A week ago, two ethnic Russians were killed in a restaurant fight with Chechens in the northwestern town of Kondopoga, Republic of Karelia. The deaths triggered riots and demands to deport all Caucasus people from the town.
Reading Russian blogs now is a little like walking through a minefield: ethnic tensions in Kondopoga have revealed a highly charged segment of the blogosphere, with a fair number of bloggers seemingly favoring most radical measures against Russia's non-Slavic minorities and immigrants, including their physical elimination. But Russia is huge and so is its blogosphere (LJ-sphere, to be precise): tolerance isn't rare there, and nor are common sense and sense of humor.
Moscow-based gallery owner and once notorious political consultant Marat Guelman (LJ user galerist) outlines potential political consequences of the situation and offers a long-term solution to the crisis:
Can't get Karelia out of my mind. Chechens are citizens of Russia, so it has nothing to do with illegal immigration. To declare Karelia “free from the natives of the southern federal district” is to make the first and significant step toward the breakup of the country. A quick breakup, with the nearest election as its catalyst. This is on the one hand.
On the other hand, this and other conflicts do have an ethnic component. To pretend that this isn't so is to pass the “realpolitik” into the hands of the most radicalized Nazi.
Who suffers most from all this today? Perhaps, the non-criminal, decent people from the ethnic Caucasians. And perhaps it's they who should lead the resistance to their criminal co-tribesmen. Ethnic communities do have to cooperate with cops and others. Their survival is at stake. […]
vbenedict: Hasn't it occurred to you that non-criminal, decent ethnic Russians are suffering from it, too?
galerist: Everyone's suffering, but [ethnic non-Russians suffer] the most. They are afraid to go out into the street because of how they look.
livancheg: May I remind you WHO has been [killed]? Chechens? And who was killed in Salsk? And in Yandyki? And in Uglichi? WHO, in light of this, has to be afraid to go out into the street? As a sidenote, I'll remind you of how many Russians are left in Chechnya. In 1989, there were 370,000.
LJ user favorov (Petya Favorov), drawing on the high visibility of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI, a Russian anti-immigrant organization) in the Karelian unrest, proposes to create an alternative, citizen-led organization, the Movement in Support of Legal Immigration:
Supporters of DPNI are fighting against immigrants – instead of fighting against illegalness. Corruption is at the root of the flourishing illegalness. Illegal immigration will flourish even if the followers of the White Order stab three [blacks] a day and blow up two markets a month – as long as the police continue to take bribes from Tajiks with no registration, as long as border control officers continue, for $100, to stamp Kyrgyz passports with expired [Russian residency permits], as long as construction firms and markets continue to bribe inspectors off. What they have to do, though, is patrol trains crossing the borders, send anonymous threats to local bribe-taking policemen and fight for social and sanitary norms to be observed at construction sites.
As long as the state, due to its corruptedness, is incapable of carrying out sensible immigration policies, citizens have to take initiative. Problems caused by the out-of-control influx of people into the country are huge, but what Russia needs isn't the lack of immigration, but good immigration. While the law enforcement officials are acting in a similarly tyrannical way toward a comparatively educated […] Uzbek guy who came here to look for better life and toward a socially dangerous Uzbek mafioso from the market […], it is a civic duty of every Moscovite to register, if possible, any positive immigrant in their living quarters. This doesn't place any legal burden on us, whereas for them registration means work, means for survival and a chance to break free from the criminalized and low-paid jobs currently available to them. Each one of us has to act as the selection committees similar to those in the Canadian and other embassies […].
Perhaps, it'd be worth setting up committees of civil assistance to immigrants, to accumulate information on those Muscovites who wish to register positive foreigners at their homes, and to examine applications and interview with the immigrant applicants.
What are your thoughts on this?
navygator: What is positive immigrant? What are the selection criteria?
favorov: It's up to everyone to decide…
navygator: Looks like utopia to me…
favorov: This is civic action for the sake of the patriotic idea :)
navygator: I am somewhat against immigration. Not against the people, but it's more of a fear of their passionate nature. They are stronger than we are and soon there'll be more of them here.
aruta: I'd take part in explaining to the [Russian citizens] that [immigrants aren't all the same] and that murdering someone who's not armed is a [bad deed], for which they used to [sentence to death by shooting].
oslik_evev: While there is more work than people, immigration is necessary. […] Because they are illegal, they are violating the law apriori, and they lack the inner ban on going against the law. Hence, this feeling of being above the law.
favorov: This is why they should be freed from the necessity to violate the law apriori. In general, it's possible that our immigration law [isn't all that bad], if only it was being observed.
msmetana: […] Russian immigration law is more than liberal. (Ukrainians only need to register if they want to obtain a bank loan […] or if they have a work permit and are too lazy to leave the country every three months.) […]
Timur Aliev (LJ user timur_aliev), editor-in-chief of the print/online weekly Chechen Society and an ethnic Chechen, posts an exercise in black humor that reads like a dystopian answer to the previous selection:
I'm thinking of creating DPNI in Chechnya…
I've read about what's going on in Kondopoga – and decided something had to be done before the situation in Grozny grew to be as bad as it is there.
