Staunton,November 4 – For most of its 14-year-long history, Russians referred to theNovember 4th holiday not as the Day of Unity but as the Day of the Skinhead,URA journalists Stanislav Zakharkin and Nurlan Gasymov say, because on thatdate, anti-immigrant actions took place across the country.
Thetwo journalists point to the murder of a Tajik girl in St. Petersburg in 2004,the ethnic conflicts in Kondopoga in 2006, the unsanctioned nationalist meetingin the Manezh in 2010, and the pogrom in Moscow’s Biryulevo district in 2013 toreinforce their point (ura.news/articles/1036276671).
But since the Crimean Anschluss in2014, the situation has changed. The number of Rusisan marches and otherskinhead actions has fallen dramatically both because the authorities havetaken a harsher line against them, Zakharkin and Gasymov say, and becausepublic attitudes have in fact shifted.
On the one hand, the annexation of Crimeahad the effect of splitting the Russian nationalists with some supporting theimperial action and others profoundly opposed and of causing Russians to focustheir anger not on immigrant communities inside Russia but against the West ingeneral and the US in particular in the name of the defense of “’the Russianworld.’”
Leonty Byzov, a sociologist at theAcademy of Sciences, says that his surveys have shown that it is precisely amongthe supporters of “national conservative values” that the Kremlin now has thegreatest support.The nationalists andthe Kremlin have the same “image of the enemy.”
If earlier, he says, they weredivided, with the nationalists focusing on immigrants and the Kremlin on theoutside world, now they are unified. “This variant is the most convenient for thepowers that be,” Byzov says. “The US is far from Russia; it is a virtual enemyand figures only in the media.”Immigrants close by have “ceased to be ‘national enemies.’”
EkaterinaSchulmann of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service agrees. Since2014, she says, hate crimes have fallen because the object of the hatred ofnationalists is in fact something they can’t attack directly.According to her research, representatives ofnational minorities are very much aware of this shift.
“Indigenousresidents of Russia have stopped viewing immigrants as an economic threat. “Todayimmigrants are considered as cheap labor. Unlike in the US and Europe, Russiansdo not consider that they are taking ‘our’ jobs.”The Russians have others to focus theirhatred on, at least for the time being.
Thisargument suggests that if there is any relaxation of tension between Moscow andthe West, that will lead to a revival of xenophobic attitudes among Russiansand new attacks on non-Russians, perhaps yet another reason why the Putinregime continues to ramp up tensions abroad even if it could benefit in otherways from a change in course.