I’m happy to see that a nice discussion has developed around my piece on racism and xenophobia in Russia on Publius Pundit. I urge readers to join in and give their thoughts. Also I want to give special thanks to Alexei from The Russian Dilettante for giving the discussion further context and some rather erudite comments. Thanks Alexei!
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By Sean — 7 years ago
The Russian Federation is closed to you. The Russian Federation is now open to you, as long as you get your papers in order and apply for a new visa. This is the Russia Foreign Ministry response to the Harding Affair. It didn’t take long for MID to diffuse the situation and chalk it all up to bureaucratism.
Harding has had his fifteen minutes of fame. The Russian government got an additional fifteen minutes of shame. The Guardian got some free advertising for Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by insisting that Harding was booted for his Wikileaks reporting. And just so it doesn’t go unnoticed, Harding is a co-author of the book. In the age of total marketing, nothing wets publicists between the legs more than an international incident involving a percieved authoritarian state.
The theories will certainly continue to fly as to why Harding’s bureaucratic slip up was met with such intolerance. Certainly the brief row will be exploited by all sorts of opportunists. Speaking of which, Vladimir Milov has a theory. Harding’s expulsion was because he exposed Putin’s connection of Guvnor and even helped him and Boris Nemtsov on their anti-Putin screed. But this was way back in 2007 and while the Russian bureaucracy works slow, it doesn’t work that slow. But Milov is just being, well, Milov. Always hungry for press, always trying in vain to turn all eyes on his valiant campaign against the villainous Putin machine.
Nezamisimaya gazeta has another theory. How journalists are treated depends on Russian relations with their home country. Britain is at the top of the suspicious list and is journalists are treated different than say their German or Italian colleagues in a similar situation. After all, Merkel is good friends with Putin, and the latter is in a bromance with Berluscioni that rivals the celluloid shmaltz of I Love You, Man. Putin has no equivalent in London and therefore its journalists don’t get a pass when they don’t have their papers in order.
I don’t doubt Nezamisimaya is on to something. Yet I would insert another caveat. While the world’s press, including that in Russia, and numerous media watchdog groups came to Harding’s aid with all the outrage they’re known to muster, there is one minor detail that has gone unnoticed. In Julia Ioffe’s story, she noted, based on a Harding tweet, the interesting contrast in treatment between our hero and brown people:
Within minutes, Harding’s passport was confiscated and he was locked in a deportation cell. Being a journalist, he counted everyone in there. “There were four Tajiks, a Kyrgyz guy, and a woman from the Congo,” Harding told me on the phone from London. “She had been there for seven days and was half-asleep on a metal bench.” In another half-hour, Harding was on a plane, bound for London on the first flight home, his passport returned to him with a slip of paper marking him as a deportee.
Harding was on the next plane back to jolly ol’Britannia within a half-hour, the brown people had been languishing in a deportation cell days. Interestingly, I would expect that Harding, “being a journalist” and all, would have made more of the fact that while he was quickly sent on his merry way, and the Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Congolese were left to wallow in a deportation prison. The woman from the Congo had already been there fore seven days. For how much longer, who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all still there. Hopefully, Harding has an upcoming story about this since he’s predicament has made him privy the way Russia deals with people they refuse entry to.
Whiteness has value in Russia no matter which country you come from. Belyi is always better than chernyi and being considered white is a powerful currency if your possess it. Everyone who’s been through passport control at Domodedovo or Sheremetevo knows the unwritten rule that if you get in a line behind a bunch of Central Asians, Arabs, Asians or Africans, or anyone with a darker shade of white, your wait will be that much longer. The passport controllers who often look as if they suffer from myopia when a white person approaches, suddenly regain their focus when a brown person reaches their box. They scan the foreigner’s darker face as if s/he are engaging in a craniometical analysis. The foreigner usually passes without incident, but I presume that if there was some kind of bureaucratic mistake, they wouldn’t get a pass, let alone be dispatched back to their home country on the next flight.
All of this makes me wonder whether the brouhaha over the Harding Affair has an unstated racial subtext. Sure he was refused entry all the same. Being a whitey didn’t save him from that. But did Harding’s whiteness play a role in the speed in which he was returned home and more importantly in the response his expulsion has garnered? And if so then who’s speaking out for his Tadjik, Kyrgyz, and Congolese cellmates?Post Views: 135
By Sean — 12 years ago
According to my unscientific survey, the Russian diaspora in Israel is an under reported topic in blogs on Russia. I present excerpts from two articles from Haaretz in hopes of beginning a discussion. The first tells of Russian anti-Semitism toward Orthodox Jews in the form of neo-Nazis, while the second reports on the Israeli oppression of Russians because of their adherence to the Orthodox faith. Both point to the contradictions the post-Soviet aliyah to Israel that began in the 1990s. Excerpts are below.
