At Russia Profile, Roland Oliphant writes about the coming celebration of National Unity Day and DPNI's application for its annual Russian March (which I covered last year here and here), touching specifically on the recent economic meltdown and the possible implications for migrant workers:
But so far, the looming credit crisis has had little impact on ordinary Russians, few of whom own shares or take out mortgages, and it has yet to translate into serious redundancies or pay cuts in the wider economy. Economic hardship of the kind that extremism thrives in is a threat, but it has not yet arrived.Karomat Sharipov of the group Tajik Migrant Laborers hits a similar note, according to Gazeta, fearing that the current economic crisis may increase the racist mood on Russian streets and wondering if migrants wouldn't be well served to organize their own political party as their concerns are being ignored by all political forces in Russia.
However, the economic slowdown could have more immediate consequence for the many immigrants – legal and illegal – who have stepped in to fill the gap in Russia’s shrinking work force. One industry that has been feeling the pain is the booming construction sector, which has a special significance for race relations.
“Until very recently there was discussion about the need to invite as many as twenty million foreign workers to compensate for the loss of labor,” said [Carnegie Center's Nikolai] Petrov. “But construction, which is the biggest industry in terms of migrants and illegal migrants, is facing very essential problems. Thousands of people who have their jobs there now find themselves without any means of support, and in a pretty hostile situation. And since many of them do not have any homes – they are housed on construction sites – many could find themselves homeless.”
There is considerable concern that this could result in an increase in the crime rate and a consequent racist backlash. Blaming immigrants for crime is a key part of nationalist rhetoric, and as the DPNI’s involvement suggests, many who march on November 4 will be motivated by opposition to immigration.
The prospects of an "ethnoparty" in Russia are slim, I think, but it is a provocative idea. The enduring problem of ethnic violence is beginning to spark something along the lines of a race-conscious movement, though it's hard to say where it might go and what it will mean for the status of Russian democracy (a problem I pondered at greater length here). It's still a case of wait-and-see.
Also on the note of the lives of migrants in Russia, polit.ru hosts a report from Demoscope on Chinese workers in Russia. Nothing too surprising--they think their earnings are fair, they spend their leisure time watching TV if they have any free time at all, those who stay in Russia for a long time tend to have a medium to good opinion of it... Here's the results on inter-ethnic relations:
The question pertains to infringements of personal safety and asks respondents, "Has it ever happened that a Russian has..." The three columns, from left to right, are respondents in Russia, Moscow, and the Russian Far East, respectively. The answers from top (light grey) to bottom (lavender) are:
- Hard to say (17%, 32%, ?)
- Disturbed the safety and dignity of your friends and family (14%, ?, 26%)
- Offended your children (unclear?)
- Committed arson against you (negligible?)
- Robbed you (21%, 17%, 25%)
- Beat you (12%, 16%, 9%)
- Threatened to beat you (24%, 22%, 22%)
- Insulted, cursed you (44%, 35%, 53%)
p.s. Yes, I know. The graph above is the worst way ever to present data. Not my fault.