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Friday, August 04, 2006

Tales from the Racist Russian Horror Chamber

The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Jacques, is a 19-year old medical student from Senagal who studies at St. Petersburg State University. He is not somebody who makes enemies easily. Friendly and easy talk to, Jacques, who like other foreign students interviewed in the wake of the acquital last week of suspects in the race-hate murder of a Congolese student, asked for his full name to not to be published.

Jacques will never forget his first few days in St. Petersburg. Traveling home late on the metro, a group of skinheads began shouting racial slurs as he mounted the escalator. Then they physically assaulted him. Jacques ran for his life. He says this is not the only time this has happened to him.

Amnesty International has described racism in Russia “as out of control.” Nineteen people have been killed in racially motivated attacks this year, according to the Sova Center, a group that monitors extremist activity, and another 166 people have suffered serious injuries.

The news that a St. Petersburg jury last week cleared four suspects of the murder of Congolese student Roland Epassak, the second time in four months that a court has acquitted suspects of hate crimes, came as no surprise to Jacques or many other foreign students from Africa and Asia contacted to this article. For him, “the verdict just shows what we experience every day. That this is an inherently racist country.”

“Back in [the Senegalese capital] Dakar,” he recalls, “I was thrilled when I knew I was coming to St. Petersburg. Russia had been a great friend to Africa in the past and the chance to study in a European university seemed fantastic. I had no idea that racist feeling was so strong here.”

Now he wishes he’d never come.

“No black man should come to this country,” he said. “They’d have to be crazy. I am scared to walk the streets alone, especially after the recent murders.”

African students at the university dormitory on Korableistratelny Ulitsa said that they had experienced violent aggression in St. Petersburg more than once.

Samba, 20, who studies environmental management and is from also from Senegal puts it bluntly: “Russians look at me like dirt. They talk to me like a child. The police treat me as if I’m a drug dealer. And everyone will stab you in the back if you’re black.”

Chatting to Samba in the dormitory lift, it immediately became clear that discrimination is a a daily occurance for balck people in St. Petersburg. As the doors opened on the fourth floor, and a group of young Russian women refused to get in, with one saying loudly “I’m not getting in a lift with a nigger!”

On the sixth floor two, visibly drunk young men, got in. Turning to Samba, they spat on the floor before walking straight out again. “You see? Racism is a fact of life for us,” Samba said.

It is not only black Africans who relate such experiences of life in St. Petersburg. Jee Rao, 21, a South Korean exchange student and fluent Russian speaker, has had similar experiences.

“They treat people who look like us differently,” he said. “I have found it very hard to make Russian friends, though many are very kind. Still even some young people, look at me with disdain as an Asian.”

According to Hu Lee from Beijing racist feelings lurk only just below the surface here.

“Russians do not like people from China. They may be polite, but they do not treat us with the respect and friendliness they would give us if we were white,” he said.

Even some Jewish and Armenian students here for a semester from North America have reported difficulties. Yitzhak, 20, from San Francisco feels nervous.

“I don’t tell people I’m Jewish. I just don’t feel comfortable. The atmosphere here is one of intolerance and open xenophobia,” Yitzhak said.

Pointing at the anti-Semitic graffiti that abounds around Petrogradskaya metro station, Yitzhak just shrugs.

Talking about the issue with Russian students, reveals a great deal of antipathy to the issues raised by xenophobia — and denial. Katya, 18, said “racism does not exist here.”

As attacks have becoming increasingly vicious in character according to the Sova Center, foreign students from Asia and Africa in St. Petersburg are living on edge.


Anonymous said...

Is the reverse true? Would a white student be safe in the Congo, Senegal, Nigeria of any of the other African counties?
So what's your point? Force people to tolerate what they don't want to? Shouldn't people have a right to not be invaded and forced to live under the politically correct agendas? Use common sense...if you are not wanted somewhere, then don't go there! Why force yourself upon people. Everyone who wants to be left alone and protect their culture is not a xenophobe.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... my guess is that the previous commenter dislikes the decidedly tinted hue of humanity. C'mon, admit it (you're anonymous anyways). You don't like colored peoples. And I would agree, it's just as wrong if a white person visited an African nation and was treated like crap.

BTW, who says anything about invasion?? These people are visiting Russia for legitimate reasons as decided by the border guards who let them in. By what moral standard should you give a pass to the locals to allow them the right to kick the shit out of these visitors simply for being the wrong color?

Yes, it's their (the local Russians) country and they can do what they please to visitors, but I have the right to despise such ignorance and complain about it (or any other effective means, such as boycotting Russian goods, etc.)

You seem to be saying, "Protect your culture, go ahead and boot-f*ck a n*gger - and don't complain about it you PC whiner, should've never put your foot in the door in the first place."

I think people that decide to be rude and use violence to outsiders are ignorant and should be treated appropriately. Russians (or anyone else) can protect their culture without spitting, viciously attacking, or killing outsiders that are visiting. Make the visa restrictions tight if you don't want to have outsiders stay too long, for example. Tighten the entry requirements so that they have a college degree if you're worried about them being uneducated thieves. Get them to demonstrate that they have enough money to live off of if you're worried about them taking away a job. I don't care if they hate them deep down, at least be civil about it!
But don't let them into the country, allow the locals to stomp on them, excuse the local behavior as merely being politically incorrect and then and blame the victim for being so stupid as to expect to be treated with rudimentary tolerence and dignity.
If you invited me into to your house, that doesn't give your kids the right to abuse me. Is it it much to ask of people to at least be polite and respectful? And if not, don't expect the rest of the world to tolerate your intolerance.