Xenophobia and migrants

The greatest distance remains in relation to people from Africa, Central Asia and Gypsies. Two-thirds of respondents believe that it is necessary to “limit the influx of migrant workers.” At the same time, half of the respondents believe that the work of migrants is “useful for the country and society,” this indicator has grown significantly over the past eight years.

The lowest social distance is observed in relation to Jews: 45% of Russians are ready to see them “close” – among family members (13%), among close friends (11%), among neighbors (14%), among work colleagues (7%). Among the residents of Russia, a quarter (27%) of respondents are ready to see them.

In relation to the Chinese, there is a fairly high level of social distance. Despite the fact that 21% of respondents are ready to see them as residents of Russia, at the same time 23% would let them into Russia only temporarily, 22% would not let them in at all.

More than half of the respondents would like to limit the presence of people from Africa in Russia: a quarter (25%) would let them in only temporarily, 27% would not let them into the country. The same is observed in relation to Tajiks and Uzbeks.

The share of those who would like to limit the presence of Ukrainians in Russia decreased from 41% to 32% compared to August 2020: 15% (in 2020 – 22%) would let them into Russia only temporarily, 17% (in 2020 – 19%) would not let them.

One of the highest levels of social distancing is observed in relation to Gypsies. However, since August 2020, the proportion of those who would limit the presence of Gypsies in Russia has decreased: 14% (in 2020 – 19%) would let them into Russia only temporarily, 37% (in 2020 – 44%) would not let them.

The attitude towards Chechens remains stable: a quarter (26%) of Russians would not let them into Russia, 15% would let them into Russia only temporarily.

There was a slight decrease in the share of those who believe that the Russian government should limit the influx of migrant workers: 68% of respondents think so.

Half of Russians believe that the work of migrants is good for the country and society. For eight years – from June 2013 to December 2021 – the number of respondents who hold this opinion has grown from 41% to 50%.

Compared to August 2019, the share of respondents who believe that the presence of migrants in their city or region is excessive has decreased by 6 percentage points.

The number of Russians who agree that the majority of migrants live better and richer than they and their family remains almost unchanged: 19% definitely agree, 22% mostly agree.

Comment by Lev GUDKOV

The long-term studies of xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism conducted by the Levada Center staff since 1989 testify to the persistence of ethno-national and racial prejudices characteristic of the majority of the Russian population. High anxiety, social insecurity in everyday life, collective inferiority complexes, resentment and the experience of habitual violence by the authorities are “rechanneled” and find their transformed expression in negative projections of Russians on the imaginary ethnically or racially “different” endowed with common, non-individualized properties of “alienness”, “danger”, “hostility” and irrational force.  The desire to protect themselves from their “influence” or “expansion”, threats to the lifestyle of Russians, material interests or the loss of culture of the ethnic majority of Russia in one form or another are characteristic on average for 55-65% of the population (at times of crises and increased xenophobic feelings), during periods of relative well-being, as studies show, these indicators can decrease to 40-45%. But one way or another, latent, passive forms of xenophobia and racism are the dominant reactions to the likelihood of the appearance of “others”, “strangers” in the spheres of everyday life of Russians (labor migration, increased horizontal mobility of the population, including residents of Russian regions).

The means of measuring xenophobia and racism used in sociological research are usually based on the so-called methods of fixing the social distance between one ethnic group and a number of others, the model of which is the “Bogardus scale”. In one way or another, in a truncated form, this technique allows you to measure the degree of tolerance/intolerance towards “strangers”, depending on how much “others” may affect the interests and social space of this group, that is, whether it is about admission to the country, taking significant social positions with a social structure (in the government, in the education system, the media, the police, etc.), the likelihood of neighborhood, teamwork or (the greatest degree of resistance and aggression) about marriage, kinship with people of another race, ethnicity, religion.  The most rigid barriers and resistance in relation to “others”, “strangers” are extreme symbolic positions: the prospect of kinship with them, on the one hand, and the occupation of the highest positions in the state (president, head of government, etc.).  It is these nodes of the social system (the basic structure is the family, on the one hand, the symbolic representation of the collective community, the national whole, on the other) that are qualified by the extreme level of traditionalist protection.

It should be emphasized right away that public opinion polls regarding ethno-national prejudices and stereotypes of perception of people of other ethnicity or race do not describe the real experience of individual interaction of specific people, respondents, with “foreigners”, but stable collective (more often even archetypal) ideas about others. As a rule, they are mythologized projections and components of their own group or collective identity, but only in negative projections on “others”. Xenophobia and racism thereby serve to maintain the boundaries between some people and others in conditions when the main ethnic majority is experiencing a deficit of their own positive values.

