The Kremlin Has Its Eyes Wide Shut on Nationalism

The Guardian today takes it for granted that any political leader worth his salt would be eager to quash any extremist movement that threatens the harmony of citizen life and the ability of his subjects to live peacefully amongst each other.  This sentiment may be a little naive when applied to Vladimir Putin, however.  It seems that Russia’s nationalist contingent is getting out of hand, with the recent extremist march, held on the Day of National Unity, drawing over 7,000 protesters – and the government is doing as little as possible to intervene, supposedly because such a move would draw the ire of the country’s estimated 20,000-strong nationalist cohort.

“Putin is walking a tightrope. He is being evasive […] Ahead of elections, he can’t afford to antagonise Russian citizens, even if they are minorities. Nor can he say he’s outraged by ethnic crime because this is bound to antagonise young constituencies in Russia.”

Interesting to consider this angle in light of the recent imprisonment of Akhmedpasha Aydayev, a young Chechen, for the murder of a football fan in a street brawl in Moscow.  The severe sentencing of the young man is drawing suspicion after it emerged that he was sentenced in a secret trial that ended ‘just one day before the annual Russian March.’  RFE/RL’s analysis says that the extremity of the sentence ‘was intended to placate the Russian nationalists, defense lawyers believe.’  In other words, the Kremlin’s line on nationalists and minorities may go further than simply ‘closing its eyes where possible’.

UPDATE: Some anti-extremist lip-service from Dmitry Medvedev, who urges that the issue does not call for a display of ‘humanism‘.