THE RISE OF XENOPHOBIA IN RUSSIA

https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/russia/srusstest-03.htm
Human Rights Watch

Three interconnected factors have contributed to the rise of xenophobia in Russia: a misguided and failed Soviet nationalities policy; migration caused by ethnic strife and the collapse of the Soviet Union; and economic dislocation resulting from the introduction of a market economy. Some authors have dubbed this phenomenon “Chernofobiya,” or “Blackphobia,” indicating the fear of darker-skinned non-Slav minorities in the former Soviet Union.

These minorities are commonly thrown together in media propaganda and public consciousness into the hated category of “individual of Caucasian nationality.”6 Ethnic Caucasians have replaced Jews, who now enjoy a more secure existence in Russia than in the past, as the main target for manipulation of public ethnic xenophobia. A 1994 survey revealed that between 30 and 34 percent of ethnic Russians are “distrustful” of Azerbaijanis, Armenians, and Chechens; the only ethnic group less trusted was the Roma (36.3 percent). As one Caucasian woman put it, “They say we are lazy, that we steal, that we are parasites on the backs of Moscow… For forty-five years I slaved for this country and now, because I am from the Caucasus, I’m treated like a human being of the lowest sort.”7
As war and ethnic conflicts began to rock parts of the former Soviet Union, the Soviet mass media — and later the Russian media — did little to foster ethnic tolerance. Rather than report on the true causes of ethnic conflict in the Caucasus, the media often presented it as mere “hooliganism” or the untrammeled destructive nature of the native people. One commentator argues that:
Mass ethnic stereotypes began to change in Russia at the end of the 1980s-beginning of the 1990s….[How] the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia were reflected in the mass media [played a role]. For political reasons the real reasons behind the events, the argumentation of the sides, the means of struggle (for example, peaceful demonstrations and strikes), and any other information that could have shown the conflict as political, was hushed up. On the other hand, things like pogroms and later deportations — which could not be hidden — were shown in the massmedia as almost inexplicable [nemotivirovannyie] outbursts from hooligan elements. The principle of parity [practiced by the media] dictated that a pogrom from one side would be followed by a pogrom from the other so that both sides would appear equally wild…This combination of unpredictability and aggression gave birth in mass consciousness to the archetype of the “wild mountain man,” which later…[became] “LKN [litso kavkazskoi natsional’nosti],” “individual of Caucasian nationality.”8
Many equate all Caucasians with bandits, drug and arms dealers, or ethnic “terrorists.” At the end of 1995, the head of Moscow’s regional directorate for organized crime, Mikhail Suntsov, told reporters that “certain hard-core [ustoichovyi] characteristics of behavior, including criminal, exist for certain ethnic groups.”9 His reference was to Caucasians. A leader of the Armenian community in Stavropol lamented in 1996 that, “We live as hostages. If one Armenian commits a crime, all the Armenians could pay for it.”10
Acts of violence, whether politically-motivated or not, have served as a catalyst for xenophobic outbreaks. In April 1997, when bombs exploded in train stations in Armavir (in Krasnodar province) and in Pyatigorsk (in Stavropol province), killing five and injuring scores, Russian Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov warned of pogroms against ethnic Caucasians in the region.11 The bombs were allegedly set by Chechens. Kulikov reported that his office received hundreds of letters from southern Russia demanding the expulsion of all Chechens from the region.
The failure of high-ranking state officials to condemn xenophobia has exacerbated the problem. An Armenian activist in Krasnodar complained:
Not once did an official representative, going from Polozkov to Kondratenko… and up to today’s local authorities, openly speak out in the press on this question, they did not identify the attitude of the authorities toward the multi-ethnic make-up of the region, not once was anything said about the importance of, about the contribution of these nationalities to the economy, cultural life, health-care system.” [If they had done this] the populace would have seen, but there was no response. During these intra-ethnic outbreaks the MVD [Ministry of Internal Affairs] does its job, tries to calm things down, and gets thanks for it, but the leadership of the region never once condemned such actions, whether it be the head of the province, the governor, the mayor, or even their representatives, never once called on people to respect peace and good neighborliness, never once said that this is our home, which we all are building and where we all live.12
The Legacy of Soviet Nationalities Policy
Soviet nationalities policy contributed to ethnic strife and xenophobia through the post-Soviet era. Communist ideology stifled the question of ethnicity and nationalism. Under the slogan, “Nationalist in Form, Socialist in Content,” the ethnic minorities of the former Soviet Union were allowed a limited level of linguistic and cultural autonomy but no real political power. The code words “Internationalism” and the “Friendship of Peoples” were used to indicate “ethnic harmony” under Russian and communist party guidance.13 Eventually, it was hoped, a “Soviet People” would emerge under the leadership of the communist party as national differences subsided and the peoples of the former USSR merged (sblizheniye narodov). Internal passports, mandatory since 1932 and crucial to individuals for navigating the bureaucratic maze of the Soviet state, prominently marked one’s ethnicity. A manipulative form of affirmative action promoted ethnic minorities, but at the same time reserved key spots and positions for Slavs, especially Russians. Eventually, “Russian ethnicity” was promoted to primas inter pares as ethnicity and nationalism among non-Russians proved more tenacious then earlier thought. Russification efforts were intensified.
