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Russian authorities versus xenophobia

August 27, 2012, 16:25 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Federal and regional authorities are concerned over a continuous growth of xenophobia and the number of interethnic strife crimes in Russia. The experts believe that the problem of nationalism in the country can be settled, but the scope of measures is needed for this purpose. President Vladimir Putin has formed a special agency, which will tackle interethnic tensions, and the Moscow authorities are implementing a program for making the image of migrant more human.

The reports about clashes and even murders out of interethnic strife make a substantial part of Russian criminal reports. Violent actions with the motives of interethnic hatred and racism are reported annually in more than 40 Russian regions, the analytical centre Sova reported. The majority of similar offences are reported in the biggest cities.

The experts of the centre noted that from the beginning of this year ten people were killed and 109 people were injured as a result of violent acts of racism in Russia. Moscow remains the flashpoint of violence (one person killed, 35 people injured) along with the Moscow Region (one person killed, 17 people injured) and St. Petersburg (one person killed and 18 people wounded). Representatives of youth and informal groups, natives of Central Asia, black people and natives of the Caucasus are attacked most frequently.

From the beginning of 2012, 47 guilty verdicts for the propaganda of xenophobia were handed down against 67 people in 33 Russian regions.

Vladimir Putin has set up the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations, which held its first meeting last Friday. The president said at the meeting that the council should become a rostrum, where current problems in the relations between various peoples of the country will be discussed openly with the participation of the opposition.

Putin primarily shouldered responsibility for interethnic tensions on local authorities. “Corruption, the biased attitude of representatives of the state authorities, their inability to ensure justice, protect the rights of people give the breeding ground for interethnic tensions, and it is directly profitable for someone to turn the indignation of people over the concrete fact of injustice in an interethnic conflict,” he stated.

The Levada Centre surveys actually showed that there is the following interdependence: the weaker people are feeling towards the bureaucrats and their arbitrariness, the stronger the collective fury on migrants is. “The indignation over rotating beacons and the discontent with migrants is not just a coincidence,” the Ogonek magazine quoted sociologist Alexei Levinson as saying. “There is an invisible, but firm connection between them...Our surveys showed that as long as the hopes appeared that the society can crack down the arbitrariness of bureaucracy and its fears became obvious, the claims to migrants got deeply in the background,” he noted.

The president came back to the pledges, which he gave during his presidential campaign. He instructed to develop the Strategy of State National Policy in the Russian Federation, introduce a compulsory exam in Russian language, Russian history, the basics of the Russian legislation for labor migrants, except for highly qualified specialists.

Meanwhile, Moscow begins to fulfill the program “for the support to positive and friendly interethnic relations,” which the mayor had approved back in the previous year. The Moscow Mayor’s Office is ready to spend over ten million rubles for billboards, promos, radio reports and leaflets against xenophobia and allocated 100 million rubles for the whole program this year alone.

Social advertising is seeking “to build up interethnic dialogue, combat extremism, xenophobia, racial and religious intolerance.” All this advertising will be made in the branded style with the common slogan. The textbooks for schoolchildren are planned to publish, an ethnic village is to be created at the Kuzminki recreation park and about 20 video clips about labor migrants in Moscow are to be filmed under the foresaid program.

The marketing consultants noted that the image of migrant should be made more human in order to dispel the stereotypes. “The migrant should get his name, face and history,” the Izvestia daily quoted member of the Guild of Experts in Marketing Nickolas Caureau as saying. “The image of a Polish plumber, who is a handsome and smiling guy and is ready to help, is taken as the image of migrant for Central Europe. The doctor of physico-mathematical sciences from Ukraine that should work as a housemaid became the image of migrant in the Czech Republic,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, scientific fellow from the Russian Institute of Culture Ivan Grinko believes that the social advertising as it is cannot make the Muscovites more tolerant.

“Moscow needs the lessons of ethnic-cultural education, ethnic-cultural media and a museum,” the expert explained.

According to the estimates of experts, no less than one million migrants live in Moscow. They are mainly newcomers from the CIS states. The police reported that the migrants committed about a half of all crimes, which had been solved in Moscow from the beginning of the year. The growth of heinous crimes involving the migrants, including rapes, was reported as well.

The Moscow authorities have been seeking to encourage the sympathies to the migrants among the Muscovites for several years. They are trying to create special organizations, spending millions for various concepts and films about the friendship of peoples. Meanwhile, the city cannot cope with the inflow of illegal migrants, and no one is aware of their exact number.

Russian experts believe that the problem of nationalism can be settled in the country, but the scope of measures will be needed for this purpose. According to specialists, the work should be long and active, efficient results can be expected only in this case.

The cultivation of tolerance among young people from the school years is particularly named as the way of struggle against xenophobia. Head of the Public Chamber Committee for Interethnic Relations and Freedom of Conscience Nikolai Svanidze believes that a separate subject for teaching tolerance to children should be introduced at the schools. This measure will make it possible to raise “a tolerant generation”, the expert noted. Most public and political figures share the opinion that a healthy interethnic situation can be achieved not only through the qualified making of the textbooks in history and social sciences, but also the propaganda in the mass media and the Internet.

Moscow, Augast 27