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Monday, September 25, 2006

Understanding Russian Racism

Last night yet another dark-skinned foreign student fell victim to race violence in St. Petersburg, supposedly Russia's most enlightened, Western-leaning city. The International Herald Tribune reports:

A group of attackers stabbed an Indian medical student to death in St. Petersburg, the city prosecutor's office said Monday. The sixth-year student from the St. Petersburg Mechnikov Medical Academy died Sunday night after he was stabbed seven times in the chest, said Yelena Ordynskaya, spokeswoman for the prosecutor. Nassor Ali, spokesman for the African Unity group, which represents foreign students in the city, said that Nitesh Kumar Singh had been attacked near the dormitory where he lived. "We are afraid the murder was committed on the grounds of national hatred. There have been similar attacks near that dormitory before, but never with such tragic consequences," Ali said, adding that Singh had been alone. At least six foreigners have been targeted in racially motivated slayings in St. Petersburg over the past year, Ali said. "Our organization wants to protest this situation, when national minorities suffer such attacks," he said. Ordynskaya said prosecutors had opened a murder investigation but had not yet determined possible motives. Russia has seen a marked rise in hate crimes in recent years, which rights groups say is fueled in part by the authorities' reluctance to crack down on hate crimes and tackle growing nationalism. Prosecutions are rare, with many hate crimes treated as hooliganism, an offense that brings only short sentences. Last year alone, 31 murders and 382 assaults were race-connected, according to the Moscow-based Sova human rights center.
What do Russians think about violence of this kind? Here's what a Russian recently had to say about the issue of race violence in Russia:

"Racism and xenophobia are natural residents of the human psyche. (Xenophobia is even necessary, as is the immune system.)"

Who said this? Was it a crazed Russian skinhead? No, it was Alexei of The Russian Dilettante.

Yes, that's right, even supposedly "enlightened" Russians believe that everyone in the world is biologically programmed to be racist, it's perfectly normal. As Alexei puts it: "Blaming ethnic violence on 'latent racism' is like blaming a famine riot on the human need to eat every day." In other words, people need to hate based on race just like they need to eat. Hard to get your mind around a whole country thinking like that, isn't it? But that's what we're faced with.

The Rogers & Hammerstein musical "South Pacific" contains the famous song "You Have to Be Carefully Taught" which runs as follows:

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught.

But "South Pacific" never had a run in Russia, and Russia doesn't have songs like that. Instead, Russians are just carefully taught, just like poor Alexei, from year to year that racism is normal and unavoidable. So the "solution" Alexei proposes is: "To prevent violence, society should at least be able to openly discuss [their] grievances [against the racial minorities]." That's right, deluded little Alexei thinks that Russian race violence is the result of repressed Slavic majority members being unable to fully and publicly vent their view that dark-skinned people are biologically inferior and yet conspiring to steal food out of the mouths of their helpless Slavic victims.

In other words, it has nothing to do with the fact that those Slavs aren't being forced to face the reality of, and take responsibility for, their own failiure. The Slavs are the true victims in Russian race violence, not the dark-skinned people. The root cause of the problem is that the dark-skinned people don't understand THEM, not that they have freely elected a proud KGB spy to rule over them.

And it has nothing to do with the fact that Russians live in a world of total isolation, deprived of real information about how other kinds of people think about things, infused with crazed propaganda from the totalitarians state they have enabled (and even voted for), to the point where they think everyone in the world thinks just like a Slavic Russian. Alexei and those like him really believe they're part of the solution, not part of the problem.


Cyrill said...

Most Russians don't even seem to realize how pervasive their xenophobia is. They are routinely commenting about Azery traders at markets "taking over". There was a segment about falling Russian population numbers and a proposal in the Duma to impose tax on childless adults. At some point somebody mockingly suggested importing Chinese, but then in all seriousness the suggestion was scoffed since it would create a different nation. Apparently it is better to die as a nation then to mingle with inferiors.

Nationalizm is in all truths the last resort of a scoundrel and unfortunately, except for petrodollars, Russians have to go back into history to look for objects of pride. It is a very sad situation, but the nationalism helps prevent what Thomas Sowell called "cultural cringe" of Scotts and Japanese that propelled these two ethnic groups.

Instead, Russians, like the French, are drawing on former glory, dreaming of return of the empire.

La Russophobe said...


As bad as the racism is, you can at least comprehend how it can fester in a country so far removed from the reality of the rest of the world.

But what I simply can't get my mind around is how these same Russians can claim that a place like Chechnya is "part of Russia" such that foreigners can't interfere with it and it can never have its independence. By any logic, Russians should want to eject Chechnya from their midst like a microbe, they should be begging Chechnya to leave, and yet the do the opposite. It can't possibly be because Russia, with the most territory of any nation in the world, feels it can't spare the acres.

Then again, I guess that is where all the riddle-wrapped-in-a-mystery stuff comes from.

Cyrill said...

La Russophobe, I posted a theorietical explanation of the connundrum you mentioned at

Hope you find it entertaining