03 March 2009

Juked Stats or a Clean Drop? Ethnic Violence in Russia, February 2009

SOVA Center has just released its report on hate crimes in Russia in February 2009. The results are somewhat of shocker. Last month, 26 people were victims of racist attacks; two of these victims died.

This represents a considerable decrease. For comparison, in January, 39 people were attacked, including fourteen murders. In February of 2008, 71 people were attacked and 18 of whom were killed.

SOVA explains that the sharp drop in hate crimes follows the arrests of a number of neo-Nazi groups over the winter; at the same time, they indicate some skepticism about these statistics, noting that in Moscow, for instance, not one racially-motivated attack has been reported since 12 February (that is, just after President Medvedev urged the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) to crack down on extremism).

Like any seasoned viewer of The Wire, I wonder if this month’s drop simply reflects “juking the stats.” And the subsequent question has to be: “How far up the pole does this go?”

Or maybe there really hasn’t been one racist crime in Moscow in the past three weeks. Maybe the MVD devised a method to sweep extremism off the streets in just one week. Maybe the skinheads simply decided to give up. I truly hope so. But those "maybes" are pretty huge.