Global Voices Online
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
There seems to be more and more posts on xenophobia in the Russian blogosphere - and many are written by xenophobes.
A recent example of this type of blogging is LJ user holmogor's Dec. 31 report (RUS) from Moscow - which has received 1,884 reader comments:
I found myself at Red Square today.
And was horrified.
THEY were at the square.
Lonely white faces in this crowd were all but inconspicuous.
They were walking around lazily, in groups of six-seven people, taking pictures of each other with their cell phones.
My first wish was to ask: "Who has organized this rising?"
But then I realized that it was not organized by anyone.
THEY were just having a day off.
And THEY decided to go to the place THEY are familiar with.
And it turned into a real flash mob - hundreds of Tajik, Uzbek, Kyrgyz faces, small groups of young guys, aged 18 to 30.
They lacked any bold aggression of the [Caucasus natives], it wasn't that but their calm multitude that was so impressive...
And I became scared.
For the first time, this scene at Red Square got me truly scared.
I know that THEY want to eat, live and work.
I know that not too long ago the capital of our Motherland was the capital of THEIR Motherland, too.
I know that for THEM, the New Year arrives when the clock at the Kremlin tower strikes 12.
As A. I. Fursov wrote beautifully, "Yes, they are oppressed, hungry and miserable. But if they come to us, they'll turn into ordinary robbers. And if we are weak, they'll take away our space and resources: the weak ones get beaten."
And for this, not even a knife or a knuckles is needed.
In order to take away space, it sometimes suffices to simply occupy it.
Today I've seen how THEY did it.
And it should be noted that they don't mean any evil.
What will happen tomorrow?
There are, of course, posts about xenophobes and their fears out there, too.
On Jan. 7, Grozny-based LJ user timur-aliev posted this reflection (RUS) on how Chechnya and its people are perceived online:
In 1999, I got online for the first time. And, perhaps like any newbie, I got addicted to chats and ICQ. I remember spending much time at chat.ru. There were more or less the same people there, with more or less the same nicknames. I doubt I'll remember any now, except for one - stasya ([...] I even wonder if she's got a blog of her own now).
I can't say I befriended everyone there, but our interaction was friendly enough, that's for sure. They were mildly interested in Chechnya. But this interest wasn't negative or openly aggressive. Here's an example of one such dialog (to be honest, I sometimes took advantage of their not being able to check my words and made fun of them, but in the end, of course, I used to confess I was joking):
- Where are you from?
- From Grozny.
- And how are things over there?
- Okay. Only too hot. And there's some shooting.
- Why are they shooting?
- Oh, it's at the stadium nearby. They've scored a goal.
- But why are they shooting?
- It's the fans. Because they are happy about the goal.
- Wow. Does everyone have a machine gun? Everyone including the football players?
- Yes, only they've left them in their lockers.
- Does the referee have a gun, too?
- Of course. It's important for him to have one.
- Do you have a gun, too?
- Yes, it stands next to my computer.
- And where do you keep your gun when you're asleep?
- Under my bed...
- Well, poor you...
Et cetera... The point is, there was more sympathy in their tone than accusation. And I remember that after the blasts in Volgodonsk and Moscow, some wrote me that they didn't believe it had been done by someone from Chechnya.
And now I sometimes run into people in LJ who are [extremely angry] about Chechnya and the Chechens.
It turns out that they changes in perception have occurred in these few years - from 1999 to 2000-something.
Below is one of the exchanges from the comments section, between timur-aliev and his reader:
It does not mean anything. In eight years, there has been a tenfold increase in the [Russian internet users], and at the same time, the average level of intellect has fallen almost proportionally.
But I don't think that there's a direct correlation between one's intellectual and the way one perceives other communities.
It's something of a scientific fact. Quite easily explained: a person is afraid of the unknown and the incomprehensible. The higher the intellectual level, the fewer things that one does not understand, and the higher the educational level, the fewer things one does not know. Hence, the higher the level of education and intellect, the fewer phobias one has. Including xenophobias.
This is how I used to think, too... But even in the LJ, I see people who are quite educated but with a very high level of xenophobia...
I was talking about education AND intellect. They aren't interchangeable. No matter how long you try to teach a fool something, he's not going to become smarter: he'll just know more.
This is true.