Destinations Magazine

Riots in Russia: Dangerous Game

By Stizzard

IT HAD all the makings of a pogrom. On October 13th a mob of nationalists, joined by locals and pensioners in slippers, poured through the Moscow suburb of Biryulyovo, breaking shop windows, smashing up a vegetable market and chanting “Russia for Russians”. The cause of their anger was the murder of an ethnic Russian, allegedly by a Caucasian migrant.Xenophobia remains a potent force in Russia, made more seductive by a deep disconnection between society and the state. Vedomosti, a newspaper, wrote in an editorial that the main cause of the West Biryulyovo riot was not ethnic, but a combination of a “lack of a migration strategy, total corruption in the sphere of registration, migration service, police and oversight bodies.” For its part, the Kremlin has long played a double game with xenophobic attitudes. Officials give winking approval for rhetoric directed against foreigners and ethnic minorities even as the president, Vladimir Putin, talks of the dangers of unchecked nationalism implying that his rule is better than what might follow.Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most popular opposition leader, has repeatedly flirted with nationalism. As Mr Navalny campaigned for mayor of Moscow last summer, his supporters looked past such rhetoric and put their hopes in him as the one figure capable of taking on the Putin system. On October 16th an appeal court upheld…

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