Russia: Bloggers' Perspectives on Xenophobia

Global Voices Online
Saturday, November 3, 2007

Wherever you click in the Russian blogosphere these days, you always seem to end up reading posts on nationalism, ethnicity, xenophobia, ethnic violence and other related subjects.

In October, apart from discussing the famous DNA scientist's race comments and the U.S. president's DNA comments, Russian bloggers dealt with at least two xenophobic attacks - one that took place in Spain, and the other one domestic.

LJ user drugoi, a top-ranking Russian blogger, highlighted the case of Sergi Xavier, a 21-year-old Spaniard accused of assaulting a 16-year-old Ecuadorian girl on a commuter train in Barcelona (see video of the attack here).

Below are some of the readers' reactions (RUS) to drugoi's post:


>a young man sitting nearby pretended as if nothing was going on.

Spanish commuters resemble Muscovites on the subway so much!



Funny, when they are beating someone on our commuter trains, no one sees anything, too, even if the leg of the attacker flies by right next to your nose.

Only there [in Spain], trains look better, while ours are so very cold. [...]



The guys who is sitting looks like an immigrant, too. Maybe his turn [for the beating] was next.


Yes, he's an immigrant, most likely from Peru.


From Argentina, they reported it on Radio Cadena COPE. [...]



That's how the police should be working! They found the criminal within a couple days, and moreover, the police did all the work. Without multiple appeals, requests and demands from the victim.



Why scream about some Spanish jerks for the whole world to hear? We've got enough of folks like this in Russia.



I know for sure from my own experience - in Moscow, they'll be beating you, and the passer-by will be passing you right by. And it doesn't matter if you're a girl or a boy, it's enough that you look different. In the subway, even the cops don't risk getting involved.

Here's what I've recalled, by the way - [National Bolsheviks] used to entertain themselves this way on the subway: [...] you're going down the escalator, they approach from behind, put their hands on the handles, push their legs up and hit you on the back. I myself once saw an Asian girl fly down [the escalator] on Frunzenskaya [subway station]. But those were two boys of around 14, they were yelling something about the yellow... [-skinned] who have flooded Moscow, and I was with my husband and two of his friends, and we caught these guys and took them to the police room, and I was helping the girl they attacked... No case was opened, the cops were trying to get it off their shoulders as quickly as possible.



Well, here it goes. Spain, Spain. And here's Russia for you. A comrade lovingly gathers reports on killings and beatings of non-Russians. His [identity] is perfectly known, and he's not really trying hard to hide. But he's not pushing himself into the open, either. Instead, he is doing a constant, painstaking and inspired job of cultivating the feeling of ethnic and racial hatred. Any expert would be forced to deem half of his blog posts as pertaining to Article 282 [of the Russian Criminal Code: Incitement of National, Racial, or Religious Enmity]. And so what happens? Nothing. [...]

The last comment in the selection above refers to an extremely intolerant discussion of the recent attacks on non-Russians in Moscow, which resulted in the deaths of at least two people: a 46-year-old chess champion from Yakutia and a 23-year-old ethnic Armenian drummer.

LJ user mike67 posted this analysis of the situation (RUS):

Not just the disgusting orgy of the "white patriots" following the murder of the Yakut chess player, but also the attempts of certain brave people [...] to argue with them, show how little understood is the essence of what's going on. Stories of the kind of "'aliens' are humans, too," arguments about economic advantages of migration, calling to common sense and other feelings in general - all this doesn't make sense, because the problem of nationalism goes a lot deeper than nationalism itself.

The problem is the formation of well-organized gangs that regard ethnic purges as nothing but an accidental kind of occupation. In a megalopolis, especially on the outskirts, we've got armies of idle teenagers, who gather in large groups to fulfill their age-specific need to assert themselves. Modern means of communication transform the usual gangs of hooligans that control the neighborhoods into mobile extraterritorial entities - the real gangs, that is, whose analogue in the youth circles exists only among football fans.

But fan groups are constructed according to the "predator-predator" model, which keeps the system from further growth. Transferring aggression onto foreigners creates the "predator-victim" model, whose growth has no limits. Competition among groups demands more daring "feats" - and this is why it is logical that the attackers have gone from beatings to killings in the past few years.

It's important, but is not taken into account, that Nazism for them is an excuse, not the reason - the most convenient way of expressing themselves rather than part of a static worldview. This indeed is a competition between groups - and that's why they regularly record their "actions" on video and actively discuss them on forums. Hence, the attacks not on those who have the most competing interests, but on the most "conspicuous" representatives of the "aliens": it's obvious that the ideological explanation of the attacks through the necessity of "cleaning up the space" for Russians is absolutely inapplicable to the regular attacks on [black] students. That's why it's pointless to try to convince these young people that they wouldn't replace the Tajiks at construction sites.

All this was very evident in the discussion of the killing of the Yakut - who had been mistaken for a Korean (this is literally how many critics of the Nazis were asking, "What for if he was one of ours [a Russian citizen]?). The following statements (I'm quoting from memory): "What, do you expect them to ask him to show his passport?", "The main thing is for the guys to learn how to kill, and the material [on which to practice] is irrelevant." [...]


For a foreigner's view on racism and xenophobia in Russia, please visit MoscowThroughBrownEyes, an English-language blog. Here is an excerpt from one of the recent entries:

[...] one of Beyonce’s dancers, identified only by his first name Cliff, was attacked at a restaurant on Tverskaya after being subjected to racial slurs. The incident took place just after the victory of Russia’s football team over England. Apparently, a drunk Russian took Cliff for an England fan and began to ridicule his supposed country and skin color. [...]

Before we start thinking that all Russians are raving racists, the thread on this incident at the Russian-language fan site InDaRnB reveals a fascinating discussion on what the attack on Cliff tells us about racial politics here [...]:

mib: That’s it, Beyonce is never coming to Moscow again. For real, these football fans are goats. [Note: that sounds harsher in Russian.]

Tania Mega-Popa: Fu, I hate these fans. They don’t have one gram of brains. It’s not just Beyonce who won’t come to us anymore, but many more. It’s shameful.


Vladimir: [In response to Irreplaceable] You have too low of an opinion of Russia. Racism is present everywhere and among us no more so than in America.

Li Key: Yeah, what's there to say. I think that it doesn’t depend on the country, but on the up-raising. Everywhere has its defectives, though it looks like we have a larger share… I feel bad for the dude.

And here is another relevant snippet, from an earlier post by MoscowThroughBrownEyes:

“I hate the Chinese.” She leaned in. “Tell me, what people do you hate?”

I dodged, “I hate rude people.”

“But what people [narod] do you hate?”

“I can’t really think of any people as a whole that I hate.”

Then I tried to allow her some room to back-pedal, “Do you mean that you hate the policies of the Chinese government, not the people?”

“I have no problem with the government. It’s a good government. But there are so many Chinese! They are intent on Siberia, you know.”

I couldn’t help but poke back a little at this point, “Nu, what’s the problem? You have a demographic crisis, they have some people who want to work in Siberia—the solution seems obvious.”

“But they don’t assimilate. And they will destroy our culture.”

Apparently more than a few Russians share the “concerns” of the Muscovite I was talking with a few weeks ago [...]

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