Nationality (ethnicity) was, ironically, the framework of a system that professed scientific socialism. Ethnicity was the fifth point, the pyatyi punkt, in application for mandatory internal passports introduced in 1932, another point was “class origin.”14 A Soviet press account from the early 1980s illustrates the importance of the internal passport:
The passport is needed when registering for a residency permit and when applying for permission to change one’s residence, when applying for admission to an educational institution or for a job, and when registering a marriage. Unless a passport is presented, post offices will not give people money orders, letters or telegrams by general delivery.15
Russian citizens still use these internal passports as their main identity document. In July 1997, the Russian government adopted a resolution on new Russian internal passports that gave regional government the authority to retain or relinquish the fifth point.16
Ethnicity also served as the basis for territorial administrative units, which were nominally administered by local leaders. Often borders were drawn under the principle of divide and conquer. Sub-units, so-called autonomous republics or oblasts, were often arbitrarily carved out of republics, the largest administrative unit. To that end, central planners strove to “create” nationalities where before only loose distinctions applied. In the North Caucasus, for example, the Cherkess people were subdivided into smaller units, each with its own territory. In all of these territories, however, real political decisions were left to the center in Moscow. Often, the first party secretary of a region was a representative of the titular nationality, while the second party secretary — Moscow’s man — would be a Russian or other Slav.
By the early 1970s, it was clear that a “Soviet People” had not been created. While there was pride in a “Sovietness,” national feeling was as strong as ever, even if submerged under official ideology and KGB oppression.17 Rather than confront the issue of growing nationalism and its role in the Soviet state, the party leadership openly stated what had been the case all along: the dominance of ethnic Slavs, especially Russians. In 1971, at the Twenty-Fourth Party Congress, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev told the delegates that, “All the nations and nationalities of our country, above all the Great Russian people, played a role in the formation, strengthening, and development of this mighty union of equal peoples…The revolutionary energy, selflessness, diligence and profound internationalism of the Great Russian people have rightfully won them the sincere respect of all the peoples of our socialist homeland.”18 In 1977, a new constitution increased central authority even more.19 A revised version of the Soviet national anthem replaced paeans to Stalin with ones to “Great Russia.”20
Ethnic Wars and Forced Migration
Tensions that resulted from the treatment of nationality issues during the Soviet era erupted in violence during “perestroika.” Issues and grievances not discussed for decades found their expression in Kalashnikov fire and salvos of Grad rockets. Between 1987 and 1994 several wars broke out in the former Soviet Union on the borders of or near Krasnodar and Stavropol provinces — pitting nationalities against each other. Fighting erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), South Ossetia (Georgia), Abkhazia (Georgia), Ingushetia (Russia), the Prigorodny region (North Ossetia), and Chechnya (Russia).21 Krasnodar and Stavropol — and, to a lesser degree, Volgograd — provinces became magnets for refugees, IDPs and migrants fleeing these conflicts.22 They also enjoy a relativelytemperate climate and favorable agricultural conditions compared to other parts of the former Soviet Union. Finally, Stavropol and Krasnodar provinces are home to co-ethnic communities already established in the region, such as Armenians. Provincial governments in Krasnodar and Stavropol responded to the rising influx of refugees, IDPs and economic migrants by handing down restrictions on residence and visitors’ permits; Krasnodar authorities perceive with alarm that current trends threaten ethnic harmony.
A survey of non-Slavic refugees in Krasnodar conducted in 1994 produced the following result: in 1994, 66 percent of non-Russian refugees polled said that they would make every effort to stay in Krasnodar permanently (rather than resettle elsewhere in Russia); in 1990, just 20 percent gave that response.23 Eighty-three percent said that they wanted to stay permanently, as opposed to 65 percent in 1990.24 Few Baku Armenians, for example, chose to go to Armenia when they fled, preferring Moscow, Krasnodar, or Stavropol. Many did not even speak Armenian. An Armenian journalist on assignment in Pyatigorsk quipped:
When a portion of the ethnic Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan poured into Armenia, then the democratic government of Armenia forced them to leave even Armenia because it was closing Russian-language schools. Many of the Armenian kids studied in such schools in Azerbaijan….Maybe the majority of the Armenians who live here who don’t have a stake in the region would happily return to Armenia, but there are no Russian-language schools [there]. And if I or my children were not taught Russian, how can I go to school? And I can add that the [Armenian] intelligentsia lived in Baku, and in Armenia they only offered rural areas [to live in].25
Until 1991, the migration flow was largely unregulated by central authorities, and little aid was given to alleviate the additional strain on social services. There are no exact figures regarding the total in-migration of refugees, IDPs and other forced migrants from 1988 to the present; this population is fluid and often does not report its presence because of fear of abuse or deportation. According to the passport service of the Krasnodar Directorate for Internal Affairs, as of October 1, 1994, there were 184,125 individuals who had come to Krasnodar from “conflict zones” and “zones of unrest,” mostly Russian-speakers [ruskoya zychniy] — which usually indicated ethnic Russians, Belorusians, Ukranians in non-Slavic regions of the former Soviet Union — (60.6 percent) and Armenians (24.7 percent).26 By January 1996 this figure had grown to 223,000.27 Krasnodar administration officials in 1993 claimed that the total number of all migrants, both legal and illegal, was close to 675,000, about 13 percent of the population,a highly controversial figure;28 in 1996, the Krasnodar government noted that the province had received 12 percent of all “migrants,” presumably including refugees, IDPs and other migrants who had come to Russia.29 An Armenian leader in Krasnodar, however, told Human Rights Watch in 1996 that as many as 390,000 Armenian refugees may reside unregistered in the province. As noted before, according to the 1989 Soviet census, Krasnodar province (excluding the Adygei Republic located within its territory) had a population of 4.62 million, which grew to almost five million by the end of 1994.
