Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Miss Russia is a Tatar, and a Lot of Ethnic Russians Don’t Like That

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 5 – Elmira Abdrazakova, whose father is a Tatar and whose mother is an ethnic Russian, was crowned Miss Russia 2013 and will represent the Russian Federation at the Miss World and Miss Universe competitions. But because of her ethnic background, many Russians have indicated that they are unhappy with her selection.

            Abdrazakova herself attempted to calm the situation, pointing out after her selection that “Russia is a multi-national country and that there is nothing criminal about a competition in which the winner should turn out to be a girl who has ‘a Russian mother and a Tatar father’” (nazaccent.ru/content/7018-miss-rossiya-2013-moya-mama-russkaya.html).

                She said that the day after her election, on her return home, she found thousands of posts on her social network site, among which were “many” that were very “negative” about her nationality.  It was pleasing, she said, that there positive comments, but the number of negative ones and their content went beyond the boundary of good tone.

            During the competition, she identified herself as [ethnically] Russia, responding to one question about the music she liked with the following words: “I consider that an [ethnic] Russian girl should list to [ethnic] Russian music.” But the blogosphere has ignored that, calling her a Tatar and even suggesting that she was from the North Caucasus.

            One writer, Nazaccent.ru reported, even noted that the new Miss Russia resembled a perfect Shor, a member of one of the smaller Turkic nationalities whose 20,000 members live primarily in Kemerovo Oblast.  That writer said that she was sure she was right because “Abdrazakova is a typical Shor family name.”

            Unfortunately, this controversy shows little sign of dying down.  The new Miss Russia has had to shut down all here social sites, and new articles about her “Tatarness” are appearing almost every hour on the Russian Internet where many posts are suggesting that Russia should not have a beauty contest winner “with a non-Slavic appearance.”

            Unfortunately, too, some of the more responsible media outlets in Moscow are in fact promoting this. Both Ekho Moskvy and the “Vzglyad” newspaper are running polls on whether their visitors think it is a good thing or a bad thing for Russia to have a Tatar as its representative in this field (echo.msk.ru/polls/1024918-echo.html and vz.ru/news/2013/3/4/622974.html).

            A happy exception to this general pattern is provided in a commentary by Tatyana Fedotkina on Mk.ru.  She writes that “beauty of course requires sacrifices” but asks whether there is any justification for the kind that the new Miss Russia is currently experiencing (mk.ru/social/article/2013/03/04/821178-miss-rossiya2013-elmiru-abdrazakovu-zatravili-za-krov-i-vneshnost.html)

                “Who could have thought that [beauty’s’ latest victim would turn out to be 18-year-old Elmira Abdrazakova, who was elected Miss Russia over the weekend?”  Could anyone think, as one writer put it, that the jury “spat in the face” of Russia by choosing a Tatar even though her visage and biography were completely within the norms of such competitions?

                Elmira, Fedotkina observed, is “a typical [non-ethnic] Russian girl.” Given the mixed marriage of her parents, should anyone have required her to “cross her heart” and swear that “she doesn’t have a single drop of Tatar blood?”  How could anyone ask that of anyone else, the MK.ru commentator asks in despair.

            “It is understandable when people are angry at politicians and milliionaires,” she continues.  “It is even  understandable whenthey hate their colleagues or neighbors. But persecuting an 18-year-old girl is beyond the pale. Even according to the most primitive measures.” And anyone who does so should be “ashamed.”

                Anger among Russians about this is so great, the commentator notes, that her paper had to close down the comments section on articles about Abdrazakova.  It simply wasn’t able to “cope with the insulting commentaries about their girl, her appearance and her nationality.”  Beauty, Fedotkina concluded, clearly does not justify this kind of sacrifice.

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