10 November 2012, 15:46

Neo-Nazism and xenophobia in the post-Soviet states: is there an antidote?

Neo-Nazism and xenophobia in the post-Soviet states: is there an antidote?

November 9 is the International Day against Fascism, racism and anti-Semitism. Recent events have shown that neo-Nazism and xenophobia have found strong supporters in the post-Soviet States. These movements have different roots: recent state development, strong national identities and difficult economic situation. But the antidote seems unique: education and information.

Neo-Nazism and xenophobia are trends that have tremendously risen during the past 20-30 years in the post-Soviet space. And recent events have proven that such movements do not lack support. In July 2012, in Gura Bycului, a small town in the East of Moldova, people had damaged a memorial of Soviet soldiers and drew graffiti on it with swastikas. Similar incidents had occurred in the city of Novomoskovsk, in the East part of Ukraine, last summer, when a monument had been desecrated. And, in September, in Nikolaev (southern Ukraine), a monument for the victims of the Holocaust had been damaged too. Actually, nationalist and neo-Nazi movements are quite active in Ukraine. After the parliamentary elections in October 2012, the far-right nationalist party “Svododa” (Freedom) will be represented in Ukraine’s parliament for the first time in the country’s history. These are only a few examples of the growing manifestations of Neo-Nazism and xenophobia in contemporary post-Soviet States.

According to the head of the Institute of Russian Diaspora, Sergei Panteleev, the roots of these movements are to be searched for in the ideologies that supported the national building of the post-Soviet states. This was of course after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Actually, this dissolution has not been a peaceful process. Conflicts have risen in the region on ethnic and national basis, for instance in Georgia, Azerbaijan and in the Baltic States. And the state building process has been followed by a rise of national identities and slogan of national unity. Nationalist parties came to power after the fall of the Soviet Union in several States.

Today, nationalism is supported and fueled by social and economic conditions, which favor xenophobia and violent behaviors on an ethnic basis. Such behaviors are also based on misunderstanding and ignorance of history by the youngest generations in the region. In Sergey Panteleev’s mind, a good pedagogical work could be done by the media, in order to remember the past, and the historical faults which should not be repeated. And at the same time, there is a clear need to teach the history of the Second World War in the region. Yusif Belous, professor at the University of Chisinau, deplores the lack of knowledge of his Moldavian students about this period: “They don’t know anything about this time.”

Education appears to be a priority. But there is also a need to promote peaceful relationships among various ethnic communities. Panteleev explained during a press-conference organized in Moscow on November 8th that an economic integration process is currently carried out by several post-Soviet countries. A Customs Union is being created between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. This structure will favor people’s movements from a country to another. Consequently, alongside economic processes, there is a need to promote human integration. For instance, in Russia, Panteleev would like to introduce a harmonious way of life, based on the Orthodox culture. According to him, the Soviet experience can here be useful, by illustrating how to promote internationalism and solidarity.

The idea to use the Soviet experience to solve ethnic tensions can raise objections. But the need to find a way for people from different origins to live peacefully together is unquestionable, and would be useful even far from the post-Soviet region.

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