MOSCOW -- Yesterday a bombing occurred at Cherkizovsky, one of the city's largest open air marketplaces. Ten people are dead and forty injured. A little town within the big city, the Chekizovsky market sells textiles and household items. The majority of business owners leasing space at the market are immigrants from former Soviet republics, mostly people from the Caucuses; and yesterday they were targeted by skinhead terrorists.
This explosion is the first terrorist violence Moscow has suffered in many months. What is most disturbing to Russians and foreigners alike is that the attack was not work of Chechen jihadists or other Islamist terrorists. Instead, the bomb was likely placed by homegrown Slavic fascists, to target Russia's minorities.
Russia Blog has discussed the problem of neo-fascism and racist violence in Russia in several posts (see the Crime section). Last May Day, skinheads proudly marched through the streets of Moscow, chanting anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-black slogans. Yesterday the skinheads dramatically escalated their war on Russia's minorities from racist attacks on individuals to terrorism against ethnic community landmarks.
In the hours immediately following the explosion, investigators were refusing to give out details or speculate if the bomb was indeed a terrorist attack, but few hours later they stated that the attackers were likely motivated national and racial hatred.
Before the explosion, three Slavic-looking men were sighted near a small market cafÃ©. After hanging out for few minutes, they set down a duffle bag and left it by the cafÃ© tables. Since there have been many terrorist attacks in Moscow over the last decade, Muscovites are quite attentive to suspicious objects like luggage abandoned in public places. If not for the vigilance of ordinary citizens, many more people would have been killed when the bomb exploded. Instead, within a few moments people started walking away from the bag, and tried to get the terror suspects' attention to retrieve their "forgotten" bag. After the suspects realized that they had been spotted, they ran away in different directions. One suspect managed to escape and two others were tackled by security guards.
No matter what the investigation reveals, one fact is clear -- ultranationalism is on the rise in Russia. It is not supported by the government, but it is hard to control because it grows up like a poisonous mushrooms from the grassroots of Russian society. While Moscow and other major cities are boasting wealth and new luxuries, the rest of the Russian nation is just trying to survive. The fast tempo of recent economic growth has not been enough to trickle down and meet the rising expectations of these forgotten Russians.
Immigrants, who come from former Soviet republics, are sometimes more successful than many native Russians. Immigrants from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Abkhazia tend to be very well represented by their respective mafias in major Russian cities, and these organizations control most of the public markets and other businesses. While many common Russians feel enormous hatred for the rich and successful people from the Caucuses, poor vulnerable immigrants are much easier targets than powerful businessmen.