Racist Attacks Threaten Multiculturalism in Russia

Skinheads often join extremist organizations in an overt act of rebellion against the establishment. Brod, from the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, says that one reason for the development of youth extremism over the last decade is the absence of anti-extremists laws. Brod said that racially motivated murders are barely recorded, despite the growth in such attacks in the first half of 2007.

Lev Gudkov of the Levada Centre said that 4 percent to 6 percent of adult citizens demonstrate strong fascist feelings, whereas among youth this figure reaches 15 percent — showing how racial intolerance has now become part of youth subculture.

Critics say that xenophobia and nationalism are exploited by parties to attract the electorate; anti-immigrant slogans are frequently used in pre-election campaigns. The Rodina (Motherland) Party is well-known for playing the anti-immigrant card in Moscow. Such parties have attempted to attract skinheads to join their ranks, but these alliances do not always prove fruitful as skinheads tend not to be willing to tow the party line.

As election time draws closer, right-wing parties will take advantage of the opportunity to promote nationalist ideas. Door-to-door campaigning will endorse racism in a similar fashion to the 2005 Rodina Party anti-immigrant promotional video: "Let Us Clean Our City of Trash."

George Bovt, editor of Profile magazine, voiced his suspicion that skinheads are being used to intimidate and frighten the public into sticking with the establishment at the polls. The Sova Center's report to the European Union suggests that the Russian political establishment has lately been aiming for a "controlled nationalism."

This is believable bearing in mind that one leader of the LDPR, nationalist party, campaigned for migrants to be evicted from the cities, and Caucasians not to be hired as drivers. Brod explained the state of affairs: "Before nationalists were marginal, today they are merging into the political milieu."

Vyashelvav Nikonov, a Duma deputy and member of the Public Chamber, explained that the ultimate result of slogans like "Russia for the Russians" is a threat to Russia's multiculturalism and its future as a civilized state.

Amnesty International has said that racism in Russian cities is spinning out of control. Despite the media coverage of some racist attacks and murders, the authorities are failing to crack down on the problem. Galina Kozhevnikova of Sova said, "No one wants to admit that the country, which defeated fascism, could possibly be a breeding ground for fascists."

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