Saturday, June 30, 2018

Russians Display Social, Not Ethnic Xenophobia, Commentator Argues

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 29 – A case this week in Balashikha near Moscow underscores something many don’t want to talk about: Most Russians don’t display xenophobia based on ethnicity or race; but they do manifest hostility to outsiders who are without education or high culture, commentator Natalya Rumarchuk says.

            What happened in Balashikha is this: Ten Nigerians arrived for the World Cup having rented a three-room apartment for which they had paid 180,000 rubles (3,000 US dollars) for ten days to another Nigerian who was its owner. But the apartment turned out to have only one room, and the Nigerians were left without housing (

            Local Russians were appalled and took in those who had been driven into the street and left without documents by the Nigerian owner not only providing them with housing until the end of the World Cup but feeding them as well.

            Why is this noteworthy? The commentator asks rhetorically. For this reason: “There is at the mass level no ethnic xenophobia, but there is a social kind. Our people don’t like uneducated and wild arrivals and don’t want to have anything to do with them whether they are from Tajikistan, Nigeria or even Balashikha itself.”

            Consequently, when “ten normal guests who speak English and have educations and jobs” fly in for three weeks as tourists to another country, “our people are happy to help.” They were indifferent as to whether those who had been cheated were Nigerians, Poles or Romanians,” she says.

            For the residents of Balashikha, “these were people of the same culture as they themselves. Therefore, they helped the Nigerians.” This is in sharp contrast to how these same residents feel about and have dealt with Tajik gastarbeiters who have no schooling but do have four wives.

            “Our responsive people are against the importation of a backward culture,” Rumarchuk says. But “if tomorrow these Nigerians were hired at Gazprom and they remained in Balashikha, having rented apartments, none of their neighbors, I am certain, would have frowned upon that.” Thus, what exists in Russia is not ethnic xenophobia but rather the social variety.

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