Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Russia is the ‘Most Racist Country’ in the World, Researcher Says

Paul Goble

Baku, January 30 – The author of a new book on “National Radicalism in Contemporary Russia – From Nationalism to Neo-Nazism” says that Russia is “today the most racist country in the world,” with many more skinheads and more hate crimes than anywhere else in the world.
On Monday, Vladimir Ilyushenko presented his book at a press conference in Moscow. Published by the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, it contains the results of his research into what he described as the rising tide of hate crimes throughout the country (
“Practically every day in various cities of Russia,” he said, murders rooted in racial hatred are taking place. In Russia there are more skinheads than in the rest of the world combined. Evidently, we today are the most racist country in the world,” with xenophobia increasing all the time.
According to Ilyushenko what is particularly worrisome is that the people who should be doing the most to combat such crimes – the militia – have “the highest percentage of xenophobic attitudes” of any group of the population, with 63 percent of them telling Levada Center pollsters that they do not like non-Russians.
In addition, the political scientist said, at the present time, more than 60 percent of the population support in varying degrees the slogan “Russia for the Russians,” a program that he suggested could lead to “the collapse of the country because the greatest threat to it comes from national and religious hatred.”
Ilyushenko pointed to several factors behind these attitudes. First, he said, “the destruction of the bearers of culture during Stalinist terror” had opened the door to a rise of “in essence a pseudo-religion of hatred and force.” And now, the followers of this “faith” attempt to cover it with Orthodoxy, even though Christianity opposes such ideas.
In his introduction of Ilyushenko to the press, Moscow Human Rights Bureau director Aleksandr Brod both provided support for Ilyushenko’s comments and qualified some of his remarks.
On the one hand, he said, during the first 25 days of January, there had been 25 hate crimes in the Russian Federation resulting in 14 deaths. Among the victims were Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turks, Kyrghyz, Daghestanis, and Armenians. And these losses continue the trend seen throughout 2007.
But on the other, he noted that there had been some positive signs that the authorities were beginning to move to contain and combat xenophobia. In Krasnodar, one of the most xenophobic places in the country in the past, officials had blocked efforts by anti-immigration groups to provoke a Kondopoga-like clash.
But despite that success, Brod argued, official claims that they are “doing everything possible” against xenophobic attacks are simply not true. They are not blocking such crimes or promoting tolerance, two steps which he indicated are critical if Russia is to escape its current problems.
Meanwhile, on the website, Yuri Mukhin, the editor of the radical newspaper “Duel’,” argued that Moscow’s much ballyhooed law “On combating extremist activities” is not intended to end them but rather allow the state to become “a fascist dictatorship.” (
Since its adoption in 2002, the law has been much discussed but seldom applied, in large measure he suggested because its Kremlin authors have been more concerned with projecting the image of active fighters against extremism than actually doing anything about it.
Indeed, Mukhin argues, combating extremism in any real sense appears never to have “come into their minds.”

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