“Fear and loathing in Petah Tikva / Neo-Nazi gangs assaulting ultra-Orthodox Jews”
By Moti Katz
Haaretz, May 11, 2006.
A week after the desecration of the Great Synagogue in Petah Tikva, nothing remains of the horror the worshipers encountered there last Thursday when they arrived for morning prayers. The walls, which had been sprayed with swastikas and blasphemy, have been newly painted, the floor polished and the curtain covering the holy ark replaced.
However, the danger is far from over. For the past two years the ultra-Orthodox community there, which includes some 5,000 families and 300 synagogues, has been subjected to incessant attacks by street gangs from the former Soviet Union (FSU). The gangs have been beating ultra-Orthodox men, hurling curses at them and desecrating synagogues.
“These youths feel out of place in the Russian community they belong to, but they are not accepted in Israeli society either,” says Bella Alexandrov, the director of the multi-disciplinary youth center in Petah Tikva. She distinguishes between two kinds of immigrants – punks and skinheads.
“The skinheads buy Russian videos about ‘white power’ that call for cleansing Russia of Jews. They don’t get it from home. It comes from not belonging and not finding answers to their distress.”
On Sukkot eve last year, a number of teens bearing knives burst into the big Lithuanian yeshiva Or Israel on Rothschild Street in the city center. They started beating pupils, and throwing prayer books and scriptures on the floor.
Yeshiva head Rabbi Yigal Rozen has no doubt that these incidents are anti-Semitic.
“Persecution only strengthens us”
By Lili Galili
Haaretz, June 6, 2006.
Vladimir Gridin, a professor of solid-state physics, is certain that the fact our meeting took place last Sunday, on Pentecost, the day believed to mark the birth of the Russian-Orthodox Church, was no coincidence. Nor did he believe that it was coincidence that the church where we met, at the end of Hagai Street in Migdal Haemek, was vandalized right before the sacred holiday. “Divine providence,” he says. Even if one can ascribe a degree of divine providence to the timing of our meeting, it’s doubtful the youths who desecrated the church and the adjacent priests’ graves a few days before the holiday were so attuned to the nuances of Russian Orthodoxy that they specifically picked that day to commit their act of vandalism.
“A pogrom in the church,” was the cry that echoed from the small community whose spiritual life is centered on the Church of St. Nikolai. What took place wasn’t quite a pogrom, but it was the latest in a series of attempts to damage a holy place. On Friday morning, when they arrived for services, the congregants found the church windows broken, the icons overturned, a cross uprooted from a priest’s grave and the edge of the grave ruined. A lot of effort went into shattering the windows, which were protected by a dense metal screen. A particularly malicious hand had to work hard to get in between the spaces to break the squares of thick glass one after the other. And yet, the police, whose local headquarters are very close to the church, insist the vandalism was just a prank by a bunch of 8- and 9-year-olds. “We’ve gone back to the early days of Christianity,” said Gridin sadly. “Christians are being persecuted again.”
A somewhat unusual group gathered this week at the door to the church. Unusual, both because of the way they’d broken with convention in the choices they’d made in their lives, and because they were all situated on the delicate seam between the Law of Return and the rules of halakha (Jewish law). This is the congregation of Father Romanus, a 46-year-old Arab Orthodox priest from Haifa, who is just as fluent in Russian as he is in Arabic and Hebrew. He learned the language while studying at a Russian theological seminary in the U.S., and founded his community here.
Post Views: 91
By Sean — 9 years ago
Are these ads racist? Some think so. The use of Barack Obama visage has become a marketing hit in Russia, generating cries of racism. The charges relate to three ads featuring Obama. The Times of India reports:
Obama ice cream, anyone? Chocolate-vanilla ice cream is one of several Russian products being marketed using America’s first black president, even as critics call the ads racist.
Other ads featuring US President Barack Obama have promoted tanning salons and tooth-whitening services.
But the creator of one Obama-themed ad — for ice cream bars which have a chocolate-flavoured centre embedded in a layer of vanilla — insisted Friday that it was not racist and should be seen as a joke.
The ad for Duet ice cream bars features a smiling, cartoonish black man flashing a V-for-Victory sign in front of the white edifice of Washington’s Capitol building, along with the Russian slogan: “Everyone’s talking about it: dark inside white!”
Some blasted the ad as insensitive after it surfaced on English-language websites this week. “This is just racist,” said one visitor to the Ads of the World website, while another asked: “Is the ice cream as tasteless as the ad?”
Andrei Gubaidullin, who created the ad, said it was not racist and that Russia simply had a different attitude to race than Western countries.
“For Russia, this is not racist. It is fun and that’s it,” said Gubaidullin, creative director at Voskhod advertising agency, based in the Urals Mountains city of Yekaterinburg.
“We don’t consider teasing ethnic groups racist. It is just seen as a joke,” he said by telephone, adding that he personally liked Obama.Post Views: 133