Staunton, Feb. 17 – In March of last year, Aldar Erendzhenov, a Kalmyk fashion designer, came up with a new logo for his clothes, “Not Russian” (nerussky) as a way of declaring that wearers were not ethnic Russians and thus not supportive of Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine.
The clothes he designed and knockoffs by others quicky went viral, but so too did the reaction of ethnic Russians who threatened him with physical violence. As a result, Eredzhenov fled the country but continues to view his new logo as something important not only now but for the future (cherta.media/interview/slovo-nerusskij-sejchas-kak-manifest/).
The Kalmyk fashion designer says his “Not Russian” logo came in response to the decision of the authorities to put up a large sign on an Elista pagoda declaring that “I am a Kalmyk but today we are all Russians.” That offended me because we are not all Russians and the Russians all too often treat us with contempt but expect us to fight their wars.
Having left Kalmykia after someone denounced him to the local FSB, Eredzhenov and his family first went to Mongolia, then Turkey and Georgia before settling in Germany where he hopes to resume his fashion business and his production of “not Russian”-themed clothing.
Many Russians view what he is doing as Russophobia because it unites all non-Russians against them even though the Russians have been treating all of them as “younger” and “lesser” brothers. If such people respond by coming together and insisting on their status and their rights, the Russians experience both fear and anger.
The war in Ukraine has brought all this to a head, he continues. “A large part of the population of Kalmykia considers this not to be out war. Instead, it is Ukrainians and ‘the Russian world’ who are fighting.” Many people also feel that the rhetoric Russians are using now against Ukrainians is exactly like what they used about Kalmyks before his nation was deported.
Many Kalmyks do serve in the Russian army, but only because they are poor and have few choices to take care of their children. “I condemn such a choice,” Erendzhenov says; “but on the other hand, I understand why people act that way.” Things need to change so that Kalmyks and the other non-Russians won’t have to make such choices.
The fashion designer says that he follows the national movements in other republics and that increasingly those in other republics are keeping track of what is going on in Kalmykia. This is possible because of the numerous Internet portals and social media discussion groups in all of them. This is bringing them together.
As far as whom Crimea belongs to, the Kalmyk activist said that “it is not Russian and not Ukrainian but Crimean Tatar. In Russia, people up to now don’t recognize that there are other peoples. They must first turn away from this imperialist view and only after that decide whose Crimea should be.”
And he concludes: “Putin is a manifestation of the collective unconsciousness of those who live in Russia.” That must be recognized and then overcome. “If we don’t,” he says, “then Russia as a federation may not exist.”