The growth of the ethnic Armenian community has alarmed the Krasnodar provincial government. Its 1996 Regional Migration Program, which sets goals for local migration policy, noted that “considering the…consistent mortality rate of the Slavic population, and given the rise of Armenians [as a percent of population] resulting from the growth in migration…and their natural growth rate, one can speak of a gradual process of changing the historical…balance in the number of major national groups in the province’s population.”30 The same document warned that the continued rise in the numbers of refugees and IDP would lead to inter-ethnic tensions.31 A 1997 gubernatorial resolution on violations of residence requirements in the resort city of Sochi repeatedly compares ethnic Russians and ethnic Armenians in statistics regarding residence permits, building permits and the like.32 The same resolution vilified regional registration officials for the dramatic rise in the number of Armenian “migrants” in Sochi, supposedly in violation of local ordinances and federal law.33
The situation is similar in Stavropol province, whose official 1989 population of 2.41 million jumped to 2.65 million by 1995.34 The head of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) in Stavropol province reported that IDPs and refugees were not officially registered until July 1, 1992; before that, he estimated, approximately 5,000 to 7,000 IDPs — Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh and Meskhetian Turks from Uzbekistan — arrived in Stavropol becauseof communal violence in their homelands.35 Between 1992 and 1994, another 28,601 IDPs and refugees arrived; many of the IDPs were Russians leaving Chechnya after its declaration of independence. Between December 1994 and May 1995, the head of the FMS estimated, that another 40,000 IDPs arrived, many of them ethnic Russians fleeing the fighting in Chechnya. By April 1996 there were 53,000 legally registered IDPs and refugees in Stavropol, with the total reaching 100,000 if one includes those not registered.36 If one includes the number of individuals who transited through Stavropol or stayed there temporarily, the numbers reach several hundred thousand.37
Officials in both Krasnodar and Stavropol told us they were ill-prepared to meet this wave. At a time when central budgets were in disarray and scant investment was made in social services or infrastructure, Moscow did little to alleviate the problem. Almost all local officials and people we met complained of the burden — perceived or actual — that migrants and refugees put on the infrastructure. One local official commented:
After the earthquake of 1989 the first Armenians came and we welcomed them with open arms. But after that all the refugees came we were overwhelmed. These people don’t want to go to Siberia, etc. They overcrowded public services, transport, the labor market. You had the same thing in California and the result was a referendum. There has been a diminution of the rights of the local population. People live here, they are not registered, but we don’t get money in our budget from the center for them. The central government in Moscow should distribute them in all of the North Caucasus.38
Aleksandr Berdnik, a consultant on nationalities policy to the Stavropol administration, explained:
The whole fact of the matter is that…even before the Soviet Union began to collapse, there were refugees from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and then Chechnya. These people needed a place to settle down and find housing. Among them were ethnic Russians, from Azerbaijan Armenians fled, from Armenia, Azerbaijanis….In the end result, if you talk about Shpakovskii district, it turned out that in connection with this in-migration of people into the region, in a very short window of time, for example, the number of ethnic Armenians grew substantially….of course the infrastructure started to break down — there wasn’t enough housing or stores. The local residents, of course, began to be exasperated. That is why there appeared this temporary decree [of 1994] not to allow the newcomers to register, and all the rest….39
The head of the FMS in Stavropol also noted that, “There should be a regulation of migration waves. We were overwhelmed. This is a great place, if we don’t regulate it, we can’t solve any problems such as housing and infrastructure…The region is overpopulated. The kindergartens and hospitals are overwhelmed.”40
The survey conducted in Krasnodar in 1994 among both long-term residents and migrants and refugees concluded that, “… Many local residents see the refugees and migrants as guilty parties in their own worsening socio-economic situation, as competition in the labor and housing markets, where they themselves are experiencing some difficulty. And in reality, housing prices in southern Russia are approaching those of Moscow, schools work in three shifts, and you can’t get into a hospital.” 41
This view is even shared to a certain extent by long-term non-Slavic residents of the region. An Armenian woman in Krasnodar with whom we spoke at the office of the local Armenian community complained:
Krasnodar has the status of a border region. If it didn’t exist, it would have started earlier here than in Chechnya…. Our people are not so civilized that we can abolish the propiska system. I was a member of the propiska commission.42 The infrastructure will not support everyone. The administration of a territory has the right to protect it. A social explosion was ripening. The administration passed restrictive decrees to calm those who become upset. All those who managed to get a residency permit before March 1992 are Russian citizens….One has to make a decision — either a citizen of Russia or go to Armenia.43
Another Armenian admitted that, “There was a period when long-time Armenian residents here reacted badly toward the refugees.”44
The ethnic solidarity networks that migrants often use to settle and find work also disturbs the Slavic population, which sees something “conspiratorial” or “illegal” in this. The study conducted in 1994 reported that 75 percent of non-Slavic refugees used the help of relatives or friends in getting settled, up from 11 percent in 1990.45 A local official in Timashevsk, a district of Krasnodar, told us that,
