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Inside Story

Race riots: A wake-up call for Russia?

As ethnic violence returns to Moscow, we examine the root causes of the nation's rising anti-immigration sentiment.

Last Modified: 19 Oct 2013 11:17
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The murder of three people in Moscow has brought to the surface the increasing hatred felt towards immigrants in Russia.

The tendency to blame the migrants is misguided. If you look at the detentions after the riots, the Russian government detained 1,200 migrants ... on the outskirts of Moscow ... and more than 1,000 of them were documented. They had proper visas, and they were fine. So the problem is more complex than the illegal migration.

Innokenty Grekov, a programme associate on Hate Crimes at Human Rights First

Chanting "Russia for Russians", several thousand people began rioting in Moscow after an ethnic Russian was murdered in front of his girlfriend. 

The killing, blamed on a man from Azerbaijan, caused some of the worst race riots in years.

Police arrested more than 1,000 people - mostly migrants. Since then, two men, one Azeri and one Uzbek, have also been murdered.

In a recent survey, almost nine out of ten Russians said they want to limit immigration.

"The influx of labour migrants is an economic necessity. Russia does not have enough workforce. The Russian government delivers to the people, their incomes have been growing over the years and Russian residents do not seem willing to take manual hard labour ... In Moscow ... unemployment is zero, which means indeed that this influx of migrants is a necessity," Maria Lipman, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, says.

But according to a Ukrainian polling institute, 86 percent of the Russians questioned feel their government should limit the influx of foreign workers. Nine percent felt there was no need; and five percent felt it was hard to say.

But when asked if the government should actively support integration, 43 percent said 'yes', 45 percent said 'no'; and 12 percent said it was hard to say.

Immigration is seen by many as a threat to the stability of Russian society. The mayor of Moscow reportedly said that Moscow would be the world's safest city if there was no immigration, which includes, he says, the arrival from internal immigrants from inside Russia. 

Why are some Russian officials stoking xenophobia? What are the root causes of rising anti-immigration sentiment in Russia and what are Moscow's plans to do something about it?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests: Sergey Frolov, the deputy editor-in-chief of Trud newspaper; Maria Lipman, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center; and Innokenty Grekov, a programme associate on hate crimes at Human Rights First.

"This problem has three roots. First of all the illegal immigration, the second one is the high level of bribery among the russian and especially Moscow police. And the third one is [that] the people who came here to live and to work, they don't like to be adapted, to communicate with local people … They didn't even try to assimilate in Russia because normally these people live in legal flats and they live in very small circles together with their relatives and their friends and they try not to communicate with the people outside. That's why there is no understanding between each other."

Sergey Frolov, the deputy editor-in-chief of Trud newspaper

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Al Jazeera
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