Wednesday’s celebration of the new Russian holiday, People’s Unity Day, was a massive gesture of nationalist fervor by patriotic Russians. Some 200,000 people from many different groups marched and rallied all over the country, and a considerable number of were explicitly racial nationalists.
Some organizations called the celebration the “Russian March” to emphasize Russian nationalism over “people’s unity.” DPNI, an organization whose name translates as Movement Against Illegal Immigration, went even further and called its event “March Against the Invaders.” It boasted a uniformed drum corps and a turnout of 7,000 in Moscow (see photos). DPNI had the enthusiastic support of even more ultra-nationalist organizations such as the Slavonic Union and the Russian National Union. There were a few clashes with “anti-fascist” militants, but this year’s People’s Unity Day kept convincingly to what has become a five-year tradition: a clear demonstration of Russian commitment to Mother Russia.
People’s Unity Day was established by President Vladimir Putin in 2005 to replace the Soviet Union’s big political holiday, the November 7 anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. After Russia junked Marxism-Leninism, it made little sense to celebrate the revolution–though the Communist Party rejects the new holiday and still insists on celebrating the revolution.
Nationalists understood right away the importance of giving the new holiday a thoroughly patriotic flavor. Everyone had expected that the new holiday to be nothing more than a day off work, but even at the first celebration in 2005, nationalists surprised the country by showing the same spirit as the historical event the holiday commemorates: the liberation of Moscow from Polish invaders in 1612.
Unfortunately, Russia today faces an existential crisis, just as it did in 1612, and it was with the same urgency that Russian patriots took to the street on November 4.
Russia has a border that is 12,331 miles long and there are plenty of people in the 15 countries on the other side who are trying to get in. Two countries, Finland and Norway, are prosperous and Belarus and the Baltic republics are stable. Poland and the Ukraine are borderline Third World, but their people are at least of kindred stock. Georgia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, and North Korea are grindingly poor, and many of their people want to live in Russia. China is a special case: Chinese cities are prosperous, but many Chinese rural areas are miserable. Russia thus gets a stiff dose of neighboring Asians and Muslims, along with illegal immigrants from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Middle East.
Russia is even worse than the United States at keeping track of gate-crashers, so no one knows how many have sneaked in or overstayed their visas. At least 100,000 a year were said to be arriving in the late 1990s, and when the Russian economy was growing at more than 6 percent a year from 2004 to 2008, the demand for cheap labor must have sucked in many more.
Most illegals go to the big cities, but many go to the Urals and the Eastern Frontiers to work in mining and timber. Many immigrant groups, but particularly the Chinese, form enclaves, and although they are in Russia, they reproduce the communities they had in their homelands.
Like population figures, the cost of government aid to illegal immigrants is unknown. Most Russians get free medical care and education, so most illegals probably get these benefits, too.
Estimates of the number of Chinese in Russia run into the millions. Chinese come for the obvious economic reasons, and to escape the population pressures in a country of 1 billion people, but some also come to escape the one-child policy. Chinese are especially attracted to Siberia, whose sparse population is such a contrast to their own country. There is a legitimate fear of Chinese simply outnumbering Russians in certain areas. Already, Chinese are deeply involved in organized crime in those vast reaches were Russian military and police are stretched thin.
Other demographic threats
Another terrible demographic problem Russia faces is the flesh trade. It is estimated that over the last 15 years, some 3 million women have been ensnared in the sex trade and sold essentially as slaves, mainly to Muslim and Asian countries but also to Israel. Women are tempted with offers of attractive-sounding jobs and find themselves imprisoned in foreign brothels. Although the word is out on these schemes and Russian women are becoming more wary, some are simply kidnapped. The authorities estimate that human trafficking is third only to illegal drugs and arms sales in organized-crime profits.
But even if Russia could control its borders and keep its women at home, it faces an even greater long-term problem. The current population of 140 million is rapidly declining. For years, Russian fertility has been well below replacement level, and the average Russian woman now has only 1.41 children in her lifetime–well below the 2.1 necessary to keep a population going. According to projections, in 50 years, the population could drop by one half, to just 70 million.
Under the Soviets, contraceptives were hard to get, and abortion became a means of birth control. Russia still has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, and a woman can become infertile after three operations. Bad public health standards have contributed to an epidemic of human papilloma virus, which also contributes to infertility.
The Kremlin recently instituted financial incentives for childbearing. This is better than nothing but the incentives go to everyone in the Russian Federation, including Muslim sub-groups who have more children than Russians anyway.
After waking up from their 70-year nightmare of Communist rule, Russians had hopes for something much better. The terrible disparities in wealth that have followed the badly handled transition to capitalism are only an additional burden to a people who have suffered far more than they deserved. And yet, Russians are deeply, fervently patriotic. Although some think of People’s Unity Day as a celebration of multiculturalism, the majority do not. All over the Internet, there are photos of huge crowds, not just in Moscow but in all the big cities. These people know their country is at the crossroads, and that their very survival as a people depends on what they do over the next several decades.
Would that there were as many Americans who see the crisis as clearly as Russians do.