You have to look closely at these individuals of Caucasian ancestry. The first wave were Armenians from Armenia: They came from their own land. They fit into our way of life. But the rest of the Caucasians from Georgia, from Azerbaijan, were people who had already worked out a system of self-survival and opposition in a foreign sphere, i.e. were minorities. Here they are trying to approach the local population with the same standards. An extended family comes, with many adults, they buy a lot of homes next to each other. They make it so that the home is purchased by relatives and family. Then they close it all off with a fence and create their own little world.46
The head of the Armenian community in Stavropol, who has lived there thirty years, told us that, “It all depends on the concentration of people. One Armenian family in a village, everything is okay. If one-third of the population becomes Armenian, there are problems.”47
Even though the majority of those officially registered are of Slavic ethnicity, non-Slavs seem to be singled out for the brunt of hostility towards migrants and refugees. In Stavropol, about 80 percent of forced migrants are ethnic Russians.48 In Krasnodar, the figure is about the same.49 Most of those not officially registered as refugees and forced migrants appear to be non-Slavs. A poll conducted in Krasnodar among long-term residents showed that more than 50 percent of respondents believe that preference should be given to ethnically Slavic migrants.50
Economic Dislocation
The legacy of a command economy and the dislocation attending its collapse also feeds xenophobic attitudes in Russia. Many ethnic Caucasians were renowned even during Soviet times as small traders, bringing fresh fruit and vegetables to northern markets from the “black-market economy” that flourished in Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia; Russians and other Slavs generally did not engage in that kind of trade to the same degree. Consequently, when Russia moved towards a free-market economy, some Caucasians had a better starting point than Slavs and others who were employed in industry and science. Aleksander Iskandaryan, an ethnic Armenian and commentator on ethnic relations in the Caucasus, recently wrote that,
As a result of a complex array of reasons connected both with the ethno-cultural particularities of people having a long tradition of private enterprise as well as with the great social mobility of migrants in general, the majority of migrants work in the market sector of the new economy. This annoys the more conservative, sedentary local population….The average Russian, who has grown accustomed to state trade and to markets of the Soviet era, considers someone who buys low and sells high almost criminal. Today the word “speculator” has become negatively synonymous with the term “trader,” which is a standard indictment towards “blacks,” as well as the even stronger charge of vagrancy [tuneyadstvo] — the conception, that true work is only that which is done at a state enterprise. This is especially important in Krasnodar, where we can say that according to data of the administration, the number of migrants has hit 675,000, which amounts to about 13 percent of the population. The local population is also annoyed by the material well-being of the migrants, which is in contrast to their image of “unfortunate” refugees — also something unknown in the West, where one respects wealth.51
While this perception may not be uniform among all ethnic Slavs, the stereotype was held by most of the people with whom we spoke. A local official in Krasnodar complained that, “By nature they [ethnic Caucasians] are traders. They set up trading, they occupy the markets. They show themselves not as workers but as traders.”52 A Russian woman in Volgograd, who was sympathetic toward effort to improve ethnic relations, told us that, “There were also calls during the elections that, well, there are a lot of “blacks” at the market. This, probably, is characteristic of all of Russia. Of course, you have to be guided by normative acts to interfere with, fight with speculators (perekupshchiki) who come in, resell stuff (perekupat’), and then dictate their own prices.”53
A 1994 survey conducted for the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar to ascertain attitudes of the local population towards refugees and migrants, many of whom are of Caucasian ancestry, came up with similar results. The survey states:
Long term residents’ negative attitudes about refugees and migrants is connected with the fact that although the latter is not involved in “production,” i.e. factory work, their living standard appears to be higher. The 1994 survey of refugees in Krasnodar showed that to make a living they work helping relatives, or friends, in part-time work, or rely upon other sources of income that they didn’t explain. Ninety-two percent said that they didn’t have work and of those who had a job, 17 percent were traders in the market, 17 percent worked in commercial enterprises, and 50 percent picked up money here and there.54
Some people rapidly adapted to the new economy, either out of choice or necessity, but others did not and grew resentful. A Russian woman in Volgograd told us that, “It isn’t characteristic for Russians to partake in trade; they were educated differently. If there was a tradition in other regions to grow something and sell it in another place, for us it wasn’t the case: trade was usually conducted by outsiders.”55 Aleksandr Bernik, who works with the Stavropol administration developing nationalities policy, commented that the economic collapse started at the very moment that numerous non-Slavic migrants moved into the area, further heightening tensions. According to him, “It was also connected with the labor market, when production started to shut down, it really hit our factories badly….Our region is really experiencing a great burden. So many people arrived on our territory.”56 A long-time Armenian resident of Krasnodar told us, “There is one reason for the problem. Because of the worsening economic situation locals think, ‘You came here and we started to live poorly.’”57
Sometimes the conflict is not between Slavs and non-Slavs, but between native groups, like Dagestanis and Nogays. Bernik commented that,
