By Paul Goble
A survey of 1500 Russians conducted by officials Tomsk found that younger people in that city are less tolerant of representatives of other nationalities than are their parents and other older people, according to a press release of the new Children of the Mountains Organization which unites people from the North Caucasus now living in Russia.
Madonna Dunyaeva, the head of the Children of the Mountains group, said that in March, the Tomsk oblast department for youth policy conducted a poll to clarify “the level of tensions in inter-ethnic relations among residents of Tomsk oblast” and that the results have now been released (www.amic.ru/news/146253/).
The survey showed, she said that “young people of Tomsk are less tolerant to representatives of other nationalities than are adults,” with 15 percent of young people agreeing with the statement that “multi-nationality harms Russia,” 33 percent saying they feel “anger” toward non-Russians there, and 43 percent supporting a ban on immigration.
Moreover, Dunyaeva continued, the poll found that “every third declared that he or she had been a witness in recent times to conflicts on an ethnic basis” and one in every five of those young people said they “support those who took part in the [December 11] demonstration in [Moscow’s] Manezh Square.”
All these figures are higher than those found for older Russians, and the head of the Children of the Mountains Organization, said that “it is necessary to establish an educational course, ‘the peoples of Russia,’ in the schools which would acquaint children with the cultures of various peoples. Only by doing so can be defeat the main cause of xenophobia – ignorance.”
She added that it is also “necessary to establish close cooperation between the higher educational institutions and the diasporas [in order to provide] the diasporas with information on arriving students” because it is precisely these diasporas which can quickly and effectively help [these arrivals] adapt to local culture and to learn the [Russian] language.”
Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress said that he supports this idea. “I absolutely agree with Madonna when she says that it is necessary to study the peoples of Russia. We ought to have such a course not only in the schools” but for the broader population.
The Children of the Mountains Youth Organization was established in Tomsk at the end of January and now has branches in various Siberian cities. Its founding document declares that it seeks to promote “the unity of Caucasus young people on the territory of Russia and also love to the traditions of the culture of the Caucasus” (http://deti-gor.com/site/).
The group, which says it is the “first union of its type” in the Russian Federation, includes all ethnic groups from the region, including ethnic Russians, who “want to jointly resolve pressing issues of Caucasus youth and also to preserve the culture and mentality of the Caucasus and the Trans-Caucasus.”
In a related report, Andrey Smirnov, the director of the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in Baku that one of the reasons that there are inter-ethnic problems in Moscow is that there are very few residents of the Russian capital who are genuine Muscovites (www.islamrf.ru/news/russia/rusnews/15685/).
According to Smirnov, “today fewer than ten percent of the total number of residents of Moscow are indigenous Muscovites, those who have at least one parent who was born and grew up in Moscow.” As a result, Moscow today is “an unstable conglomerate in which there are a large number of migrants.”
“I think,” Smirnov said, reflecting the view of many longstanding residents of the capital, “native Muscovites would never permit themselves” to attack anyone on the basis of religious or ethnic differences. But “of course,” he added, “for today’s Russia, one of the dangers is the disloyalty of certain Russian Muslims.”