* Muslim Chechnya invites Russian nationalists to visit
* Move aimed to combat growing racial tensions
By Anna Andrianova and Amie Ferris-Rotman
MOSCOW, July 6 (Reuters) - Russian far-right nationalists made a rare visit to the volatile Chechnya region this week, invited by local officials seeking to combat growing racism in Russia against people from the North Caucasus.
The head of Slavic Union, a party banned in Russia and whose logo is a stylised swastika, was among the handful of nationalists who toured the tiny republic.
"I was very surprised by what I saw here. You can meet normal people, and just chat to them... I saw no aggression in Chechnya," Slavic Union leader Dmitry Dyomushkin said on his site demushkin.com ahead of leaving Chechnya on Wednesday.
Pictures posted on his site showed the bearded nationalist leader posing in Chechen cities wearing a black and white t-shirt with the words: "I am Russian". He also met local lawmakers and reporters to discuss Chechen culture.
The unlikely move by nationalists comes amid mounting racial tensions in Russia, which is home to some 20 million Muslims, or a seventh of the population.
Violent clashes between Muslims and ethnic Russians in the capital have raised concerns authorities will not be able to keep order ahead of March 2012 presidential elections.
President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday reassured a group of Muslim spiritual leaders of the need to overcome xenophobia, in the Kabardino-Balkaria region not far from Chechnya.
Explaining the invitation to the nationalists, Chechnya's minister of external relations and national policy, Shamsail Saraliev, said in the capital Grozny: "We don't want to fight with anyone on nationalistic grounds".
"COMMON VALUES WITH CHECHENS"
Around half of Russia's Muslims live in the North Caucasus, a patchwork of republics along the country's southern fringe that include Chechnya, site of two separatist wars since 1994.
The region is home to a growing Islamist insurgency, leading most ordinary Russians to not venture there.
Despite Moscow pouring billions of dollars into the North Caucasus, violence has not abated and analysts say the funding could backfire and drive a new wedge between Moscow and the region.
"All the people of Russia should be glad that streets in our Russian cities are clean," Dyomushkin said, referring to the menial jobs many migrants from the North Caucasus perform in the Russian heartland.
The migrant workers often say they are treated with suspicion by ethnic Russians and often face racism.
"If you value the fight against alcoholism, drug abuse and gay parades.... then I think (we Russians) have common values with Chechens," Dyomushkin said.
But not everyone approved of the nationalists' jaunt to Chechnya.
"I am taken aback they were invited, but it is good they know what is happening in Chechnya," said Maxim Shevchenko, a TV journalist and member of the state-run Public Chamber of Russia, an advisory body.
In Grozny for a literature event, Shevchenko told Reuters he turned down an invite to meet them as "I don't want to speak to people who spread fascist ideas". (Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Jon Boyle)