Thursday, August 2, 2018

Despite World Cup, Russia Remains ‘Land of Racism Triumphant,’ Voronkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 2 – Russian media claims notwithstanding, the recent World Cup competition did nothing to disprove the fact that Russia very much remains “a land of racism triumphant” because if the foreigners in the games instead had come to work alongside Russians in normal times, they would be tweeted exactly like Tajiks, Viktor Voronkov says

            Voronkov, the director of the Moscow Center for Independent Sociological Research, attracted attention several years ago for making that charge; and he has now been challenged to defend it by Anastasiya Belyayeva of St. Petersburg’s Gorod-812 news agency (

            The World Cup did not show that Russians are not racists, the sociologist insists. “If the very same Brazilians came to work as janitors for us, they wouldn’t do well but rather become ‘Tajiks.’ The World Cup had the atmosphere of a holiday.” And those foreigners present at a holiday are treated differently than those around every day, Voronkov continues.

                The average Russian goes into some “Georgian or Azerbaijani café and this exoticism very much pleases him. But when [he] encounters the same Georgia or Azerbaijani on the street, they can elicit hostility.” Similarly, “when we go to Brazil, it all looks very interesting, but when Brazilians come to us, there must be the special conditions” for Russians to see them positively.

            “Racism,” Voronkov continues, “consists in that e in principle distinguish some people from others and divide them by nationality or race. If a girl becomes acquainted with a guy, why is it important to us that he is a Brazilian or a Russian? She has just gotten acquainted with a guy whom she likes.” Anyone who challenges that is displaying a form of racism.

            He continues: “Racism is a general term which includes in itself sexism, homophobia, and even look-ism. Look-ism is the division of people on the basis of appearances. If with the construction of gender and race, everything is clear to me, with look-ism, I cannot do anything from the inside: some look better and others don’t.”

            “In Russia,” Voronkov says, “despite all the talk about friendship of the peoples, we are directed toward the idea that all people must be the same. We devote very little of our attention to the fact that some people are different and will never be the same as we are – and what is most important that they do not become worse as a result.”

            With regard to Russia in particular, the sociologist argues, “here many are infected with the Stalinist idea of patriotism. Patriotism in the Russian version is good to the extent it leads to thoughts that we are a power, we are a state, we are the authorities, and we are around Putin.  That is, in Russia, patriotism is great power and imperial oriented.”

            “This is not love to the motherland but to the greatness of power,” he says. “But I love not an abstract ‘big motherland’ but a specifically concrete small one. I like the southern part of the Petrograd side. This is my motherland. Someone else loves his village and a nearby river because he was born there. Such local patriotism harms no one.”

            “But patriotism which is promoted by the state … is not love to the motherland but a mobilization of the people around the authorities. However, even many liberals today attempt to explain their patriotism by saying that it is healthy. But patriotism at the level of the state is always bad.”

            The only healthy patriotism, Voronkov insists, is either local or cosmopolitan.

            Asked about the situation in Finland, the sociologist says there the country is small and that it is completely possible to love it all as “a small motherland.”  Moreover, it has a democratic state which obeys its own laws and thus is worthy of affection as well. The patriotism if the Finns is based on democracy. In Russia, people want to rely on Orthodoxy.

            According to Voronkov, “’state’ patriotism will in the foreseeable future disappear everywhere. National states will lose their definiteness. Many people today feel themselves to be Europeans rather than Finns or Germans.  Very soon the era of nation states will pass; and then it is uncertain what patriotism will support. I think it will regionalize,” the scholar says. 
            Asked whether this will not lead to “a crisis of cultural identity,” Voronkov replies that why should it be necessary to identify with a state in order to identify with a culture.  The Americans find no difficulty in having a culture based on the English language even though they are not part of England.
            “But with us in Russia, everything becomes political, including culture. Cultural action becomes political. In it, on the one hand, the authorities look for extremism and on the other, people express their negative attitude toward Putin because there are no other means of expressing opposition attitudes,” the sociologist concludes.

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