Starshinov: We Shouldn’t Go Over the Top with Tolerance

August 13, 2013
Фото: ИЗВЕСТИЯ/Павел Баранов

The First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Nationalities believes that the government policy on inter-ethnic relations is not efficient because it is not supported by actions of the executive.

Despite all the attention of the country’s leadership on the issue of inter-ethnic relations, recently conflicts between people of different ethnicities have become more frequent in Russian cities and towns. Izvestia decided to ask Michael Starshinov, the First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Nationalities Committee, who represents the United Popular Front (UPF) in the lower house, why the government policy on inter-ethnic relations fails.

Should we expect a significant tightening of immigration legislation in the near future? Considering that all these clashes at farmers markets, shooting in the air at weddings, and other similar problems involving foreign migrants and Russian citizens of non-Russian ethnicities, are heating up the situation in cities across Russia.

It depends primarily on the law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement and the FMS (Federal Migration Service) must tell us what else they need in order to control the situation. I do not believe that the imperfections of the legislation are the causes of unrest. Even in that incident at Matveyevsky market there was a group of police officers who were armed, duly authorized and had the power to get the situation under control. And in the end that Dagestani man hits a police officer in the head causing a serious injury, while the rest are just standing around and looking at it! On top of all he still managed to escape! People wonder how the police can protect us if they are unable to protect themselves? Unfortunately such examples, when the government is unable to perform its functions effectively, abound. The main reasons for this are corruption and incompetence.

Does that mean that the law is not going to change in any way?

Obviously, we’ll have to work on the legislation. Making employers criminally liable for hiring illegal immigrants, increasing the responsibility of officials, of the executive, and the law enforcement agencies, responsible for controlling the migration process, for improper execution of duties. All these issues have to be closely examined by the legislators from different angles. I am sure we’ll get some results no later than during the fall session.

Oftentimes the perpetrators of violence areinternal migrants.” Are they planning to impose more strict registration rules?

In comparison with external immigration, internal migration is a more difficult issue. We cannot differentiate between residents of different regions of the country. But one should always remember that the law is the same for all the citizens of the country. In Soviet times, internal migration was regulated administratively, and was governed, for example, by the rules of residence registration and laws against “parasitism.” And if some of our compatriots continue to behave the same way they do now, it might be worth considering the introduction of modern analogues of Soviet practices.

Would it make sense to set up deportation points in every region, including for internal migrants?

We cannot do that to citizens of our country, the Constitution guarantees freedom of movement. As for illegal immigrants, we are waiting for proposals from the FMS, they have to tell us whether it is convenient for them to have detention centers to temporarily hold illegal immigrants. If they say yes, we will certainly accommodate their request and support legislation to set up such facilities.

Are they planning to introduce fingerprinting for visitors?

It is already under implementation. Fingerprinting will be required at the point of entry.

The Cossacks offer their help to rein in people from the Caucasus and immigrants from other countries. Are the authorities ready to accept such help?

In my personal opinion such initiative is quite positive. In some regions, such as Krasnodar, they managed to establish effective cooperation between Cossacks and the authorities. But, again, the final decision on whether to accept such help depends on the executive power.

And generally speaking, do you think all these suggestions will ever be considered?

Once the Duma reconvenes, we’ll invite the Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Migration Service and other relevant agencies to discuss these issues. They will have a chance to tell us what prevents them from cleaning up the house. What is it, personnel problems, inadequate legislation, something else? We are ready to help and discuss reasonable suggestions! So far there hasn’t been any systematic effort in this direction, which is the main reason why order still hasn’t been restored. There is no agency that would coordinate all the activities.

And how will the UPF participate in improving the immigration law?

Our Charter stipulates that problems of migrants is one of the key priorities of the “Front”. It can be a platform on which will be able to “test” interaction with the authorities, civil society, migrant community. Also, one of the Front centers will monitor migration issues in the regions.

There are many theories on the subject “Who benefits from the instability of inter-ethnic relations in Russia“. What is your opinion on this?

I would refrain from constructing conspiracy theories. Of course, speculations on inter-ethnic and inter-faith issues are a domain for some international players. But we can only blame ourselves for the fact that the situation in terms migration and inter-ethnic relations in the country is far from perfect. This is the result of such problems as weakening of state institutions, decline of the general educational and cultural level, the lack of development ideology.

Does it mean that all inter-ethnic problems stem from a lack of internal culture?

There’s a host of reasons. The inefficiency of relevant government agencies, the lack of any kind of ideology was, especially for young people. Shortcomings of the educational system, the speed of information dissemination. Now in fact, you can use the media and other sources to put any thought into the heads of the most illiterate segments of society, who will take everything at face value. This is how intolerance towards others is nurtured. What kind of tolerance or common culture can we talk about if an individual was not originally brought up in these traditions?

Russians are often told how important it is to be tolerant to all ethnicities living in our country. Why then people from other regions with different traditions are not explained how to behave in the European part of Russia?

There is not much you can teach an adult. When you are a child your parents can spank you, or noto buy you ice cream, for doing something wrong, but with adults it doesn’t work like that. However a lot of educational work needs to be done, including with the participation of some well respected representatives of all ethnicities. A situation when people in search of a better life come to other regions and behave provocatively towards the traditions and culture of the local population is totally unacceptable. No talk of respect for traditions and customs can justify aggressive, and sometimes even criminal behavior.

Why then with the government policies so focused on tolerance we’re unable to achieve some real results?

We shouldn’t go too far with that concept of tolerance. Tolerance is not a panacea. Tolerance is not the same as all-permissiveness. We need to respect the interests of others, while firmly defending our principles and ideals. The British Prime Minister David Cameron once said: “When a white person holds objectionable views, racist views, for instance, we rightly condemn them, but when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious, frankly, frankly even fearful to stand up to them.” So everything must have reasonable limits.