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Russian Killings of Tajik Migrant Workers — Now at a Level with American Lynchings in the 1930s?

Written by on Thursday, 3 November 2011
Central Asia and Afghanistan, Tajikistan
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This post, originally by Jim Brooke, is from NewEurasia.net partner Kanal PIK TV English

The Tajik Air jet was still taxiing to a stop at Dushanbe’s airport, but the men on board were already in the aisles, smiles on their faces, happy to be home.

Home alive that is.

I don’t know if below my feet on the plane was any “Cargo 200” – Soviet slang for bodies sent home in zinc lined coffins.

A few days before I arrived in Dushbanbe, Tajikistan’s Migration Service announced that during the first eight months of 2011, the bodies of 603 Tajik gastarbeiters had been repatriated from Russia. (By comparison, 1,811 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan over the last 10 years.) With about 700,000 Tajiks working in Russia, that factors to an annual mortality rate of around one to 1,000.

The high death toll, which is little changed in recent years, is largely due to lethally lax safety procedures on Russian construction sites. The Migration Service collects data on flights arriving from the 17 Russian cities that have direct service to Tajikistan’s two international airports, in Dushanbe and Khujand.

But one detail jumped out of the latest report. Of the 603 deaths, 67 were attributed to “attacks by nationalist groups.”

Russia’s media largely ignored this item. But the following week, a group of Tajik public figures sent an open letter of protest to Russian authorities, the United Nations, and the Council of Europe.

“We, representatives of the Tajik and international public, are extremely alarmed by the growing intensity of the efforts of radical neo-Nazi organizations in the Russian Federation stimulating the growth of xenophobic sentiments in society. Therefore we are calling on the Russian authorities to take more resolute measures to resist the growth of nationalist extremism in the country,” the letter read.

After a little internet research, I calculated that a Tajik working in Russia today runs the roughly same risk of lynching as an African American did in the American South in 1930.

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