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Russian Immigrants Face Chilly Conditions

Russian Immigrants Face Chilly Conditions

Just 37% of Russians say their areas are good places to live for ethnic minorities

by Sergei Gradirovski and Neli Esipova


PRINCETON, NJ -- Stringent new regulations limiting the number of immigrants allowed to work in Russia's retail markets were put in place this month. For now, no more than 40% of retail workers can be foreign, and the number is supposed to be reduced to zero by the end of 2007. Critics have denounced the new rules as evidence of a strong xenophobic streak pervading Russian society. Gallup World Poll results find little to counter that perception.

When asked whether their city or area is a good place to live for racial or ethnic minorities, just 37% of Russians say yes, the second-lowest percentage across more than 70 countries in which Gallup asked this question worldwide, and the lowest among former Soviet republics surveyed.


Similarly, 41% of Russians say their city or area is a good place for immigrants from other countries.

Indeed, people of "alien" origin face dire safety and security concerns in much of Russia. Race riots in the northern town of Kondopoga in August 2006 are one impetus behind the new retail regulations. By some accounts, there is currently about one race-related murder a week in Russia. It is not only Africans and Asians who are affected, nor even only representatives of former southern Soviet republics from Transcaucasia and Central Asia, but also native Russian citizens who live in the republics of Northern Caucasus and who "look different" -- i.e., are phenotypically distinguishable as non-Slavic.

Finally, the violence of fascist youth factions is omnipresent in the Russian news media: More than two-thirds of respondents (71%) say that they've heard about the activities of "skinheads." Among that group, just 4% say they approve of the skinheads' activities, but that rises to 11% approval among 15- to 24-year-old Russians.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted in June 2006 with a randomly selected national sample of 2,011 Russian adults, aged 15 and older. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±2.4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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