Considering the dynamics of mass xenophobia in Russia, the following conclusions can be drawn: xenophobic sentiments, weakly expressed at the time of the collapse of the USSR, gradually increased by the end of the 1990s, their peak falls on 2013. The Crimean euphoria noticeably reduced their level and intensity of expression, channeling latent hostility of this kind and concentrating negativity on the images of the “Russophobic West” and “Ukrainians”, “Bandera”.  However, starting from the crisis of 2015-2016, the level of xenophobia begins to rise again and remains elevated until 2018, at least in relation to some representatives of ethnic or racial communities.

In this press release, we present truncated forms of the methodology for measuring xenophobia and its dynamics over the past 10 years and only on several fundamental positions: conditionally indicators of racial hostility (Chinese people, dark-skinned people from Africa), ethnic antipathy – to visitors from Central Asia (Tajiks, Uzbeks), cultural and social “aliens” (manifested, for example, in various images of declassified, antisocial and criminalized “Gypsies”), wariness and suspicion of “their own” by nationality, but ” ethnically alien” (Chechens, who are followed by a trail of perception of them as anti-Russian mountaineers, terrorists, Islamists, barbarians, opponents in two wars), and, finally, “Ukrainians” and “Jews”. The inclusion of “Ukrainians” in this case is important for fixing the parameters of artificial hostility to Ukraine induced by propaganda after 2014 (earlier studies did not note any significant negative attitudes towards Ukraine and Ukrainians). “Jews”, on the contrary, have always been present in these studies, playing the role of a standard or measure of xenophobia and a means of measuring its dynamics, since anti-Semitism is the oldest form of generalized xenophobia in Russia, which has become a paradigm for everyone else; all other nationalist and conspiracy ideologies are articulated according to its scheme).

The main conclusions from this measurement:

  1. Although the structure of xenophobia and racism remains unchanged, the overall intensity of negative attitudes has been decreasing in recent years. This is especially noticeable in relation to “Jews” (an increase in positive attitudes from 2010 to 2021 from 22% to 45%; a decrease in negativity and various kinds of restrictions over the same period from 34% to 22%), “Chinese” (the share of positive or neutral responses increased from 12 to 28%; the share of negative decreased from 62% to 45%), “Chechens” (the share of indicators of tolerant attitudes increased from 9 to 22%, negative decreased from 57 to 41%).
  2. The attitude towards Africans retains a predominantly negative and cautious tone (an increase in tolerant opinions from 12 to 22%, negative ones remained almost the same themselves – 58-60% during 2010-2020, in December 2021 -51%). The same can be said about Gypsies (the growth of positive attitudes from 7 to 15%; the volume of negative attitudes ranges from 54% to 63% in August 2020, then decreases to 51%).
  3. The attitude of Russians towards Ukrainians reflects the weakening effect of anti-Ukrainian propaganda: the share of positive attitudes has risen to 32-36% since 2010, the share of negative attitudes has remained at about the same level – 33% in 2010. 32% – in 2021 (although in 2018 and 2020 there were bursts of negativity up to 41-42%).
  4. The most obvious expression of non-reflexive antipathy and anxiety is the attitude towards migrant workers. It has the character of frank wishes that the authorities limit the flow of migrants, introduce various prohibitive barriers and measures for migrants. Over the past 5 years, the share of those who believe that the government should prevent the flow of migrants has grown from 58 to 68-73%. This is the dominant public opinion. An attempt to raise slightly more detailed questions and note the possibility of a more rationalized attitude towards newcomers and labor migrants does not give much: the opinion that the presence of migrants in the city where the respondents live is “excessive”, although it has decreased since 2013 from 69 to 57%, but still remains predominant. Half of the respondents began to share the opinion “the work of migrants is useful for the country and society” (an increase of 9% since 2013, from 41%), but the share of those who disagree with them, although it decreased (from 51% to 45% over the same period), still remains very significant.


Learn more about research on xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism:

Gudkov L., Pipia K. Parameters of xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism in modern Russia //Bulletin of Public Opinion, 2018, No.3-4 (127), July-December, pp. 33-64

Anti-Semitism and xenophobia in modern Russia ( // Bulletin of Public Opinion, 2021, No.1-2 (132), January-June, pp. 175-270


The survey by the Levada Center was conducted December 16 – 22, among a representative sample of all Russian urban and rural residents. The sample was comprised of 1640 people aged 18 or older in 137 municipalities of 50 regions of the Russian Federation. The survey was conducted as a personal interview in respondents’ homes. The answer distribution is presented as percentages of the total number of participants along with data from previous surveys.

The statistical error of these studies for a sample of 1600 people (with a probability of 0.95) does not exceed:

3.4% for indicators around 50%

2.9% for indicators around 25%/75%

2.0% for indicators around 10%/90%

1.5% for indicators around 5%/95%

The ANO Levada Center is included in the registry of non-commercial organizations acting as foreign agents.


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