Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Racism in Russia a Tragic and Daily Reality, SOVA Expert Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 26 – Given the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, in the United States, the Russian media, in the worst traditions of their Soviet predecessors, have gone to great lengths to insist that there is no racism in Russia, citing African students in Moscow who say that this is so and that anyone who disagrees is simply lying.


            But Mariya Rozalskaya, an expert at the SOVA Center which tracks xenophobic crimes in the Russian Federation, says that it is the Africans who make the claim that there is no racism in Russia who are doing the lying and that anyone who examines statistics or even looks around can see that is the case (


            The statistics are devastatingly clear, she says, pointing to those assembled by her group (, but even more damning are what anyone can see on many days in public places in Moscow and elsewhere in the Russian Federation.


            Sometimes a group of five to ten young toughs will enter a subway car and then beat up “all those who look like they are non-Russians.” In other cases, Rozalskaya notes, there is violence in open markets between Russians and non-Russians. And in still others, Russian racism involves attacks in back alleys against those with dark skin.


            Since the beginning of 2014, she continues, there have been “a minimum” of six attacks on Africans in Russia. More generally, “racism violence can touch foreign students, gastarbeiters from Central Asia, citizens of Russia of ‘non-Slavic’ visage, and also those who are not accustomed to including themselves in so-called ‘visible minorities’ but whom the aggressors think are because of skin or hair color.”


            Moreover, Rozalskaya says, this violence can touch “chance passers-by who have decided to interfere and protect the victim, human rights defenders and anti-fascists, and [even] judges who return verdicts against the nationalists.”


            But racism is manifested in more ways than just naked violence.  “For example,” she says, there is the behavior of football fans during maps toward dark-skinned players on Russian clubs. They shout insulting things at them and throw bananas onto the field.”


            Rozalskaya says that this reality raises some questions about the motivations of the African students who deny that there is any racism in Russia. Do they really think this? Or are they such fans of Vladimir Putin that they will do anything on orders in order “to improve the image of the country in advance of the football world championship?”


            But perhaps the SOVA expert says, the African students are saying what they believe on the basis of their own experiences. If that is the case, however, then they are extremely fortunate because somehow they have been in the Russian capital but they have not really lived among its residents.

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