Policy Memos

Xenophobia in Russia: Are the Young Driving It?

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Since the mid-1990s, human rights groups, scholars, government agencies, and the media in the Russian Federation have documented a rising wave of individual and group acts of violence, destruction, or intimidation targeting ethnic and/or religious “others.” In addition to massive brutality in Chechnya, Russia in recent years has witnessed skinhead riots and street raids by chain-and-rod wielding thugs; torchlight marches and attacks on mosques and synagogues; murders and beatings of foreign residents and diplomats; desecration of Jewish cemeteries; and intimidation of Chinese traders by whip-cracking Cossack gangs. In 2000, the Moscow Helsinki Group reported an average of 30 to 40 assaults a month by local gangs targeting darker-skinned individuals in Moscow alone. According to hate crime expert Aleksandr Tarasov, chair of the department of youth studies at the Phoenix Center for New Sociology and the Study of Practical Politics in Moscow, the number of skinheads in Russia grew from about 20,000 in 2001 to 50,000 in 2003, and it was projected to reach 80,000 by the end of 2005. [...]

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About the author

Professor of Political Science
San Diego State University