By Paul Goble
Russian nationalists posted a video clip calling on their fellow Russians not to buy goods produced by non-Russian migrants or patronize businesses and taxis operated by them. It attracted roughly 200,000 views before the authorities took it down. But after they did so, another clip, making the same appeal replaced it.
In 2020, Kommersant reports, Russian officials blocked access to 12 similar video clips on VKontakte, two on Odnoklassniki, and four on YouTube. The latest one blocked and then replaced was on the latter platform, the Moscow newspaper’s journalists say (kommersant.ru/doc/4683742).
Russian prosecutors said that the latest appeals violate laws about promoting racism, but Dmitry Mezentsev, who has promoted a “Buy Russian” movement over the last decade but who says his group has nothing to do with the current clips says that it is hard to prove racism in this case because if Russians buy from foreigners, they are financing them and hurting Russia.
Both the likelihood that any such clip taken down will be replaced by another making the same argument and the certainty that many Russians will view such appeals not as racist but simply as a matter of defending their country’s national security make it difficult for the powers that be to control the situation.
But another development may create even larger problems for the authorities. In response to the controversy over the latest clips and the authorities’ handling of them, Kazan blogger Rasul Ravdiryakov has posted his own video clip, calling on residents of Russia to commit to buying from migrants.
Such competing messages take the tensions between migrants to a new level, one in which both their opponents and their supporters are now using video clips to mobilize support for their positions. That is likely to lead to new conflicts between the two groups, possibly returning them to the level of hostility that existed a decade ago.
Then tensions between the two were very high, but following the Anschluss of Crimea and the emergence of the so-called “Crimean consensus,” they ebbed. Competing video clips almost certainly will change that and broaden the conflict from one between Russians and migrants to one between Russians and non-Russians more generally.