The Scourge of Pandemic Russian Racism
(and the Cowardly Treachery of Barack Obama)
According to a recent report by the BBC, nearly 60% of black people living in Russia have been physically assaulted in a racially motivated attack, and live in constant fear of such incidents. A quarter of those surveyed by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy had been attacked more than once and four out of five had been verbally assaulted.
These besieged people are terrified to ride the metro, cower in their homes like prisoners on any nationalist holiday, and avoid all crowds in general.
Commenters on the BBC story told the tale:
As a foreigner you will never feel safe in this country.
Shairaz, St. Petersburg, Russia
I’m Asian, not black, but that was one of the main reasons why I left Moscow years ago. I did hear and see the violent assaults on just any black people in Moscow, and our school actually told all the black students not to come in for two weeks around Hitler’s birthday for feared attacks. I’ve lived in many different parts of the world but Moscow certainly was the worst one in that respect. Such a shame.
B., Moscow, Russia
It is dangerous to use Moscow tube for all kinds of minorities, not only for Africans. Moscow hooligans point out different targets from the crowd. While visiting Moscow I try to look alike typical muscovite to avoid attention attraction. If you are in a crowd it’s safe to use the tube and any other public areas.
Kirill, Rostov-on-Don, Russia
However sad it is, I have to admit that these facts are true. We are in 21st century, but still attitude towards non Russian people here in Moscow remains the same. Foreigners at least are treated with suspicion; at most they are attacked, bullied. I don’t see that many Africans on the streets, you can hardly find them in public places. Even though I know that many study in Moscow. When you see Africans in Moscow, they always go in large groups of four or five people, never alone. Seeing a black person here is still exotic. Ordinary people just stare at them, but there are groups of youngsters, who think that Africans should not be here. Listening to all of this horrible stories on radio, TV about Africans being attacked, I am surprised why there are any who choose to come to Moscow.
Svetlana, Moscow, Russia
For me it comes down to one thing, these people are living in the past. We welcome every foreigner including Europeans back home. The only way we can improve our own communities, we come and learn, then take back our experiences back home. Unless someone realises this, tough time are ahead of us.
O., Moscow, Russia
While I didn’t live in Moscow, I did live in St. Petersburg for the winter of 2005 on a study abroad trip. Even then, the racial violence was startling… people were being attacked on the streets just for the colour of their skin. The anti-caucasus sentiment as spread to a nationalistic furore against any foreigners, students included. There was a contingent of African students at the university where I studied, and they all lived in the dormitory in the same building as the classes. They all travelled together if they had to go anywhere, while I felt fine walking alone in the dark winter days. I felt so guilty for feeling safe inside my white skin, and so horrified that innocents were being attacked just because they were there. This is a problem that the West has roundly ignored for too many years.
Trista, Virginia Beach, VA, USA
The African American blogger at Wheelvillecondemns Barack Obama for his cowardly, treacherous failure to confront the Kremlin on this issue: “While Obama is busy making buddy with Medvyedev, scores of black folks on Moscow streets are looking over their shoulder every two seconds in fear. It’s horribly ironic.”
Commenters at Wheelville echo those on the BBC:
Viajerasaid…Yes, this has been going on for a very long time. Not often covered in North American news, but stories have popped up now and again. I’ve always wanted to see the Hermitage, but I regard Russia as a no-go country, even though I know and know of a few African-descended folks who have spent time there, usually for school/religious work.
Kobi and Companysaid…Yeah. I remember being shocked at the racism in Moscow when I was there in the early 90’s. Even as as a fairly clueless suburban white exchange-student teenager from the US, I felt like it was incredibly obvious and unomfortable. I think what struck me was the racism being (from what I witnessed) both more overt and somewhat differently-conceptualised than what I was used to (e.g. I saw persecution of other kids who were called “Black” based on ethnic background even though their skin was pale and they were not of African descent, and the one family who I would have called “Black” in our school was basically just ignored/excluded from the little I witnessed).
Lenox Avesaid…I’ve heard the reports and it’s just got damn terrible. The irony of Medvedev and Obama has not escaped me. I’ve always wanted to visit and see the Hermitage, but it’s out of the question w/these brutal attacks happening.
msaid…When I was in Moscow in 2000 it was even impossible just to ask for directions…i was screamed at more than once (NYET “>NYET NYET NYET) and stared at by children-which is a bit more understandable as I was most likely the first and only black person they had seen (though I’m not gonna lie -it was jarring when a kid pointed and said “look mom a negro a negro!”).Not everyone was like this mind you, but you knew you were taking a chance if you walked about on your own… so i didn’t. but I count myself as lucky considering what might have taken place (hello being chased in a park by a faceless band of hooligans and narrowly escaping…-good thing I was young and still felt myself invincible or else that might have been a moment to shape an ugly world outlook and caused me to write off the whole experience there).
m said…Sorry – one more thing… not the least because of the economic situation there it isn’t just people with dark skin that are at risk… really any foreigner especially from the western world no matter your skin color is at risk to a certain extent.My Russian teacher from Siberia talks about her students back at the university in Tomsk who would only travel in groups and always try to lay low, and they were all of european descent. My teacher herself had not really been aware of how they had felt until they mentioned it to her. Then after some time in the states and then going home again she could see it will her own eyes… she became more sensitive to it.this is similar to my high school roommate’s experience in Austria in the 90’s with neo-nazi ism. her having blond hair and blue eyes was irrelevant and didn’t stop her from being chased around Vienna…it was all about being foreign. But being as obviously not slavic as having dark skin makes you an easier mark.
We hardly need to comment further. We’ve been pointing out the horrors of Russian racism for years now, and the U.S. now has a black president who is ignoring the horror just as much as the white ones did. That may be an even bigger atrocity than Russian racism itself.