For centuries they [Nogays] conducted their own traditional occupations, but they never had an affinity for trade like the others. But these guys [Dagestanis] know how to trade. They’ve begun to develop themselves and live well. But the Nogay have remained at their traditional level in their traditional occupations. And they have noticed this difference in living: one has risen up, while theother stagnates at the same level, poor, and they say that the other must be put down. You can understand one and the other.58
Other, traditional forms of wealth are the basis for economic envy that breeds ethnic discord. Many Russians came to the region to work in industry and thus received apartments in high-rise complexes that usually belonged to their factories. Chechens, on the other hand, were overlooked in such work and remained on the land. They put their wealth into building a family home that often had several wings and room for two or three generations. Sometimes these houses were financed by work Chechens took as migrant labor in parts of the former Soviet Union. Now, however, these homes serve as a symbol to many Russians of purported, ill-gotten wealth. A Chechen woman told us that a neighbor screamed at her, “You have a house here, you have a house there. It’s right that they have annihilated you all there. One should kill you.”59
The Cossack Movement60
The nationalism of Soviet minorities openly and often violently expressed during perestroika resulted in a counter-nationalism among Russians. One manifestation is the rebirth of the Cossack movement. Originally runaway serfs who fled to the border regions of the expanding Russian empire, state authorities later organized them into border guard detachments. Cossacks were also used to help settle the North Caucasus and Siberia. Armed Cossack settlements, called stanitsa, were set up in strategic “lines” to help guard Russia’s new frontier. Often, native peoples were displaced to give the best and most strategically placed land to Cossacks. Fealty to the Tsar, working the land, and Russian Orthodoxy played a major role in Cossack life. During the Russian Revolution, the Cossacks sided with the White armies. As a result, after the war the triumphant Bolsheviks extracted a harsh retribution. They disbanded Cossack units, exiled and killed many along with their families, and took away their land.
During perestroika, many descendants of Cossacks — or those claiming descent — and others claiming they were Cossacks started to rediscover their heritage and organize. In the Krasnodar and Stavropol area, today’s Cossacks are descendants of the Kuban and Terek Cossacks.61 In some areas men organized themselves into armed Cossack detachments and demanded restoration of rights and privileges enjoyed before the revolution. The 1991 Law on the Repressed Peoples, which envisioned giving territorial and other compensation to ethnic groups repressed by the Bolsheviks, also covered the Cossacks. In the Krasnodar area the largest Cossack group, which claims a membership of 341,000, is the All-Kuban Cossack Force (“Vsekubanskoye Kazach’e Voisko”). In Stavropol, Cossacks have organized themselves into two groups, the Terek and Stavropol Cossack Forces. 62 A young Cossack official in Krasnodar province told us that,
In 1991 the creation of the “Cossacks,” of our own way of life and self-government, began. We have a right to our historic land and to land use and labor relations. What is a Cossack?…a unique ethnic community [and] a cultural nation. The most important thing is Orthodoxy. The Cossacks are also against the buying and selling of land. There was a different system of land usage. Landwas divided according to how many mouths one had to feed, and every four years the community would decide how the land would be used. So there wasn’t a right to private property but to use. If a family lost the bread winner, the land would go to another family, but it then would have to give part of the harvest [to the family that lost the bread winner] so it could survive. That which existed pleases us. If there was misfortune, every family is guaranteed that it doesn’t land on the streets.63
Another aspect of the Cossack program is opposition toward immigration of non-Slavs, which often translates into general hostility toward non-Slavs. Much of this rhetoric is couched in terms of protecting Slavs from dying out as a people or as diatribes against market economics.64 A professor at Kuban State University in Krasnodar and activist in the Armenian community told us that, “Earlier the Cossacks stated that, ‘We will not touch the local Armenians, we are only against the new arrivals.’ But it is pretty clear that this is not the case. There is pressure against everyone.”65 Another ethnic Armenian active in his community in Krasnodar told us that, “Things get worse during election campaigns. Certain candidates campaign under the slogan: Away with the people of Caucasian ancestry, this is our land, we are natives here, all power to the Cossacks….Who ever gains advantage from it plays this card, whether it is the Cossacks or [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky.” 66 Such themes were clearly highlighted in the election program for Cossack candidates from the All-Kuban Cossack Army (Voiska) to the Legislative Assembly of Krasnodar region in 1994:
It is precisely the anti-populist, anti-Russian policy of the present administration that has made Russians a dying people. There is a real chance that the Slavic population of Russia and the Kuban in the near future can become an ethnic minority. We should not allow this. That is why the election campaign program of all Cossack candidates is directed above all at defending the interests of the Slavic population of Russia and the Kuban, the Russian people, the interests of the worker and not that of parasites and exploiters….As a first matter of business, one must stop the scandal of predatory prices, the result of which millions of people are on the verge of dying out….The land of our fathers is not an object of speculation, of buying and selling, it should belong to those who live on it and honestly work it….The Kuban is a region of one hundred peoples, also living in harmony, peace, and friendship. It always was a hospitable home, but guests should not become the masters of the household. We are for a strict migration policy. All migrants, illegally living in the Kuban, should be returned to their historic homeland.67
