The number of racially motivated attacks in Russia has risen sharply. In this year alone, 72 people have died in incidents of this kind. Sociologists also blame the media in part for the trend.
Immigrant traders have been targeted
A study by the information and analysis center Sowa revealed that one in two Russians is concerned about the number of immigrants in Russian cities. In the past, citizens from the Caucasus were the primary targets of hostility, but now immigrants from Central Asian countries are increasingly being victimized.
The Sowa researchers partly blame the country's media for this development. The investigation showed that reporting about immigrants was almost entirely negative.
Having the "wrong" skin color is risky in Russia's big cities
"Up to around 2005 the word 'immigrant' had no ethnic connotations," said Galina Koshevnikova, the center's deputy head. "But over the last two years media reports about immigrants have been hostile. That's a very dangerous tendency," she added.
Statistics collected by the Moscow Center for Human Rights indicate that 72 people were killed in connection with racist attacks in the first five months of this year, compared to a total of 50 in 2007.
Center head Alexander Brod said that there were 126 attacks in total -- with 137 injuries also occurring in the course of the violence. The majority of the incidents took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Rise in Central Asian victims
Immigrants from Central Asian states were most frequently the target of attack.
This year's fatalities included 12 Uzbek, 9 Kyrgyz and six Tajik nationals. Citizens from these countries also accounted for a large number of the injuries with 23 Tajiks, 10 Uzbeks and five people from Kyrgyzstan being harmed in racially motivated attacks. Six people from the Caucasus republic of Azerbaijan were also killed this year.
There are an estimated 70,000 skinheads and members of far-right groups in Russia.