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Societal security, the security dilemma, and extreme anti-migrant hostility in Russia

Document type: 
Scientific publication
Authors / Institution: 
Mikhail A Alexseev
Publisher / Publication: 
Journal of Peace Research, 48 (4): 509-523

The societal security theory posits that extreme anti-migrant hostility – such as demands to deport all migrants unconditionally – emerges when host communities see migration as a threat to the sur

vival of their group identity. An alternative interpretation – the immigration security dilemma – attributes extreme hostility to the human tendency to prepare for the worst under uncertainty when central authority weakens. Does extreme intergroup hostility relate more to threats framed in terms of group survival or to those framed in terms of uncertainty about government capacity and migration effects? I investigate this question empirically with the Russian national survey data (2005, N = 680) asking who in Russia supports the deportation of all internal and external migrants, legal and illegal, and their children to their places of origin – an extreme and widespread view that would require forced population movements not seen in the region since Stalin’s Great Terror. In multivariate tests, agreement with the societal security (survival) rhetoric explained about five percent of variation in support for unconditional, wholesale deportation of migrants; agreement with the security dilemma (uncertainty) rhetoric – about 20%. A comparison of attitudes in the same survey to Armenian, Uzbek, Chechen, and Chinese migrants and the association of each ethnic group with different types of security threat further support this finding. Hostility toward ethnic groups viewed as a weak security threat was more diagnostic of public support for wholesale deportation of migrants than hostility toward groups viewed as a strong security threat.

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