Moscow: a very dangerous and racist city?
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 8, 2008; Page A16
MOSCOW -- It was Valentine's Day, work was over, and Uvaido Shirinbekov, a Tajik carpenter, headed out for a night in the city. With Amid Nasratshoyev, a co-worker, he took the Metro from the Moscow suburb where the two lived. They planned to visit a cafe in the fashionable Chistiye Prudy neighborhood where Nasratshoyev's wife worked an evening shift.
But in Moscow, they were attacked by a gang of youths. Nasratshoyev, 27, was struck from behind on the head and fell dazed to the ground. As he stumbled to his feet, he said, Shirinbekov fell into his arms. "I've been stabbed," Shirinbekov said, according to his friend.
Five youths fled in the darkness. And Shirinbekov, 25, died on the street, just blocks from the pair's destination that night.
The killing of Shirinbekov, which remains under investigation, is part of a wave of racially motivated murders in Moscow that has put the city's migrant communities on edge, particularly people from Central Asia, according to human rights groups. Easily singled out because of their non-Slavic appearance, Central Asian workers have borne the brunt of the attacks by skinheads and neo-Nazis.
"People are living in fear," said Gavkhar Dzhurayeva of the Tajikistan Foundation in Moscow, a support group for citizens from that country. "We are advising people to be very careful. But they still have to travel to work in the morning and go home at night."
From January through March, 49 people have been killed in assaults by radical nationalists, 28 of them in the greater Moscow area, according to the Moscow Human Rights Bureau. There were 27 racist killings in Moscow in 2006 and 45 in 2007, according to the group. Most of the killings remain unsolved.
Twenty-three of the victims this year were from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan, all former Soviet republics that supply many of the city's markets and construction sites with cheap labor. There are an estimated 850,000 migrants from Central Asia living and working in Moscow, a city of more than 10 million, according to city officials.
Kyrgyz Ambassador Raimkul Attakurov, in a letter to Russia's ombudsman this year, labeled the attacks the "savage outrages of fascist monsters" and called on Russian authorities "to pay the most serious attention to this vile phenomenon."
Local and federal officials, including President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, have begun to express alarm about the rising violence. "Law enforcement bodies should take a tough stand, should not keep silent or retreat into the bushes," Medvedev said recently. "They must act and enforce legislation."
But some officials question the scale of the problem. "I am sure there is no growing wave of extremism," said Moscow prosecutor Yuri Syomin, speaking recently to the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. He said the number of hate crimes is falling "year by year."
It is difficult to obtain firm statistics on hate crimes. There are no official figures. Organizations such as the Moscow Human Rights Bureau and the Sova Center, another group that tracks hate crimes, assemble their statistics from media reports and by monitoring Web sites associated with extremists as well as police reports when they are available.
City officials say the methods of both groups are deeply flawed. "Even if one person is killed, it's a problem," said Alexei Alexandrov, head of Moscow's Committee for Inter-Regional Ties and Nationalities Policy. "But some human rights groups are counting killings of non-Russians by a Russian where the motive is unknown. It could be over a girl, over money."
Vladilen Bokov, another official with the city's nationalities committee, said that since December, only 10 killings in the greater Moscow area could be clearly identified as racially motivated.
Human rights groups say the problem has grown unchecked because of the failure of police and prosecutors to acknowledge and directly confront racist violence. According to Human Rights First, a U.S.-based advocacy group that studies hate crimes across North America and Europe, racist attacks in Russia are often prosecuted as simple acts of "hooliganism."
"Although adequate hate crime legislation exists, it has been ignored in the prosecution of the vast majority of hate crime cases," the organization said in a report this year. "Even when prosecuted, hate crime charges are not always vigorously pursued."
According to Semyon Charny of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, there are an estimated 70,000 skinheads in Russia. Promoting an overtly Nazi ideology, they espouse hatred for those who are not ethnic Russians, typically describing them as invaders stealing jobs and destroying Russian culture.
