FORTRESS RUSSIA: An overview of the 2005 Russian Federation Survey on Immigration Attitudes and Ethnic Relations (Working Paper #139)

Mikhail A. Alexseev, San Diego State University

Abstract: Starting in 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 blacks 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 was projected to reach 80,000 by the end of 2005 (Kolesov 2004; Konygina 2004). After a spectacularly cruel murder of a 9-year old Tajik girl in St. Petersburg by a neofascist gang in February 2004, Russia’s then acting interior minister, Nurgaliev, acknowledged that “acute manifestations of extremism” against minorities had become a serious and growing trend posing a security threat to Russia (Rotkevich and Spirin 2004). The same concern was voiced by President Putin in his televised responses to questions from Russian citizens in late September 2005, monitored by this author. Whereas few people would openly express support for xenophobic brutality of this kind in a public opinion survey, anti-migrant violence does not happen in a social vacuum. This presentation summarizes the findings of an opinion survey specifically designed to take a measure of social climate as it pertains to immigration attitudes in the Russia. The survey was carried out throughout the Russian Federation in the fall of 2005 by the Levada Analytical Center (formerly, the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion) and, in Primorskii krai, by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory of the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East (IHAE) at the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The total number of respondents in the seven samples of the Levada Center was 4,080, drawn from multistage probability samples of the adult population of the Russian Federation (N=680), Moscow City (N=400), Moscow Oblast (N=400), Kranodar Krai (including the Republic of Adygea) (N=650), Volgograd Oblast (N=650), Orenburg Oblast (N=650) and the Republic of Tatarstan (N=650). The IHAE survey used a stratified regional probability sampling procedure to select 660 respondents, including a multistage stratified random selection of 402 respondents who participated in the author’s 2000 Primorskii krai survey also conducted by IHAE (Alexseev 2003; Alexseev and Hofstetter 2006). The entire survey included 4,740 respondents. Using survey items, I constructed measures of ethnoreligious hostility and some of its hypothetical correlates.

Working Paper #139 »