An Open Letter to Donna Welles
Blogger Donna Welles is having trouble understanding why Russians don’t understand why jokes about xenophobia are funny. Herein, we explain it to her.
Dear Ms. Welles,
We thought we’d help you out with your conundrum about Russians and xenophobia. You relate a “joke” about it told to you about Russia by a Russian who asked you why it was funny. You suggest it might be because the joke wasn’t invented by a Russian, and therefore isn’t tortuously illogical enough for a Russian to comprehend. But that isn’t it at all.
The reason is much more simple: For Russians, xenophobia and racism are normal, not unusual, and certainly not suspect. Russians believe that all people, just like them, hate those from other countries and want to see them destroyed. It’s necessary to view the world like that, you see, if you want to live by such a view yourself.
Russia Crashes another Party
In another editorial in today’s issue, we highlight the fact that Russia has just been revealed by Transparency International to be the very most corrupt nation in the G-20 organization.
Now it turns out that both Brazil and India, fellow members of the so-called “BRIC” group that includes Russia as well as the G-20, are already disgusted with the organization and are spurning it. This was, of course, supposed to be Russia’s great coming-out party, a new group of independent countries looking to Russia for leadership and acting as a bulwark against a unipolar world dominated by the United States. It is turning out to be another classic Russian boondoggle, an illusion rather than a reality.
Once again, in other words, we see Russia being revealed as a totally isolated country, unsuitable and unqualified for membership in any civilized group of countries and unable to establish a leadership role in any organization. Russia imagines itself a leader, but in fact it is not even a follower.
Russia to Jobs, Gates — Drop Dead!
One thing that we here at LR, as visitors to Russia, have always found at once both most hilarious and most obscene about this benighted, fetid land is the Russian attempt to test foreigners for diseases like AIDS before allowing them to dwell within Russian borders. That Russia, one of the world’s worst breeding grounds for diseases of all kinds, would think itself endangered by American tourists says all you really need to know about just how truly barbaric Russia really is.
But there are plenty of other examples. In their recent Moscow Times column, for instance, Ian Pryde and Suzanne Stafford of Eurasia Strategy & Communications in Moscow point out that if either of two most famous computer experts on this planet, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, wanted to try to set up a business in Russia, they would get simple response: “Drop dead!”
Paul Goble reports (also see Michele Berdy’s mocking, acidic piece in the Moscow Times):
A senior Moscow Duma official says that his city plans to “work up a collection of rules” which will help those coming to Moscow to fit in with the style of life of the Russian city and know from a pamphlet to be published outlining “what is acceptable and what isn’t” for all residents in what he described as an “ethnic Russian” city.
In an interview published in today’s Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Mikhail Solomentsev, the chairman the city Duma’s committee on inter-regional ties and nationality policy, said that such a set of rules will help unite newcomers with longtime residents by stressing what the two have in common rather than what separates them. But his comments about this plan make it clear that he believes it is migrant workers and non-Russians who must adapt rather than the Russians into whose city the former have moved, an attitude that almost certainly will exacerbate the already tense ethnic relations in Moscow whatever Solomentsev in fact hopes for.
The World Spurns Russia
Even though Russia’s territory is far more vast than that of the United States,vastly more foreign tourists arrive in the USA each year than come to Russia. The USA ranks #2 in the world for international arrivals, while Russia does not even make the top 10. It ranks #14, with less than half the number of visitors received by the supposedly hated USA.
And Russia’s figures are in fact vast exaggerations. Russia counts as “international” visitors people from places like Belarus and Ukraine and Kazakhstan that were previously part of the same country. Take away those visits, and almost nobody from the civilized world is daring to set foot in Putin’s Russia. By contrast, America’s visitors come from the elite nations of the world, from Japan to France.
And things are getting worse. Much worse.
Vladimir Shlapentokh, a professor of sociology at Michigan State University, writing in the New York Times:
Xenophobia exists in all societies, past and present. It goes back to the socio-biological nature of human beings and the distinction of “ours” and “others” in the human psyche.
Aggressive xenophobia, however, with its open declaration of hatred, discrimination against and physical persecution of “others,” is a purely social phenomenon. It is almost always, in my opinion, a product of policies shaped by a ruling elite in order to acquire and preserve political and economic power.
The case of anti-Americanism in contemporary Russia is a perfect illustration.