Also targeted are Russian citizens from the Far East and Caucasus, but attacks on groups such as Chechens have dropped because they began to arm themselves and fight back, according to Galina Kozhevnikova of the Sova Center.
Violent nationalists have become more organized in recent years, according to human rights groups. "If before, attacks were spontaneous and chaotic, now skinheads are going on hunts for victims," Charny said.
Kozhevnikova said the attacks are the most extreme expression of rising nationalism in Russian society. "The xenophobic mood in politics and society is quite high," she said, arguing that denunciation of migrants has entered mainstream discourse.
The Sova Center noted in a recent report, for example, that Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party candidate for president, expressed concern about the "lack of Russian faces" in some industries. A poll by the Levada Center in December found that 54 percent of those surveyed support the notion that Russia is a state for the Russian people, and that the influence of other ethnicities should be limited.
There are people of 168 different ethnicities living in Moscow, according to city officials.
Radical nationalists blame the rise in murders on increased pressure against their groups from authorities.
"They've driven large, legal movements underground," Dmitry Demushkin, leader of the Slavic Union, said in an interview with Newsweek's Russian edition. "Now the guys have taken out their knives."
Violent racists are threatening to intensify their attacks. "We'll see how these animals start baying when we start with explosives and shootings," read a comment on the Web site Russian Will after the Moscow city parliament held a session to discuss hate crimes.
Shirinbekov arrived in Moscow from Tajikistan in November. His family described him as a skilled carpenter. It was his second stint in the city, where he worked legally, sponsored by his employer. He and his younger brother, Khofiz, worked at the same site, and each month they wired cash to their family in rural Tajikistan.
"He was a quiet, lovely guy," Salim Silmonov, 38, Shirinbekov's cousin, said in an interview. "He didn't go out much. He talked about saving money so he could study here."
On Feb. 14, Nasratshoyev told his friend he was heading into the city. "He just suddenly decided to come along," Nasratshoyev said in an interview.
Two days later, Silmonov picked up Shirinbekov's body at a city morgue and took the coffin to the airport. Shirinbekov's brother accompanied it home. "Khofiz is never coming back," Silmonov said.
"His family is afraid to lose another son. We're all afraid, and we're all dreaming of going home."
Vladimir Putin(whose i admire by the way)and his government have dramatically failed to eradicate violence in Russia(espacially in Moscow which is highly crime ridden,full of skinheads,Neo-Nazis and other right-wing groups).Do they have hate-crime laws in Russia?That might have helped i think.
These kind of ***** feed the hatred that some people from the Caucasus, Far East or elsewhere harbour against ethnic Russians.I thought Chechens,Tatars,Inghusies,people from the Far East were Russians too.
Last edited by Afro-European; 04-08-2008 at 08:41 AM.
This is what happens when Communist ideology, Friendship of the peoples is demonised and discredited. The working class, and people in similar economic situations start to kill each other over the scraps the rich throw to them, when in fact they should be uniting to put pressure on their elite. People start to divide themselves by white-black, christian-islam, russian-caucasian, and then fascism begins to sweep in among all ethnic groups, leading to inter-ethnic violence & chaos.
From what I read, the situation sounds like it's getting out of control in Moscow. The police & city authorities have proven themselves not only extremely incompetent, but are falling to corruption and racism within their own ranks. If the authorities aren't willing to do the job, the people should. AntiFa is a rapidly growing movement, but unfortunately just as violent and ruthless as the fascists it seeks to exterminate. All normal, non-racists of every ethnicity should unite and march on the streets immediately, workers organisations should organise and step out. Most preferably without further violence, or else the politicians will get nervous, call in the OMON to crack some skulls, and either radicalise the situation further, or else institute a complete lockdown & blackout in Moscow.
Mind you it isn't the same situation everywhere in Russia, places where there have historically been many ethinticities are much more peacefull, and even some places like St.Petersburg are considerably more peacefull than Moscow. For this reason I doubt we'll have a Civil War any time soon
St.Petersburg is much more dangerous.. Nazis there are organized into a hierarchic structure..
