New polling shows a resurgence of xenophobia in Russia

Meduza

Xenophobia in Russia has grown by 12 percent in the past year, according to a new national survey by the Levada Center.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said they endorse banning the immigration of Roma into Russia — up 15 percent from a year earlier. The same attitude toward Chinese people grew from 15 to 31 percent, toward Vietnamese people from 12 to 26 percent, toward Central Asians from 19 to 25 percent, toward people from the Caucasus from 22 to 23 percent, toward Ukrainians from 8 to 17 percent, and toward Jews from 4 to 12 percent. This year and last year, slightly more than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) said they don’t support any kind of immigration bans based on nationality or ethnicity.

The number of people who said they support the ethno-nationalist slogan “Russia for Russians!” has nearly doubled in the past year, from 10 to 19 percent. On average, Russian cities with larger populations are more likely to support discriminatory hiring and renting practices against ethnic minorities. Moscow is leading the way here, with 63 percent of the city expressing “understanding” of or outright support for this kind of discrimination.

Does this mean Russia’s future is nationalistic?

Today’s level of xenophobia in Russia, according to the Levada Center, is still lower than in October 2013, just before Moscow’s relations with the West turned openly hostile (following the invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea). Alexander Verkhovsky, the director of the “Sova” human rights group, told Vedomosti that Russians seem to focus their anger and animosity on one target at a time, typically against either ethnic minorities or the West.

Rebounding xenophobia, Verkhovsky speculates, could be the consequence of diminished anti-Western rhetoric from the Kremlin. He also points out that Vladimir Putin has managed to remain a teflon president, avoiding the hatred directed at the Russian state that reigned in the 1990s.

The resurgence of xenophobia today might also indicate that Russians anticipate economic hardships and a scramble for increasingly scarce economic opportunities, says Verkhovsky.