Nationalism in Russia – not for Marginals only

Posted on 04. November 2013

by Ivan Lavrentjev

ivan-lavrentjev-modifiedIt is mid-October. In a European megapolis thousands of people gather in the night in order to encourage the police to find a guy (a non-native, according to his appearance), who murdered a 25-year-old resident. This crowd becomes aggressive and the angry individuals are soon breaking shop windows. A scuffle between the police and demonstrators ends up with 380 people being arrested.

It is July in a small provincial town named after one revolutionary of the XVIII century. A young man killed another young man, both citizens of the same country, but the murderer belonging to an ethnic minority. The locals gather around the city council demanding the eviction of immigrants from the town. The authorities claim this conflict to be a regular one rather than based on any ethnic factors.

Stories like these could happen everywhere in Europe, but these took place in Russia. In the second case, the killer was a Chechen guy, who came from the partly autonomous Chechen Republic. It is often said that Russian laws do not really apply there and the locals (conservative Muslims) live according to their own rules. It is also often said that these migrants from the North Caucasus are still about to follow their habits when moving to Moscow or other cities.

Most of the Russian regions are funded from the federal budget and in 2011 Chechen residents received four times more money (per capita) if compared to the average Russian citizen.

The 4th of November is from 2005 onwards a national holiday in Russia called the Day of National Unity. The celebration was established in order to replace the day of the October Revolution, previously celebrated on 7th November. The only community who adopted this holiday were the Russian nationalists. Now they launch their rallies with slogans like “Russia for Russians” and Nazi salutes.

Several years ago Alexei Navalny, probably the most prominent protest figure of nowadays, participated in one of these nationalistic rallies. However, the last two years he completely refused to get involved and tried to “flirt” with some young liberals who finally brought Navalny his great 27% support at Moscow mayoral elections two months ago.

Nationalism is no longer a marginal destiny of suburbs. It has become a topic of numerous discussions on Facebook and other media held by leading intellectuals, journalists and activists. Some nationalist web sources like “Sputnik & Pogrom” are gaining more and more popularity among those who are interested in stories about Marine le Pen’s FN, translations of Wired and tend to think in Russian, but not in Soviet way. People like these are not about to beat immigrants from Caucasus and Central Asia on the streets, but they all expect a certain political force to vote for. Today there is no choice for them.

If the Russian authorities could afford such figure as Navalny to muster a party of supporters, the educated and prosperous ethnic Russians would give a great support to him (although one of the Navalny’s trials has just sentenced him to a probation period of five years banning him from any elections beforehand).

That is probably the only way the riots mentioned above would not become national-spread pogroms taking people’s lives away. However such a scenario would imply an exception to Putin’s rule. So, if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change