10 December 2009

Russia for Russians?

The slogan "Russia for Russians" is normally associated with political groups, which the media describes as extreme right-wing and xenophobic. After all, by the virtue of being an empire, Russia is multiethnic, and my being Russo-Georgian is a case in point. Yet, unlike most contemporary European inverted societies with an imperial heritage, Russia is officially guided by the majority-based Slavic traditions and a broader European culture, by and large.

In other words, it's still okay to say "Merry Christmas!" in public.

The results of the most recent 20-23-Nov-2009 study conducted by the independent Levada center and published in Gazeta.ru, are somewhat telling about Russian citizens' stance on this subject. 32% of Russians, indeed, associate the slogan with fascism. 36%, however, believe that the government should "reasonably" adhere to this idea. 18% support it in its entirety -- this number is up 3% since last October.

Sociologists argue that, in the very least, fewer and fewer people ignore this issue: 9% of respondents were not interested in the question, in comparison to 12% last year, while 5% were undecided, in contrast to 6% in the same period. Specific questions provide a better picture, yet: 61% of Russian citizens believes that the government must "limit the migrant flow" -- up 9% from the previous year. The number of those who negatively view migrants from the former USSR also rose by 4% this year.

At the same time, it is important to note that in October 2008, only 25% considered "Russia for Russians" fascistic, as compared to this year's 32%. The latter is up a whopping 14% since 2003. Likewise, the number of reasonable supporters -- 36% -- is down from 42%.

Overall, human rights activists describe these latest statistics as generally healthy social polarization, because the question had become the focus of an open public discussion.

Even so, the data may be read in another way too. The total number of citizens, who support the dominant culture in the Russian Federation, is 54%. This unquestionable majority substantially exceeds those opposed to "Russia for Russians" or, at least, its negative connotation. Without a doubt, this majority has been affected by a number of factors, including the widely promoted Putin-Medvedev demographic program, news reports about the losing battle to hold onto the Russian Far East or the Islamification of Western Europe, and simply witnessing the rising number of Central Asian guest workers on city streets.

And, in contrast to the majorities of the West, this 54% likely won't stay silent.

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