By now you have probably already come across a number of shocking photos, videos, and news stories from the rioting ultra-nationalist football fans, who took over a memorial event for a murdered fan and turned it into one of the uglier displays of hate and racism in recent memory. According to a story by Miriam Elder published in the Guardian, about 7,000 rioting fans of the Spartak football club “flashed the Nazi salute, chanted ‘Russia for Russians!’ and pelted riot police with flares, smoke bombs and metal fence posts.” Later two Central Asian men were killed by the rioting mob.
It’s a scary scene to behold for all the players and fans planning to come to Russia for the 2018 World Cup, and makes one wonder if FIFA would have gone through with the selection if this had happened just a few weeks earlier. However, there were of course plenty of warnings. Adding insult to injury, there is a widespread perception (via Oleg Kashin) that the Russian police give a more “gentle” handling of nationalist rioters than, say, a harmless opposition rally of less than 100 people.
President Medvedev has promised via his Twitter that everyone would be held accountable for these hate crimes – although the tough talk came only after he posted a photo while attending an Elton John concert. Maybe this storm will pass over as long as Vladimir Putin keeps on singing Blueberry Hill, but dealing with xenophobia and increasingly large waves of working immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus is going to require a concerted effort on behalf of the state and civil society.