Material World: Xenophobia in Russia

Informative letter from Russia on the extent of nationalist, xenophobic and even fascist prejudices there.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union – a despotic empire that in many ways preserved the most reactionary traditions of tsarist Russia – the shameful phenomena of chauvinism and xenophobia not only did not disappear, but became even more deeply entrenched. There are a whole series of reasons for this

First of all, the so-called “democratic revolution” of August 1991 was neither democratic nor a revolution. The old state apparatus continued to exist. The previous ruling class – the nomenklatura or state bourgeoisie – remained in power and divided up state property among themselves, becoming its “legal” and openly private owner. At the same time, the old pseudo-left, pseudo-communist demagogy was thrown out as superfluous.

It is quite obvious that the “new” owners have no need of any human rights, freedom or democracy. On the contrary, the powers that be want “strict order” and a “firm hand” to safeguard their own security and that of their property. The ideologies most suitable for this purpose are nationalism, chauvinism and xenophobia.

Our criminal bosses have been more than successful in instilling these ideologies, especially in recent years. Officialdom and the church drum “patriotism” into people’s heads. Combined with the growth of social problems and the dirty war in Chechnya, all this yields extremely poisonous fruit. According to various sociological studies, democracy is an important basic value for only 10 – 15 percent of respondents. A very large part of the population, perhaps a majority, wants a dictatorship established in the country. Something like 80 percent of our fellow citizens suffer (to varying degrees) from racialist and nationalist prejudices, especially against people from the Caucasus and Central Asia as well as blacks and Jews. Over half of our people feel distrust, contempt and hatred for foreign countries – in particular, for the United States and Western Europe.

All this is very alarming. It is also very frightening that in a recent poll 41 percent described skinheads and other members of Nazi groups as patriots, guardians of order, people trying to solve real problems, or simply as fighters for the purity of the race. Only 19 percent had a categorically negative attitude to them.

Chauvinist, racialist, xenophobic and antisemitic literature is produced on a massive scale. It is on sale everywhere, even in kiosks at the State Duma. Can you imagine Nazi literature being sold today at the German parliament? No? It’s hard to imagine here too.

A couple of years ago I saw an unforgettable scene outside the main post office in Moscow. A stall with three piles of books, all luxury editions. On the right – Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Russian. On the left – a collection of the works of the Marquis de Sade. In the middle – an antisemitic book by the “great writer of the Russian land” Alexander Solzhenitsyn entitled Jews in the USSR and in the Russia of the Future – written, it appears, in 1968 but until now hidden from the wider public. An amazing spectacle!

Such things are going on in our country everywhere. I have the impression that this sort of propaganda is conducted purposefully and encouraged from above. Even newspapers that are traditionally considered “democratic” are becoming statist and conservative. However, there are no genuinely democratic media outlets in Russia.

Literally all the propaganda to which we are exposed, including that of the “opposition”, portrays reactionaries, great power nationalists and fascists as “left-wing”. They would have us believe that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation – full from top to bottom of people who talk about saving Russia by beating the “Yids” and “aliens” – is a communist or left socialist party. According to the means of mass disinformation, the fascist bloc “Homeland” (Rodina) is also supposed to consist of “leftists” of some sort.
There is and can be no such animal as a socialist, communist or leftist who is also a traditionalist, chauvinist, xenophobe, antisemite, racialist or nationalist. These are absolutely incompatible things!
The popular weekly Arguments and Facts recently featured (over two issues) an enormous interview with the fascist Ilya Glazunov, who went on and on about the Masonic Conspiracy and the Great Russian Empire. Without the tiniest critical commentary, of course. Perhaps this was an example of what Vyacheslav Kostikov (Yeltsin’s former press secretary), in another issue of the same magazine, calls “the rational and healthy Russian nationalism that we need.”

Even the politicians of the “liberal” Yabloko party – I have talked personally with a number of them – frankly describe themselves as Russian nationalists. When I saw fascists from Russian National Unity distributing antisemitic literature at a Yabloko event I asked the organizers why they allowed it. Their response to my objections was to call me an extremist and I was forced to leave. Such are our present-day “democrats.”

Vladimir Sirotin, Moscow (translated by Stefan)

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