I’m happy to see that a nice discussion has developed around my piece on racism and xenophobia in Russia on Publius Pundit. I urge readers to join in and give their thoughts. Also I want to give special thanks to Alexei from The Russian Dilettante for giving the discussion further context and some rather erudite comments. Thanks Alexei!
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By Sean — 3 months ago
By Sean — 5 years ago
This week’s Russia Magazine column, “The Economic Spoils of the Biryulyovo Riot,” on the possible reiderstvo of the Pokrovskii fruit and vegetable warehouse.
Residents of Biryulyovo rioted for many reasons, but chief among them was that local officials and police provide protection to businesses, in this case, fruit and vegetable markets and warehouses that employ swaths of illegal migrants. “Markets and warehouses are always connected with a “krysha” (literally “roof” or police or political protection), and a “roof” is generally a police structure.” Kirill Shulika, the deputy chairman of the nationalist Democratic Choice Party told BBC Russian. “[The police] will not chop the head off the chicken that lays the golden egg.” Similarly, Mikhail Pashkin, the chairman of the police union coordinating committee, wrote on Ekho Moskvy, “Practically all dealings there are completely in cash. There are no inspections for the circulation of “black cash” (i.e. money unreported to tax authorities). The police don’t go there and less in the last few years when General [Aleksandr] Podol’nyi became district captain. All of this is possible first and foremost because, according to rumors, guys in the precinct “protect” (kryshuet’) the [Pokrovskii] warehouse.”
That krysha has now collapsed. The Pokrovskii warehouse was attacked by rioters, serving as a focal point for local rage against migrants and corruption. As a result, the warehouse has become a government target. General Podol’nyi has been sacked, immigration agents raided the warehouse arresting 1200 migrants, Russia’s consumer watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, has had the building shuttered for sanitation violations, and its manager Magomed Churilov and general director and minority owner Aliaskhaba Gadzhiev have been arrested for hiring illegal migrants. At the moment, Pokrovskii stands vacant.
To some, the attack, the closing of the market, and the arrest of its directors smells like a case of reiderstvo, or raiding. Reiderstvo occurs when an owner or operator of a business is arrested, and while he sits in prison, raiders take control of the company or property by forging documents and bribing officials. The raiders then quickly sell the property for a huge profit. According to Alena Ledeneva, what distinguishes reiderstvo under Putin from the 1990s is that the raiders tend to be government or police officials rather than independent businessmen or mobsters.
The closing and arrests associated with the Pokrovskii warehouse have sparked conspiracy theories that Shcherbakov’s murder, the riots, and the attack on the warehouse were organized by raiders. Such a conspiracy is farfetched, even ridiculous. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that raiders won’t take advantage of the situation. The Pokrovskii warehouse, and more specifically the land it sits on, has been coveted prizes for years.
By Sean — 5 years ago
This week’s Russia! Magazine column, “Mainstreaming Russian Nationalism,” was posted a day before the Levada Center released a poll on the popularity of the Russian March. The march is scheduled for Monday, on so-called Unity Day. According to the poll, support for the Russian March is growing: 40 percent of respondents support the idea in varying degrees. While such polls should always be taken with grains of salt, it does suggest that the idea of a rally in support for Russian rights is gradually gaining steam. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to include this survey in the article.
On 26 October about 5-10 youths of “Slavic appearance” attacked a Moscow-Dushanbe bound train as it sat at Ternovka station in Voronezh province. Yelling nationalist slogans, the gang smashed about 20 car windows with rocks. Passengers received minor injuries. “I can’t exactly say why a group of people attacked our train,” a source from the Tajik Railroad toldGazeta.ru. “It’s possible that it’s connected to the intensification of anti-migrant sentiment in the Russian Federation.”
This incident is the latest in a series of nationalist inspired attacks on migrants in Russia. While commentators sought to identify the reasons for the Biryulyovo race riot, little attention has been paid to the apparent increase in nationalist activity since the government’s anti-migrant campaign in early August. True, while many nationalist attacks are not connected to any organization (the Russian nationalist movement is variegated, decentralized and often spontaneous), there has been an uptick in organized activity. Indeed, two weeks prior to the Biryulyovo riot, the nationalist gangs Moscow Shield and Stop Drugs stormed a migrant dormitory in Moscow’s Kapotnya District. The raid, part of which you can view online, saw of youths roaming floor to floor wielding clubs and traumatic weapons to root out illegal migrants. But migrant raids are only one form of nationalist activity. The Sova Center, which monitors extremism, has recorded a number of incidents in which nationalists declared “white” only buses and trams, staging “people’s assemblies” to protest migrant crime, and individual physical attacks on non-Slavs. In its September report on racism and xenophobia, the Sova Center stated that “the public activities of the far-right are notably higher than in the summer.”
What is important about Russia’s far rights, though, isn’t just its increase in public activity. More telling is that this activism comes alongside a concerted effort to move nationalism into the political mainstream.