Hate crimes have risen dramatically in Russia this year, worrying experts about an organized campaign of attacks.
There were 17 people killed in ethnically related attacks so far in 2008, according to the Moscow-based SOVA Center, a human rights organization that conducts sociological research on nationalism and racism in Russia. This represents a 13 percent increase over the rate of ethnically based murders in the previous year and, if the trend continues, would result in a doubling of the total rate of ethnically biased murders in the country, The Associated Press reported. In 2007, 67 people were killed and more than 550 injured in hate attacks.
At the same time, anti-Semitism in Russia has stayed at historic lows.
Galina Kozhevnikova, SOVA’s deputy director, told the AP that the increase in attacks could be part of a response to authorities’ recent efforts to prosecute hate crimes more stringently. All of the attackers have been between ages 12 and 19 and have attacked their victims from behind with knives, Kozhevnikova said.
“This is an indication of the organized nature of ethnically motivated attacks,” Kozhevnikova said.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has struggled with racially motivated violence, the vast majority of it directed at immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus.