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Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Russian Government: More Dangerous than Skinheads

Blogger Paul Goble reveals new data showing that the Kremlin is a bigger threat to Russia's racial minorities than the skinheads. In the now-we've-seen-it-all department, Goble also documents two freakishly stupid Russian pundits making wildly disparate suggestions: One says America is going to disintegrate because it has Texas, and the other says Russia should get its own Texas.

Foreigners working in the Russian Federation are far from likely to be mistreated by government officials and employers than they are to be attacked by skinheads and other Russian nationalist groups, according to a poll of Tajiks now living in Tajikistan with direct experience in the past of work in Russia. Earlier this summer, Bashkirov and Partn pollsters surveyed 1500 adults in Tajikistan. The agency reported its results last Friday, and they were analyzed in an article in Novyye Izvestiya. Out of its initial sample, 59.2 percent said that either they personally and/or members of their families had traveled to the Russian Federation to seek employment. The roughly 900 who had were then asked whether they had encountered situations in which they or their family members were treated with a lack of respect.

More than half of these – 53.3 percent – said they had been treated badly by officials, particularly militiamen and immigration authorities. Slightly fewer said that they had been maltreated by their employers, many of whom, the Tajiks said, felt they could treat a foreigner less well than a Russian one. But far fewer Tajiks surveyed in this poll indicated that they had encountered “threats from nationalist elements” – only 11.5 percent – or physical abuse from those groups – 11.5 percent of the total. Only 23.9 percent said that they had not encountered any mistreatment or lack of respect from the Russians they encountered. Despite its limitations – the survey focused on only one nationality and on those with past rather than present experience – the findings of this poll are, as “Novyye izvestiya” has already suggested, almost certainly representative of Russian behavior towards non-Russian guest workers in general or at least those from Muslim countries.

Given that there are now five million or more of such workers in the Russian Federation – the exact numbers are a matter of intense political dispute -- these results suggest three general conclusions:

First, as many human rights activists have said in the past, Russian officials and especially Russian militiamen remain a serious threat to ethnic peace in the Russian Federation, despite the Kremlin’s repeated claims that social marginals rather than its own policies are to blame for current tensions.

Second, Russian nationalist groups, as odious and disturbing as the actions many of them often are, have not yet become as significant a generalized threat to all non-Russian groups inside the Russian Federation that some commentaries have suggested – at least as compared to what the Russian authorities themselves are doing.

And third, the bad experiences non-Russians continue to have with Russian officials Russian employers not only will make it more difficult for Moscow to attract new workers from neighboring states but also serve as yet another force driving the Russian Federation and these countries apart.

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