Hard on the heels of the Locals (Mestnye) movement, the Young Guards of United Russia (Molodaya Gvardiia Edinoi Rossii — MGER) have joined the anti-immigrant campaign that is now underway in Russia. The expansion of this campaign is a particularly worrisome sign against the backdrop of preparations for November 4th celebrations [i.e., the so-called Day of Unity, which celebrates the victory over “Polish interventionists” in the seventeenth century and was explicitly meant to replace the traditional November 7th holiday that celebrated the October Revolution], when a heightening of nationalistic moods is observed even without additional factors.
On October 31, 2008, an announcement of the action “Our Money to Our People!!!” was published on the organization’s website. “We demand that migrant laborers be deported from Russia and that the border be closed to them in the coming year; that all vacancies be given to Russian citizens, [and] that legislative acts be passed to this effect,” it says in the announcement of the action.
According to Kommersant, aside from officially planned pickets in Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, and Khabarovsk, the action also will involve “patrolling the streets in search of gastarbeiters.”
Although MGER does not employ ethnic terms in its slogans, it is completely obvious that the organization regards “migrants” not as a social category but precisely as an ethnic category insofar as the announcement clearly does not assume that a “migrant laborer” might be a citizen of Russia.
It is hard not to notice that MGER’s demands and intentions reprise the rhetoric and intentions (including illegal plans to conduct patrols and do document checks) of DPNI [the Movement against Illegal Immigration] and the Locals. A fundamental difference between the declarations of the Young Guards and those of their predecessors is that the Young Guards no longer employ demagogic statements about “illegals”: MGER’s demands apply to all migrant laborers without exception and regardless of their [legal] status.
Formally, the demands are based on purely economic interests, as dictated by the [world financial] crisis.
The Young Guards have already garnered support from United Russia deputies in the State Duma. Thus, on October 19, Andrei Isaev made a statement that boiled down to the following: “When we invite migrant laborers, we should be prepared for the eventuality that, when they’re kicked out on the streets, either we ourselves or our relatives will get hit over the head with a brick.” MGER was also supported by the head of United Russia’s executive committee, State Duma Deputy Andrei Vorobyev.
The campaign has also been supported by Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, which quickly responded to MGER’s initiative by reporting that “according to the statistics of the capital police force, newcomers from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries are responsible for seventy percent of all incidents of street crime.” (We are unaware that the Moscow Police Department has ever made such statements — the Editors.)
MGER’s initiative also earned the whole-hearted support of DPNI. The actions of this pro-Kremlin organization, which shows an utter lack of independence in its activities, was interpreted as an unambiguous shift in state policy, as a vector close to the populist actions of autumn 2006. DPNI leader Alexander Belov commented on the actions of MGER thus: “This means that soon we will achieve our goals. It is unlikely that these young people would have made this decision without orders from the Kremlin.”
Against the backdrop of this clearly unfolding anti-immigrant campaign, it is curious that practically simultaneously the Russian government increased migrant laborer quotas from 1.8 million to 3.4 million. (The relevant decree, dated October 16, by the Ministry for Health and Social Development was published in Rossiiskaya gazeta on October 31.) This is undoubtedly a coincidence, and, as far as we know, the ministry’s decree is purely technical in character: it is meant to correct miscalculations that were discovered in the documentation at the beginning of the year.
However, the launch of an anti-immigrant campaign by a practically state-sponsored youth organization coupled with the simultaneous increase in migrant laborer quotas reveals a clear gap between the state’s attempts to combine economically necessary actions with political anti-immigrant populism.