Call sign of Nationalism: Corruption and xenophobia are Russia's two worst problems, by Mikhail Fishman

Vedomosti -- Federal elections are drawing close. Some observers bide their time, waiting to be told the outcome. Others retain interestin the potential intrigue and competition, they hold forth at great lengths on the subject of modernization vs the program ofstability and status quo. In fact, this modernization vs stabilityclash is virtual. The former is laughed at, the latter disbelievedin.

It does not mean, however, that the elections will lack anagenda. This agenda might be disguised but it will be there allright. No need to pretend that it does not exist. As a matter offact, this agenda is already clear, consisting as it is of two items. Item one: corruption associated with the officialdom andwith the police. If there is one thing that all Russians share, itis fear of the police and contempt of it at the same time. Item two: xenophobia.

The more the faith in stability dwindles, the more these twoitems on the agenda move into the foreground. The more laughablethe government looks pretending to fight the former, the morepressing a problem the latter becomes. Frustration with unfairnessneeds a vent... and finds it as Manezh can testify.

Remaining just outside political mainstream, bigotry is already in the focus of attention of some astute politicos. May 1 demonstrations in Russia showed it plainly. Demonstrators in Saratov demanded measures against the so called Gastarbeiters i.e. labor immigrants. In Stavropol, the LDPR organized a march with the slogan "The Russians Need Protection!". In Tver, block-white-and-yellow flags could be seen among red and white-green (Yabloko)ones.

Something ought to be done about it. No wonder Vladimir Putin became so active right after the Manezh disturbances. No wonder democratic activists choose words with care when elaborating on the problems of the Caucasus and on immigration. No wonder establishment of a right-wing party - genuinely right-wing one -is whispered.

Bigotry in the meantime is doing what it can to feignpresentability and non-aggression. Xenophobes talk of "ethniccrime" and procedures of registration, they talk of civilized co-existence and mutual respect. They refer to statistics, they suggest solutions... How can one object to all of that? The problems exist indeed. Besides, all countries do regulate immigration and cope with these problems as best they can... All these civilized answers we've been hearing are elements of a broad program of values and freedoms centered around economic freedomfrom the state. This is what right-wing platforms stipulate.

In a word, it does not really matter in what terms xenophobiachooses to camouflage itself. What matters is that xenophobia ishere and that it attracts attention. All these words are but call signs, a kind of identification system that enables xenophobes to recognize kindred spirit.