Monday, March 25, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russian Nationalism ‘Far More Terrible’ than Non-Russian Extremism, Novocherkassk Scholar Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 25 – In a review of the literature on the attitudes of young people toward members of other ethnic groups, Aleksandr Skorik, a professor at the South Russian State Technical University, says that research suggests that “Russian nationalism is far more terrible than non-Russian extremism” as a source of problems.

            In the latest issue of “Vlast,” a journal of the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Skorik stresses that the work of V. Markin and A. Rogovaya as well as his own shows that “the dissemination of the ideology of extremism and terrorism has touched not only national regions … but also places located far from sites of inter-ethnic conflicts and open terrorism” (

            In this research, he reports, investigators found that “the active nationalists” among school-age children numbered five or six percent, but those often made extremely harsh comments about North Caucasians. But of perhaps greater concern, they found that more than four out of five pupils had latent negative feelings about other nationalities.

            As a result, Skorik writes, “traditionally [ethnic] Russian districts and provincial centers not infrequently are becoming dangerous for national minorities who live there.” And that in turn means that the educational authorities even in places where there have been no open conflicts must encourage tolerance and the development of inter-ethnic communication early on.

            That message is especially important to send to educators and officials in places that appear to be “stable” because such latent attitudes if unchecked can break out into real conflicts, not only along religious and ethnic lines but also between those who view themselves as “native” to the place against “arrivals” from outside.

            In his own work in Novocherkassk, Skorik says he found that in the absence of such special training, “part of the youth who are just beginning to enter the adult world already have prejudices and are inclined not to establish positive contacts with representatives of certain peoples.” If they are not prepared to do so while young, they are less likely to do so later.

            The existence of such attitudes among young people, as Markin and Rogova point out, Skorik continues, can have the effect of “drawing young people into the activities of extremist organizations of a religious or political type and intensify the likelihood of criminal activities” in the places where they live.

            Moreover, he notes, “the growth of protest attitudes” among young people may push them with all their “built-up energy” to displace their anger at members of other nationalities and religion and to attack “individual entrepreneurs and [other] innocent” residents of their cities and villages.

            It is time to recognize as his fellow researchers do that “the existing system of educating young people in the spirit of tolerance is insufficiently effective and to a large degree purely formal” because it is limited to “declarations of the importance of tolerance” rather than to giving content to that term.

            There are psychological experts who know how to promote tolerance, Skorik adds, noting that his own research showed that after the psychologists worked in the schools, the students were far more likely to view with understanding the customs and traditions of other nationalities and thus to make friends across ethnic lines.

            Consequently, Skorik adds, he “supports the conclusions of [his] colleagues about the need to consolidate the efforts of the Russian society and state in opposing ‘the dissemination of the ideology of extremism and terrorism in various groups of the population [but] above all among young people.’”

            That is because “the formation of positive inter-ethnic relations in an urban community must begin from an early age in order to ensure in the future a reduction of the level of inter-ethnic tension.” And it must continue with older groups so that the positive lessons of childhood are reinforced rather than undermined.

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