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Ethnic violence is becoming widespread in Moscow

In the evening on April 22nd in Moscow at the Metro-station �Pushkinskaia�, a 17-year old student-Armenian, who lived in Moscow and studied at the Moscow University of Management has been killed. The student�s chest was severely wounded with a broken bottle, from which he subsequently died.

According to the Office of Public Prosecution, the murder occurred 4:47 pm. On the platform of the station �Pushkinskaia�, 12 young men were waiting for their friend. At this time, 6 to 7 teenagers arrived on a train from the station �Vykhno� and without provocation attacked them.

It is typical, that one month ago the Vice-President of the Union of Armenians of Russia, Gegam Chalatian, at a meeting with delegation of the Council of Europe noted the deterioration of interethnic relations and attitudes in Moscow. �If previously Caucasians were insulted and humiliated, they now have started to be murdered�, he declared.

How is it not sad, in the country which 60 years ago defeated fascism that the number of neo-nazis is increasing with menacing speed? It is aggravated by a poor social and economic situation.

1. The country�s leaders are continuing a policy, which was one of the causes for the disintegration of the USSR. All the state�s capital and administration is in Moscow. Russia now is similar to a person with an excessively big head, but a weak body and legs. As a result, Moscow grows at a huge rate whereas small cities, especially in the east, slowly die out. In the capital, there are new houses, new shops, new restaurants, and new entertainment is constantly under construction. For intensive development, plenty of labour is required.

2. Our economy is severely criminalized. In this country bribes are increasingly more important than laws. In such situation it is easier instead of having one Muscovite work in a place, to take three natives of Tajikistan, or let�s say Armenia. As a result, Muscovites - builders, drivers of transport, shop-assistants of small shops, have been superseded from the labour market for last decade. On the other hand, in the capital and other large cities of the country a great demand for migrant workers has appeared. Illegally working migrants cost much less money. Besides they are absolutely deprived of civil rights and resignedly carry out any orders of the employer. That�s why it is not favorable for this employer to legalize the work of migrants.

3. As a result, some ethnic communities in Moscow for last 10 years have increased to fulfill this demand ... The city which during the Soviet era had been closed for other citizens of the country, psychologically is not yet ready for such changes.

4. According to statistics, about 15 percent of Muscovites live below the poverty line, because they regularly pay taxes this is known, however, it is impossible to tell about illegal migrants. In the unfavorable areas of Moscow it is even higher. Perhaps, in no other region of the country there is such sharp economic inequality between areas. And these areas are not so close to each other. Naturally, people wonder, why they live so badly amongst the sparkling Moscow shops, new smart houses and expensive cars.

5. By estimations of our own and of western experts, our mass-media is playing an important role in spreading xenophobia and racist attitudes. Headlines on our newspapers and TV channels of the following kind are common: �crimes committed by two Tadjiks (or Armenian, or Chinese)�. As a result, the stereotype of �criminal� nationalities was created in a society.

6. Xenophobia, that is the fear of foreign people, is inherent to all people. The same natural desire to write off all our failures and blame it on enemies. External or internal ones - this is not important. Under Soviet authority it was dexterously used to justify the absence of goods in shops by intrigues of the world capitalism and Zionism. Nobody and nothing can unite people so quickly, as an external enemy. The point is, however, that this enemy can be found easily. The tired, badly dressed builder or the big-nosed, dark-haired trader from the market ideally suits this stereotype.

7. As experienced by several Western countries, xenophobic tendencies - like a flu virus - are always present in a society. The history of Germany, Italy and Spain - countries which have given the world enormous quantity of brilliant scientists, philosophers, composers, writers and artists - shows, how a society can come to an end when infected with nationalistic ideas. This does not happen in Great Britain, when the law on racial equality has been passed. A special Commission on racial equality with huge powers is created and in the budget of the country there is significant funding for the propagation of tolerance and respect of citizens towards people of all races and religions.

8. In contrast to other regions in Russia, Moscow is different. For the last few years, the government of the Russian Federation has only recently created the structure for supervising interethnic attitudes in the country. This structure is the department of the interethnic relations within the Ministry of Regional Development. However the Department is poorly funded, and it can only make recommendations. In the government of Moscow, interethnic attitudes are supervised by the Committee of inter-regional communications and national policy which has concentrated its work on supporting and developing culture and languages of national Diasporas.

So how does the absence of a state policy threaten the field of national relations in Russia? Only two years ago, we asked the vice-president of the Union of Armenians of Russia, and he said that this absence is leading to �beatings, but not to murders�. We also assigned this question to representatives of bodies of local authorities and leaders of ethnic organizations of the 15 regions in Russia. The result which we have received in these years is still of relevance.

Ashot Ayrapetyan

Center for Interethnic Cooperation

� 1993-2003

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