Saturday, October 3, 2020

‘Racism in Russia is Real’ and That’s Just One of Many Nationality Problems, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 2 – Russia’s Civic Assistance Committee, which is committed to helping immigrants to that country. Recently held an online festival “Without Borders,” during which it asked leading specialists for their comments on the state of inter-ethnic relations on the Russian Federation.

            The Reform Model for the Russian Future portal has published portions of their remarks under the collective title “Not Just for Slavs” (

·         Saida Sirazhdinova, head of the Caucasus.Peace.Development Center, says that her research among Daghestanis living in predominantly Russian regions finds enormous discrimination against them by Russians in schools and the workplace. Daghestanis often have to change their names to get ahead. She says that her children have faced particular problems in schools since the introduction of the course Foundations of Orthodox Culture. They are routinely accused that as Muslims, they “understand faith incorrectly.

·         Zarema Zaudinova, a dramatist and curator of non-Russian plays at Teatr.doc, says that it is not easy to present materials to either Russians or non-Russians about ethnic conflicts. The best way she says is to use humor, but one must expect that many viewers won’t like it, will deny that there are problems, or say that “’you know, I’m ashamed, but I laughed’” at what I shouldn’t.’”

·         Carolina Anikh an Justine Bossembe-Maiua, two African writers living  in Russia, says negative stereotypes about Black people are widespread as is discrimination. They add that official coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US has given many racists in Russia the sense that they are now free to criticize Blacks who live in Russia, noting that they have been frequently attacked online but not yet physically.

·         Sergey Mikheyev, a human rights activist specializing on the conditions in which the Roma people live, says that 80 percent of Roma in Russia can’t find work because of their ethnicity and Russian educators often track Roma children into classes for those with developmental problems on the assumption that Roma can’t learn.

·         Nuriya Fatykhova, an Uzbek who grew up in Russia and now serves as program coordinator there for the Heinrich Böll Foundation, says that it took her a long time to form a positive image about herself because of negative Russian comments about her looks and her culture. She says Moscow must do more to combat nationalism because “the most dangerous kind is the one which functions at the level of government institutions.”

·         Aleksandr Verkhovsky, head of the SOVA Information and Analytic Center, says that over the last decades nationalist movements among Russians have run out of steam but that xenophobia remains widespread and discrimination a serious problem. Russian nationalists in the 1990s continued to fight “’Jewish conspiracies’” and were reluctant to refocus their attention on “the new ‘enemy’, people from the Caucasus.” The nationalists also made a hard pivot from imperialism to pushing “’Russia for the Russians.’” They soon recognized they could not eliminate all the non-Russians and hoped to encourage other Russians to support that idea. Today, they are having some success with that despite the fact that many of their leaders have emigrated, died, or are in prison. Verkhovsky says that the latest evolution of Russian nationalism is in the direction of “’national democrats,’” people who put democratic demands first and only in second place calls for “ethno-cultural ‘purity.’”

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