The December 1996 gubernatorial elections brought Nikolai Kondratenko (of the right-wing Fatherland coalition), a nationalist with an anti-Semitic, anti-migrant platform, to the post of governor. Kondratenko’s election ushered in a “radicalization of official rhetoric against ethnic minorities, especially of non-Slavic and Caucasian origin, and a radicalization of the Cossack movement, encouraged by the authorities.68 Under Kondratenko, the Krasnodar province administration adopted a new version of the regional charter declaring Krasnodar as “the historical territory of the Kuban Cossacks” and “a place where the Russian people has always lived. This circumstance shall be taken into consideration when forming the bodies of state authority and local self-government, and in the course of their activities.”69 On March 24, 1997, Governor Kondratenko issued a decree making Cossack paramilitary formations subordinate to the Krasnodar province administration, rather than to the Russian federal government. These units are now authorized to conduct passport checks in markets, private homes, and other locations. Kondratenko’s public remarks that touch on ethnicity and migration, prior to and following his election, are virulently racist and anti-Semitic, creating an atmosphere of tolerance for discrimination.70
6 Some legislation also singles out ethnic Caucasians. For example, after the Chechen rain on Budennovsk, the Kostroma provincial government adopted a resolution On Temporary Migration Control on the Territory of Kostroma Region of Citizens of the Caucasian Republics which are Part of the Russian Federation, and the Caucasian States (July 26, 1995). The decision stipulates that individuals from these regions submit to mandatory registration with local authorities and fines for being present in Kostroma region. See, for example, Mikhail Ovcharov, “Grazhdane ‘kavkazskoi natsional’nosti’ mogut byt’ vydvoreny iz Kostromy v 24 chasa,” (Citizens of Caucasian nationality can be expelled from Kostroma within 24 hours), Izvestiya (Moscow), August 10, 1995, p. 13

7 Sonni Efron, “In Russia, Fertile Soil for Racism,” Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1995, p.1.

8 Aleksandr Iskandaryan, “Chernofobiya,” unpublished manuscript.

9 Anna Feofilaktova, “Kavkazskaya Prestupnost’ v Moskve ustupayet Slavyanskoi,” Segodnya, Moscow, November 11, 1995, p. 6.

10 Human Rights Watch interview, Stavropol, April 1996. Unless otherwise noted, all interviews cited hereinafter were conducted by Human Rights Watch.

11 RFE/RL Daily Bulletin, April 24 and 29, 1997; Financial Times, April 30, 1997, p. 2.

12 Interview with Eduard Melkumyants, chairman of the “Mashtots” society, city of Krasnodar, April 16, 1996. Hereinafter, “Krasnodar” will indicate the city of Krasnodar.

13 After the June 1995 Chechen hostage-taking at Budennovsk in Stavropol province, the local legislature passed a resolution criticizing President Yeltsin for “peacefully watching the arbitrary violence taking place that allows the genocide of the Russian people: enough mocking the inhabitants of Stavropol under the aegis of Internationalism.” See Nikolai Gritchin, “Vlasti Stavropol’ya ne proch’ otigrat’sya na mestnykh Chechentsakh,” Izvestiya, Moscow, June 22, 1995, p.1.
14 In 1974, when the internal passport system was revised, class origin was dropped from the passport; ethnicity remained a category, however. See Rasma Karklin’s, Ethnic Relations in the USSR (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1986), pp. 31-33.
15 Ibid.
16 Decree no. 828, July 8, 1997, On Confirming the Regulation of Russian Federation Citizen Passports. This decree served to implement Presidential Decree No. 232, On Basic Documents Certifying Russian Federation Citizenship in the Russian Federation, adopted March 13, 1997.
17 A Chechen man we interviewed nostalgically told us that, “Things were good here earlier. There wasn’t a nationalities question. That was when we filled out census forms, in the space for nationality we wrote in Chechens, and in reality the national factor didn’t play much of a role.” Interview with Magomed Magomedovich Turshiyev, Chernoleskoye, Stavropol province, August 20, 1996.
18 Bohdan Nahaylo and Victor Swoboda, Soviet Disunion: A History of the Nationalities Problem in the USSR (New York: The Free Press, 1989), pp. 172-73.
19 Nahaylo and Swoboda, pp. 201-202.
20 Ibid. The updated anthem proclaimed, “An unbreakable union of free republics/Great Rus’ has welded forever to stand./Long live the united, mighty Soviet Union/Created by the will of the peoples!”
21 See, the following Human Rights Watch Reports for accounts of these conflicts: “Chechnya: A Legacy of Abuse,” January 1997. “Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Russian Federation, and Tajikistan,” May 1996. The Ingush-Ossestian Conflict in the Prigorodnyi Region (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996). “Caught in the Crossfire: Civilian in Gudermes & Pervomayskoye,” March 1996. Seven Years of Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995). “Partisan War in Chechnya on the Eve of the WWII Commemoration,” April 1995. “Georgia/Abkhazia: Violations of Laws of War & Russia’s Role in the Conflict,” March, 1995. “Three Months of War in Chechnya,” February, 1995. “War in Chechnya: New Report from the Field,” January 1995. “Russia’s War in Chechnya: Victims Speak Out.” January 1995. Bloodshed in the Caucasus: Indiscriminate Bombing and Shelling by Azerbaijani Forces in Nagorno Karabakh (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993). “War or Peace?: Human Rights and Russian Military Involvement in the ‘Near Abroad,’” December 1993. Bloodshed in the Caucasus: Escalation of the Armed Conflict in Nagorno Karabakh (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992). “Bloodshed in the Caucasus: Violations of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in the Georgia-South Ossetia Conflict,” April 1992. “Conflict in Georgia: Government of Gamsakhurdia,” December 1991.