Although I do not have enough facts on the situation in Karelia, I assume that the problem is in illegal immigration. (Why else would DPNI hold rallies there for two days in a row?) And Chechnya is currently being washed over with a wave of this very illegal immigration – Azeris, Georgians, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Moldovans, they are arriving in whole dozens already. And none of them registers or gets a work permit in Chechnya. Yes, for now they are only working at construction sites and open Uzbek cuisine cafes, but the worst is probable ahead. Some [worrying signs] are noticeable now already. A construction workers’ team from Azerbaijan that we invited to remodel a two-room apartment was asking for 850,000 rubles ($30,350). Of course, we refused – we just don't have this kind of money. But this Ilham wouldn't let go – he called us a few more times, offered to give us a 50,000-ruble ($1,785) discount. If this continues, these illegal migrants would start forcing evroremonty [expensive and often tacky remodellings] on people, charging crazy money. I'm not an official, I've nowhere to steal from, but the migrants would be grabbing ordinary bureaucrats from ministries and departments on their throats, and they'll have to rob the budget and take bribes in order to pay.
And gypsies from Tajikistan who are begging for money in the streets of Grozny? They are said to be drug dealers. That is, they are basically depriving our own [dealers] of an opportunity to make money. Same with the Chinese. They say the three Chinese take 1,000 rubles [$35] for taking out one truckful of trash, whereas our unemployed are asking three times as much for this job. Where should they go?
I'm afraid if it goes on like this, Chechnya would soon find itself as a prisoner of these non-humans, the illegal migrants. It's time to resist – to create our own Movement Against Illegal Immigration.
By the way, a few years ago, in the neighboring Ingushetia, a family of illegal migrants from Armenia tried to [take over] the republic. At first, they were photographing people for driver's licenses, then for passports, etc., and then they opened their own photo studio. Simultaneously, they were baking and selling cakes, opened a video rental/sales place, did fortune-telling using stones. If this had continued, who knows who would have been running the country in a few years. But four patriots (two Chechens and two Ingushs) prevented this from happening – they kidnapped one of the illegal migrants and demanded ransom for him (not because of the money, it seems, but to scare the rest away). The police, however, didn't get this patriotic feat and arrested the guys, setting the illegal migrant free. In a month, though, the whole family left somewhere (I suspect they went to Kondopoga)…*
dadrov: Why did you delete the post from the [LJ] political community? Do you think they won't get the humor over there?
timur_aliev: I didn't delete it, the moderator did. Looks like they didn't get the humor, indeed… :)) […]
dadrov: This is logical. Such humor isn't [well-taken] in Russia, even if it's accompanied with lots of smileys. […] We don't joke about people being kidnapped by Chechens. […]
timur_aliev: It's better to joke about it than to do the kidnappings. […] Andit's definitely better than let posts like this through: “The Chechens screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they were killing people.”
nfb: For some reason, I knew you'd be happy. Well, when Russians cry, Chechens are laughing. And with the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Russian-speaking people in Chechnya in the early 90s, it's silly cynicism to muse on DPNI in Grozny, don't you think?
timur_aliev: It's just that Chechens always laugh – even when they are crying… […] By the way, how can people write cookbooks when millions are starving around the world… :)))
evva: Timur, do you really not understand that Chechens are feared and hated in the Russian cities? Even without the war, outside of [the history of the interethnic relations]. Not [Dagestanis], not Ossetians, not Georgians – but Chechens and, to a lesser degree, Azeris. Because of how they behave – and never tire to re-confirm their reputation. Don't bother writing about good and bad people in every nation – it's about proportions and the dominating types of behavior. You shouldn't have joked about the topic that's painful to everyone.
sorex: […] I have an alternative suggestion and I'm serious. Is there anyone in Chechnya […] to hold a rally with this slogan: “Russians, come back!”? Overall, what's life like for your Russian community? Many of the ethnically concerned in Russia are convinced that it's been a long time since you had it. Though I remember a TV story from Chechnya between the two wars, where they said that thanks to Maskhadov's Russian advisor, the Russians were allowed to sell pork.
timur_aliev: […] From time to time, there is talk in the republic about “the return of the Russian-speaking ones” – as a rule, by the government… but the ones who do arrive are, as a rule, those who work for the government or somewhere else where it's possible to make money…
There isn't really such thing as the “Russian community”… People live on their own. Work and live. Though some gather in church – I did a story on Easter, saw a few hundred people, but these mainly are the very poor people… There are also Russian women married to Chechens. All in all, there are a few thousand, I think…