I don't understand how can someone be Russian and support Nazism...it sounds stupid and self-hating almost as Jewish Nazi.Also I don't understand is how they can tell the difference between Chechen and Russian.
Seeing difference between a person of Slavic appeareance and "Caucasian" apperance is pretty easy. Also Russian accent can help to "indentify" where person was born.
Originally Posted by RWR
Says who? Why would skinhead organisation & hierarchy be any different in Piter than in other Russian cities? It's my home city, last time I been was 3-4 years ago, spent the winter there and didn't see a single neo-nazi, even in the not-so-rich Kalininsky rajon that I often frequented, although I did encounter racist views. Then I visited Moscow and ended up sitting across from a skinhead on the metro on my first day
Originally Posted by Snoshi
I'm sure the situation has gotten for the worse in the last few years as it has everywhere else, and I know there are neo-nazis there, as there have been some high-profile killings (such as of a 8-year Tadzik girl ), however I have friends there, and they tell me its not so bad; definitely more quiet than Moscow. There are also less Caucasians, and the ones that are there seem to not clump up into gangs as often. I think it's maybe just that Moscow has always been a huge, aggressive dump, so of course it inspires the same attitudes in its people
BTW, getting back to the article, problem of rising neo-nazism is not so much due to Putin and his idea of a strong Russia (an idea which should be uniting Russia's different peoples, not dividing them), but more due to the fact that people who were raised in the turbulent 90's are only now starting to grow up and become adult enough to go around and beat people up according to whatever extremist ideas poverty and hardship drove them to accept.
Never saw nazi skinhead in SPB or Moscow . In my opinion Moscow or SPB is less dengerous than Warsaw or the same dangerous as London .
Its not just the problem in Russia,but also in other countries across Europe.Its about peoples history and culture,for instance in my country there are a lot of neo-nazis but they don't do much **** (like killing or raping) cause there are also many antifascists who would most likely send a couple of hundred of them 6 feet under.Its about what kind of history and culture one has,and of course,the financial situation.I always tend to think that there would be much less racism if people had a better financial situation.However most neo-nazis over here have a solid financial situation.
Having lived in SPB, Moscow and Poland (Lodz), my opinion is that Moscow was worse (but not by far). As a "white guy", I never really had any problems but I often saw people of color the target of open hostility. I was in Riga, Latvia once, and while walking past the post office...The front door flies open and this black guy (african) comes flying out the front door, superman style. The must have tossed him like 10 feet. There were about 5 people in the door way screaming at him, and the dude ran away.
Dont know what he did, but it was funny at the time.
Last edited by Doublethinker; 04-08-2008 at 07:29 AM.
On the contrary, there was little friendship to speak of, the majority of the peoples living in the USSR hated each other's guts and as soon as the government stopped being so ruthless in supressing nationalism, the country fell apart.
Originally Posted by Flamming_Python
Only goes to show that this professed friendship and brotherhood was skin deep.
The best method for suppressing the population, was send Ukrainian-originated troops to control the population in Tajikistan, Tajiks - into The baltics, Lithuanians - into Moscow.
Hate and fear - that was the soul of the Soviet machine.
You don't need to divide someone who's already divided by nature.
Originally Posted by Flamming_Python
OMON will crack any skulls that dare to 'march in the street', be they fascist or antifascist.
Originally Posted by Flamming_Python
The government supports neither, they just want to be in control. And that requires a population with low level of political activity. That is why OMON always goes for the overkill, when dealing with any demonstrations.
Welcome to the land of totalitarian democracy.
We already do. Chechnya, Dagestan. Last time I checked these were the territories of the 'Russian federation', at least de jure.
Originally Posted by Flamming_Python
Yeah,thats the way i see it too,however there is also the factor of the century's old animosity between some ethnic groups or nationalities.
Originally Posted by Flamming_Python
Originally Posted by Doublethinker
What about the ones who do worship Hitler?There is a lot of them actually.
The two are dichotomous.
Moscow a dangerous and racist city? Please, there'd be more chance of you getting your ass handed to you in any number of Los Angeles suburbs.