On Being “Russian”
We have a challenge for you. Go to Moscow, sidle up to the first Russian you see, and ask them whether the following names are “Russian” — Nazyr, Islam-Beka and Aslanbek.
You won’t need to hear an answer. The quizzical “what kind of moron am I talking to” stare you will get should be sufficient. People with names like Nazyr, Islam-Beka and Aslanbek are subject to being lynched on sight in the Moscow city subway system or being cut to ribbons by machine gun fire in places like Chechnya and Georgia.
Yet, as the first week of the Olympic games drew to a close, Russia had won only seven gold medals, a puny total exceeded or matched by seven other countries, and six of them had been won by Nazyr, Islam-Beka and Aslanbek — two each in the sport of Greco-Roman wrestling. The only athlete with a “Russian” name who had won a gold medal was Valeriy Borchin in race walking (20 km).
How is it that folks like Nazyr, Islam-Beka and Aslanbek get to be suddently “Russian” when the are capable of winning medals at the Olympics, but then immediately lose that status everywhere else in Russia? How is it that, having divested them of that status, Russians can still lay claim to the territories they live in as being “part of Russia”?
These are the questions we are asking.