Russian poll on nationalism and xenophobia produces worrying results

Russian Migrant Workers file photo

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – Henry Kirby in London – August 25, 2015)

More Russians than ever (41%) believe that illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries should be granted legal status in Russia and given the chance to assimilate, although 43% still want them to be expelled from the country.

According to a survey published by independent polling company Levada Center, nearly seven in 10 Russians believe the government should introduce measures to limit the arrival of migrants into the country.

While some areas showed signs of Russians becoming more tolerant in their approach to foreigners, many of the questions asked revealed a strong nationalistic and sometimes hostile undertone to respondents’ views of other nationalities.

32% of respondents said that they felt either hostility or irritation towards “natives of southern republics living in [their] city or district” – a euphemism for immigrants from either the Caucasus or Central Asia.

This figure was much lower than the high of 55% who expressed the same negative views towards southern immigrants in October 2013. Oddly, the lowest figure for these answers (28%) came in December 2008, only four months after the short-lived Russo-Georgian War.

The results of the poll included a nod to Russian exceptionalism in the 40% of respondents who believed that Russians are a “special people” – up from 33% 15 years ago.

More worrying is the 55% who had favourable views of the slogan “Russia for Russians”, and the 7% of respondents who favoured limiting the number of Jews who move to Russia.

Despite this, 64% of Russians perceived the word “nationalism” in a negative light, compared with the 20% who viewed it positively.