinsky writes, “such an enormous divide between the poor majority and the super-rich minority is a basic factor producing crime and deviant behavior. Young people are the most active and the least well-off statum of society and thus an objective reserve of nationalism (neo-Nazism, neo-fascism) in conditions of unprecedented social-economic inequality.”
And fifth are the political preconditions Gilinsky has written about before. “In contemporary Russia,” he says, citing his earlier writings, “fascism fulfills at a minimum three functions.” First, “it serves as ‘a scarecrow’ for the regime in advance of the upcoming elections: either it’s us (VVP [Putin] or a successor) or the fascists.”
Second, people from the Caucasus and Central Asia serve as a perfect “’scapegoat’” for the powers that be who “are not capable of solving a single one of the social problems – poverty, housing, the military, education, medicine, science and so on” and who are please to have someone other than themselves that they can pin the blame on.
And third, Gilinsky continues, “the fascists are a social base, ‘a reserve of the main command’ in the struggle with ‘the orange revolution’” that frightens the current powers that be “to death.” Moreover, the powers that be view “’the fascists (Nazis) as sons of bitches. But thesy are our sons of bitches.’”
Tragically, the Moscow criminologist there, “there is nothing to be done” because any society which “begins with ‘drowning people in an outhouse” and in which ‘everyone hates everyone else’ (as a well-known psychologist put it during a December broadcast on Ekho Moskvy’)” is one where “it is difficult to count on positive moves forward.”
The reaction of the powers that be is highly “instructive,” Gilinsky says. “Let us reduce by half the core course in the senior classes of schools and in place of this day and night education people … in the spirit of patriotism!” That is especially problematic because “nationalist statements” and “patriotic slogans” are closely realited.
Such patriotism, he suggests, almost certainly will recall the well-known observation that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” And it will do little to educate all age groups in the population in “tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and internationalism” needed to make Russian society work. Indeed, it may do just the reverse, with all the tragic consequences thereof.

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