22 People who fled these waves of ethnic violence and war while the Soviet Union was still one country — such as ethnic Armenians who fled anti-Armenian violence in Azerbaijan in 1988-90 — are considered by Russian law as IDPs, provided they were able to register with Russian authorities before 1993; those who came after 1993 are refugees. People who flee other parts of Russia to Krasnodar and Stavropol, such as Chechnya residents, are considered IDPs. Many Armenians who fled Baku first to Armenia found overwhelming obstacles to resettlement: the Armenian economy had imploded, severe energy shortages (dueto a blockade by Azerbaijan) caused hardship, many Baku Armenians did not speak Armenian, and the Armenian government was also trying to cope with tens of thousands of refugees from Nagorno Karabakh. Finding life unbearable, many left Armenia after the break-up of the Soviet Union to various cities in Russia, including Krasnodar, Sochi, and Moscow. Although it is unclear whether all such individuals applied for or received refugee status in Armenia, Russian migration authorities consider them migrants.
23 Yevgenii Aleksandrovich Mel’nik, “Etnosotsial’nyie i kriminal’nyie posledstviya vynuzhdennoi migratsii,” p. 119. This survey was conducted in 1994 by polling 300 residents of Krasnodar, one hundred non-Russian refugees of the same province, and 300 police from Stavropol province.
24 Ibid.
25 Interview, Pyatigorsk, Stavropol province, April 9, 1996.
26 This does not suggest that Krasnodar authorities granted all theses individuals refugee or IDP status.
27 Resolution No. 295-P, Regional Migration Program for Krasnodar Province for 1996-1997, adopted by the Krasnodar legislature April 25, 1996, point 2.2.3. Hereinafter, Regional Migration Program. We wish to thank the Memorial Human Rights Center for providing us with this document.
28 Mel’nik, p. 117. The Directorate for Nationalities and Migration Affairs established this figure in November 1993 by multiplying the number of migrants witnessed (i.e. registered) by police (135,000) by the ratio of “unregistered” migrants per registered ones (five to one) to arrive at the 675,000 number. Some confusion exists over the definition of “registered” and “unregistered,” because of the overlapping roles of the Interior Ministry and local authorities and conflicting enforcement of propiska laws. Human Rights Watch thanks Alexander Osipov for this insight.
29 Regional Migration Program, point 2.1. Krasnodar’s population makes up 3.3 percent Russia’s population.
30 Regional Migration Program, point 2.2.2.
31 Ibid. point 2.3.3. The document estimated that 50,000 people would apply for status as a refugee or IDP and that 15,000 would receive such status.
32 Resolution No 130, Gross Violation of Russian Federation Laws and Normative Acts of Krasnodar Province that Regulate Civilian Registration, Land-Use Rules and Construction in the city of Sochi, issued by Governor Nikolai Kondratenko on April 16, 1997. We wish to thank the Memorial Human Rights Center for sharing this document with us.
33 According to the resolution, Armenians make up between 16 and 18 percent of the city’s population; in 1989 this figure was 15 percent. In 1993, 5,337 people moved to Sochi and received permits; of these 3,540 were ethnic Russian and 877 ethnic Armenian. In 1996, 9,620 people moved there, 4,340 of them Russian and 3,831 Armenian. In point 3 the resolution states: “Heads of district administrations grant permission and refuse no one [bezotkaznaya vydacha] in registering marriages with individuals who do not reside in Russia. In 1995 [for example] the head of the Adler district, A.K. Asaturov, granted 142 marriage permits, and in 1996, 189. The number of Armenians who received propiskas unconditionally in 1996 was 2,109. Only 584 Russians received propiskas in this manner.”
34 Figures provided by A.E. Ter-Sarkisyants, Russian Academy of Science. Human Rights Watch interview, Moscow, April 1996, and http://www.omri.cz/Elections/Russia/Regions/About/Stavropol.html.
35 Human Rights Watch interview, Stavropol, April 9, 1996.
36 “Narusheniya Prav Vynuzhdennykh Migrantov i Etnicheskaia Diskriminatsiya v Krasnodarskom Krae: Polozheniya Meskhetinskikh Turok,” Memorial, Moscow 1996, pp. 18-20. Hereinafter “Polozheniye.”
37 “Displaced Persons in Southern Russia,” The Forced Migration Monitor, (Open Society Institute), September 1996, p. 1.
38 Interview with Aleksandr Novikov, consultant to the Nationalities Committee of the Provincial Administration of Stavropol, Stavropol, April 1996.
39 Interview, Stavropol, August 19, 1996.
40 Interview, Stavropol, April 9, 1996.
41 Mel’nik, p. 119.
42 In some provinces, propiska applications are reviewed and decided upon by propiska commissions, which usually consist of representatives of government bodies (such as the internal affairs directorate), the medical establishment, the education sector and the like. Applicants must appear before the commissions. For detailed studies of the work of propiska commissions in Krasnodar and Stavropol provinces, see forthcoming Memorial Human Rights Center reports.
43 Interview, Krasnodar, April 16, 1996.
44 Interview, Krasnodar, April 12, 1996.
45 Mel’nik, page 119.
46 Interview with Vladimir Georgiyevich Likhonin, deputy for economic questions in the Timashevsk district administration, Krasnodar province, April 15, 1996.
47 Interview, Stavropol, April 1996.
48 S. Popov, “Vynuzhdennaya Migratsiya v Stavropol’skom Kraye,” in Mezhdunarodnyi Proyekt “Ureguliroaniye Etnopoliticheskikh konfliktov v postsovetskikh gosudarstvakh,” Byulleten’, March 1997, p. 52.
49 Regional Migration Program.
50 Mel’nik, p. 118. But even some Russian refugees told us of the cold reception they received from the local population. One Russian woman, a native of Grozny bombed out of her house, told us that, “When I came here, I was struck by the attitude even of Russians towards us: a certain lack of understanding, we irritated them and are still irritating them. In this sense they rejected everybody regardless of nationality….[They would ask] ‘Why are we here?’ ‘You should have gone to Omsk or Tambov province.’ Or the locals would tell the refugees, ‘Appeal to whomever you like, write to Yeltsin, write to Pyatigorsk, but Pyatigorsk is a tourist area and you don’t have the right to stay here.’” Interview with Yelena Lebedeva, August 22, 1996, Pyatigorsk, Stavropol province.
51 Iskanderyan.
52 Interview, Timashevsk, Krasnodar province, April 1996.
53 Interview, Volgograd, March 5, 1997. “Blacks,” chernyie, refers derogatively to those of Caucasian or Central Asian ethnicity.
54 Mel’nik, p. 120.
55 Interview, Volgograd, March 5, 1997.
56 Interview, Stavropol, August 19, 1996.
57 Interview with Eduard Melkumyants, chairman of the “Mashtots” society, Krasnodar, April 16, 1996.
58 Interview, Stavropol, August 19, 1996.
59 Interview, Volgograd, March 4, 1997.
60 See also section, “Abuses by Cossacks” for a detailed account of human rights violations committed by Cossacks.
61 The Kuban Cossacks predominated in what is now Krasnodar province and western Stavropol although not all Cossacks in these areas adhered to Kuban Cossack control. Terek Cossacks prevail in what is now a small part of eastern Stavropol province. The Krasnodar area is also known as the Kuban. Human Rights Watch thanks Alexander Osipov for this insight.
62 T. Nevskoi and E. Ponomarev, “Problemy kazach’ego dvizheniya na Stavropol’e,” Mezhdunarodnyi Proyekt “Uregulirovaniye Etnopoliticheskikh konfliktov v postsovetskikh gosudarstvakh,” Byulleten’, February 1996, p. 73.
63 Interview, Timashevsk, Krasnodar province, April 15, 1996.
64 While Cossacks obviously exaggerate the fear of “the dying out of the Russian people,” the treatment of ethnic Russians in Chechnya, a legitimate cause of concern, gave them ample ammunition. After Jokhar Dudayev came to power in November 1991, many Slavs left the republic. While some left voluntarily, many were forced out.
Sergei Popov, head of the Department of Inter-ethnic Relations of Stavropol Province Administration told us that, “The fact that the problem of Russian refugees and forced migrants is still not solved is one of the main causes of Cossack protest. Between 1992 and 1994 we had 50,000 migrants, Russians fleeing from Chechnya. We sent letters about this to Moscow, but nothing happened.” Interview, Stavropol, April 5, 1996.
Another long-time sore point for Cossacks was the transfer in 1957 of two districts of Stavropol, two of which — Naurskii and Shelkovskii were populated by Cossack descendants — to the newly-constituted Checheno-Ingush ASSR. Cossacks demand their return. See Igor’ Rotar, “Kazach’ya mina zamedlennogo deistviya,” Izvestiya, July 27, 1995, p. 2.
65 Interview with Vartan Kukuyan, professor in the Department of Ancient and Medieval History of Kuban State University, Krasnodar, April 12, 1996.
66 Interview with Eduard Melkumyants, chairman of the “Mashtots” society, Krasnodar, April 16, 1996.
67 Campaign leaflet affixed to wall in Krasnodar.
68 The Memorial Human Rights Center, “Starting Ethnic Cleansing in Krasnodar Territory: The Case of the Meskhetian Turks,” Newsletter, no. 1, September 20, 1997.
69 Kubanskiye novosti, (Krasnodar) September 11, 1997. Kondratenko’s decree No. 89 on the Cossacks.
70 A recent example is Kondratenko’s speech at a meeting of Kuban Youth, organized by the Krasnodar province administration. Kondratenko reportedly used the derogatory zhid (kike) sixty-one times during his two-hour speech, blamed Jews for the war in Chechnya and the “spread” of homosexuality in Russia, called many of his political enemies “kikes,” and likened Zionist to livestock. See Vladimir Serdyukov, “Where is the Party Looking?” Izvestiya, March 4, 1998.

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