News / Europe

Russia’s Nationalists March to an Anti-Immigrant Drum

Russia’s Nationalists March to an Anti-Immigrant Drumi
November 06, 2013 10:46 PM
After the United States, Russia has the world’s second largest number of immigrant workers, officially estimated at 12 million. With 10 percent of all workers in Russia coming from Central Asia, VOA's James Brooke reports on mounting tensions between Russia’s historically Slavic population and the newcomers.
James Brooke
The holiday was National Unity Day, but the favorite chant was “Russia for Russians; Moscow for Muscovites!”
Instead of calls for unity among Russia’s diverse religions and peoples, demonstrators chanted: “Soon, soon, Moscow will be a white city.”
After the United States, Russia has the world’s second largest number of immigrant workers: 12 million. With 10 percent of all workers in Russia now from Central Asia, stresses are forming between Russia’s historically Slavic Christian population and the overwhelmingly Muslim newcomers.
The slogans and banners at Monday’s annual Russian March spoke of a backlash.
One banner warned: “A Mosque Today -- Jihad Tomorrow.” Another read: “Youth Against Tolerance.”
City authorities exiled the marchers to a working class suburb far from the city center. The night before, intruders destroyed 500 protest signs stored in a locked warehouse. Authorities hoped that rain and a heavy police presence would keep people away. Instead, thousands flowed out of metro stations to protest workers from Central Asia and from Russia’s Caucasus region.
Expel the 'foreigners'
Vladimir Tor, a nationalist leader, recalled Russia’s expulsion of Polish invaders 400 years ago.
"Our ancestors four centuries ago threw out the foreign occupants from our Kremlin,” he said. “God willing we can do the same in our century. We are speaking up for the celebration of the Russian nationalist interest, for a Russian national democratic government, for introducing a visa regime with Central Asian and Caucasian republics.”
Many charged that profit motives explain Moscow’s changing face. Ilya paused between leading a group of young men in black leather jackets in shouting chants.
“We are against illegal immigration,” he said. “And there needs to be changes and economic sanctions so that it won't be profitable for businesses to pay illegal immigrants salaries that are two to three times smaller than those for legal residents.”
Historically, Cossacks have patrolled Russia’s borders with the Muslim south. Sergei, a Cossack, says migrants undercut wages.
“All of the Asians and Caucasians and minority groups come here to work, because it's more beneficial for the government to pay them lower wages than to pay the Slavs," he said.  "However, we Slavs have a huge population -- and there's no work for us.”
Government officials say Russia’s unemployment rate is 5.3 percent.
A surge in Moscow’s Muslim population to about 2 million people has led some residents to feel a loss of control. In response, officials say that this year they have quadrupled deportation orders and increased fingerprinting of foreigners eightfold.
'Barbed Wire'
Two weeks ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a nationalist politician favored by the Kremlin, went so far as to call for imposing Chinese-style population controls on families in Russia’s Caucasus.
“They should be allowed to have the average amount of babies of a middle-class family -- two or one, that's all,” he said, speaking on Poedinok, a show on Russia 1, a state channel with the nation’s largest audience. “They should be fined for the third child. If they don't want to, we'll close it off. If they don't want to, we'll surround the territory with barbed wire. And if they don't want to, we'll close everything we can and let them stay there,” he continued.
In response, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a veteran human rights leader, told reporters that Zhirinovsky should be surrounded with barbed wire.
She said the Kremlin is following a dangerous strategy. “They are kindling strife between nationalities. It's a type of distraction. They are taking people's dissatisfaction with the government and changing it to dissatisfaction with people of other nationalities. It's really easy to see,” said Alexeyeva.
However, the young nationalists who danced in the rain Monday night to a skinhead band may be only the tip of a larger iceberg of Russian xenophobia.
In October, 81 percent of the Muscovites polled by the Levada Center, an independent Russian polling agency, said they would like to see Central Asian migrants workers deported.  The same poll showed 84 percent said they wanted the Kremlin to stop subsidizing the Caucasus.
Russia’s new, post-Soviet generation, seems to be growing up nationalist.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs