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 — 12 years ago
The study, in which monitors observed more than 1,500 police document checks at 15 Metro stations over a five-month period in 2005, concluded that
police are engaged in “massive ethnic profiling.” The practice is unlawful discrimination, a violation of the equal rights of citizens under the Russian Constitution and the country’s international commitments. For example, the United Nations Race Convention prohibits racial discrimination with respect to “freedom of movement,” and guarantees the “right to equal treatment” by judicial officials. Moscow
Anita Soboleva, executive director of Jurix, the lawyers’ group that conducted the survey with funds from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, says “Police ethnic profiling reflects social attitudes against people who look ‘different.’ This racist approach appears to be deeply ingrained in police procedures.”
The full 72 page report written by the Open Society Justice Initiative and can be downloaded here argues that the Moscow Metro posts the “highest ethnic profiling odds ratio ever documented.” Here are some figures (benchmark means the sample number of people monitored at a give stop.):
These high rates of police harassing and extorting non-Slavs persists despite a Fenurary 2003 order by Moscow police Moscow police chief Lieutenant-General V.V. Pronin that instructing officers that:
Let every officer know that it is prohibited for the police to use the kinds of treatment that humiliate citizen’s personal dignity, to check identity papers and registration in the city of
without cause. According to the Law [On Police, Article 5], a police officer is obliged to protect and respect every person with no regard to their citizenship, place of residence, social, economic and professional status, racial or ethnic origin, gender, age, education, language, religious, political or other affiliations. Moscow
Yet as one narrative in the report of a Turkish worker named Bairam tells:
After the decree of [Pronin in 2003] prohibiting th[e] lucrative pursuit, the only thing that changed for the Turk is that now he is stopped not at the exit from the Metro station, but closer to home . . . And what really deserves attention is that all the papers of the Turkish citizen are in thorough order. But alas, the practice is that policemen, depending on their mood find fault either with the visa, or residential permit (every day they claim that something in his papers is counterfeit. . .) Sometimes Bairam didn’t have any money on him, and the officers would kindly give him a comfortable place for the night in the police cells. If by the morning no one brought them 1,500 Rubles (and that is the standard bail for the Turkish worker), they took his mobiles (during 6 months Bairam left 3 of his mobiles with the police), watches (one), new purse (one), and new leather gloves. . . . But as long as he will stay in this
district, he has found only one solution—to keep it secret and silently share his wages with them. Moscow
The report makes many, many recommendations to the
police and the Russian government to address the problem of racial profiling. However, given the amount of non-Slavic labor migration into the capital, a remedy to police harassment will be hard to come by. Policies can be set in place, and if the Pronin order is any indication there are, but they must be enforced. Enforcement of law is always something missing on Russian authorities’ agenda. If anything, the report further confirms the already wide evidence of the ugly public racism that many face in Moscow ’s cities. RussiaPost Views: 452
By Sean — 2 years ago
Readers and listeners of this blog’s podcast might recall an interview I did last summer with Joy Gleason Carew about African Americans who traveled, worked and even immigrated to the Soviet Union. It’s a fascinating story that is thankfully getting more popular and scholarly attention. There’s Vladimir Alexandrov’s The Black Russian which chronicles the life of Frederick Bruce Thomas in the waning years of Tsarist Russia and the now defunct blog, Afro-Europe, which has several posts dedicated to the black experience in Russia. There’s also Red Africa, a recent exhibit in London organized by the Calvert Foundation which explores the relationship between communist states and Africans. The Calvert Journal has done a special report on the exhibit and the issues it covers.
In addition to several books, there have been a few documentaries like Kara Lynch’s Black Russians (2001) and Yelena Demikovsky’s upcoming Black Russians: The Red Experience. Here’s a trailer for both films:
There’s another new short documentary on the experience of African Americans in Russia. Kremlin to Kremlin: The Joseph J. Roane Story follows the life of Joseph Roane, a Tuskegee Institute trained agronomist, who went to the Soviet Union, specifically Uzbekistan, as one of sixteen black agricultural specialists in the 1930s. As part of his work, he developed a strain of cotton that could be harvested in 25 percent less time. He, his wife Sadie, and son Josif Stalin Roane returned to the United States in 1935 out of fear of getting swept up by Stalin’s terror.
You can watch the film:Post Views: 952
By Sean — 4 years ago
Some of the content below might be outdated due to rapidly changing events.
By William Risch
Last week, world television stations featured horrific clashes with police and protestors in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Up to 100 died in shootouts on February 18-20. At the center of the protests – Independence Square, commonly known as the Maidan – the protestors’ main headquarters, the Trade Unions’ Building, burned to the ground. Then the violence suddenly stopped. After the political opposition reached an agreement with President Viktor Yanukovych, Yanukovych fled for parts unknown. Opposition leaders removed him from power and began laying the groundwork for a new government.
Ukrainians had real fears civil war would break out. In a poll taken in Ukraine January 25-27, up to 8 percent of respondents believed a civil war would definitely happen, 32 percent said it was a real danger, and 31 percent said it was a possibility; only 20 percent said they absolutely did not believe a civil war would happen in Ukraine. Yet there was no civil war. Nothing came of a February 22 meeting of separatists in the eastern industrial city of Kharkiv, a pro-Yanukovych stronghold. Over the next few days, elites from eastern and southern Ukraine ditched Yanukovych and announced that they would cooperate with Kyiv. The Russian invasion of Crimea, while alarming, has failed to produce mass support among locals for their would-be liberators.
What happened? For one thing, Ukraine is not a federal state, but a centralized one. Ukraine’s armed forces and police forces take orders from Kyiv’s central government. The armed forces limited their involvement to general calls for unity and order. Kyiv’s new government returned Berkut, riot police, and other law enforcement to their barracks. Oligarchs and other elites in southern and eastern Ukraine most likely stayed out of separatist politics because of financial reasons. Ukraine’s banking system, unlike its U.S. counterpart, is highly centralized. The system of electronic cash payments, rather than being run by separate clearing houses in private banks, is run from one central server in Kyiv. It would have been very easy to block the accounts of aspiring separatist politicians and leave them without cash in as little as six hours.
Yet I would like to suggest another explanation. Serious differences scholars have noted between western and central Ukraine (“Western Ukraine”) and southern and eastern Ukraine (“Eastern Ukraine”) over such issues as relations with the EU and Russia, language use, and historical memory might not have been as salient as predicted. This scholarly consensus drew me, a historian of Lviv, Ukraine’s more “western” other, to Kharkiv and Donetsk. I visited these cities January 7-17 to find out more about people’s attitudes there toward the Euromaidan protest movement, the EU and Russia, and Ukrainian politics. In addition to interviewing Euromaidan activists in Kharkiv and Donetsk, I collected written narrative responses to questionnaires from 10 people in Donetsk who were from their mid-30s to their 60s, and I interviewed 4 residents from the Donetsk area who were in their 20s and 30s.
My findings confirmed the numerous polls indicating Eastern Ukrainians’ lack of support for the Euromaidan protestors. While a few were sympathetic to them, most saw them as people who didn’t work, were being paid by politicians, had no clue what they were doing, or were being manipulated by extreme nationalists. Two women in their late 20s and early 30s voiced similar perceptions. Yet almost all of them said that the “division” between Eastern and Western Ukraine was artificial, exploited by politicians. While criticizing some of the slogans made at Kyiv Maidan demonstrations and associating these with the far right, they seemed more concerned about protestors’ lack of plans for fixing Ukraine’s serious economic problems. While a woman in her late 20s saw Yanukovych as having been more effective than his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma, she stressed that Ukraine lacked real leaders fit to be president, and that it was unrealistic to remove Yanukovych from power. This woman also suggested that the Donetsk Region’s skepticism about the EU did not mean greater affinities for Russia. She said that Ukraine faced a false choice between Russia and the EU and that it should look after its own interests.
Thus, I see great potential for the new regime to gain support from such people. So far, that has not happened yet. March 1 was a sad reminder of this. In Kharkiv, hired thugs, some from Russian cities like Voronezh and Belgorod, came to a meeting of “patriotic Kharkivians” organized by Mayor Kernes and stormed the governor’s office, seizing about 30 Euromaidan activists inside and beating them up and humiliating them on Freedom Square. Those storming the building hoisted Russian flags from its upper floors. In Donetsk, demonstrators from a crowd of about 7,000 pro-Yanukovych supporters tried to storm the governor’s offices there and hung a Russian flag on a nearby flag post. Crimea’s parliament decided to move up to March 10 a referendum on the autonomous region’s status.
Despite these worrisome signs, the new regime and Euromaidan forces are trying to bring the country together. The interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, promised to veto a new language law that appeared to discriminate against Russian speakers and alienate potential support in Eastern Ukraine. The new government this weekend appointed billionaire oligarchs from Eastern Ukraine – Serhiy Taruta and Ihor Kolomoiskyi – governors of the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions to provide greater stability and unity. Kharkiv Euromaidan activists last week put off plans to demolish the city’s Lenin monument and chose to have the public discuss the issue further. In Lviv, the reputed heartland of right-wing nationalism, members of Lviv’s intelligentsia early last week called on the government to enact more favorable policies for Russian speakers and back away from political extremists, and they urged people not to take the law into their own hands. We end the week with Ukraine facing not a civil war, but an unprovoked foreign occupation of one of its southern regions.
William Risch is Associate Professor of History at Georgia College and made two trips to Ukraine during the Euromaidan protests.Post Views: 991