Russia: Ethnically Motivated Violence

Racially and ethnically motivated violence seems to be on the rise in Russia. Some of the most publicized cases that took place in April alone include an attack on a TV journalist of Azeri origin on a subway train in the center of Moscow; an attack on the culture minister of Kabardino-Balkaria that occurred as he was picking up his daughter from a dance class, also in Moscow; the St. Petersburg murder of Lamzar Samba, 28, a communications student from Senegal. Finally, around 6 PM yesterday, a 17-year-old Armenian was stabbed to death at Pushkinskaya subway station in the center of Moscow, by a young man who appeared to be a skinhead.

(UPDATE, 4/24: It has just been reported that the Armenian, Vagan Abramyants, was killed by his friend, Denis Kulagin, born in 1989. Allegedly, they had a fight about a girl they both liked. Kulagin always carried a knife with him. There were no skinheads in this case: the victim's and the attacker's friends – all of them fans of Lokomotiv, one of Moscow's football teams – made up the story to help Kulagin avoid punishment. Abramyants was an only son in an Armenian family that moved to Moscow in the late 1980s, to escape anti-Armenian pogroms in Baku, Azerbaijan.)

(UPDATE #2, 4/26: According to investigation officials, Abramyants and Kulagin had commmon friends – among Lokomotiv and Spartak fans – but didn't know each other. Abramyants said something rude to Zhanna Nefedova, Kulagin's 15-year-old girlfriend, and Kulagin stabbed and killed him. Video cameras installed at the station didn't record the killing, nor are there any records of skinheads getting off a Vyhino-bound train. Kulagin's mother says her son's interrogation lasted four hours and there was no lawyer present. Then the interrogators invited her into the room and announced Kulagin's choices: either he admits to killing Abramyants out of jealousy and gets a minimal sentence, or he faces 15 years in jail for ethnically motivated murder. Kulagin's mother told her son to choose the former, but he later retracted his confession. The Abramyants family lawyer insists on the skinhead version: they spent some time walking around the station before picking their victim; Abramyants was stabbed in the heart, which may mean the attacker wasn't an amateur; Abramyants was a nice, hardworking boy from a good family, not some violent football fan; two more guys were wounded, which possibly means there were several attackers.)

Below is the translation of a relevant post and comments to it (RUS) at another_kashin, the LiveJournal of Oleg Kashin, a Russian journalist:


Itar-Tass Agency reports that a young man resembling a skinhead attacked an Armenia native and stabbed him many times with a knife near the Pushkinskaya metro station. The man died of injuries on the spot. After the attack, the bandit went down into the subway. The search for the criminal has begun.

It has been reported that the attacker was 18-20 years old, his head was shaved, and he was wearing a black jacket and black cargo pants. According to the law enforcement officials, the criminal is very dangerous.

I was at Pushkinskaya on my way out into the city at the time the corpse was lying there. Indeed, a kavkazets [a Caucasus native] and somewhat too cut up. Small fences were placed around him, inside the fenced off area two Slavic women sat, and across the central hall cops were holding hands and solemnly looking around, like they do at [Lenin's] Mausoleum. To pass the cops, one had to go up toward the Gorkovskaya pass, and then go down the adjacent staircase. This is what I did. Turned around to look at others. People are walking, talking, smiling, then look at the Armenian, and their jaws drop.

I told the cab driver about it. The cab driver laughs – well, our dear skinheads again, great.

What follows a little bit later is an attempt to discuss the term kavkazets:


sumlenny: “kavkazets” is one of the most stupid terms for a commentary like this. The victim was an Armenian. Any average Azeri (also a “kavkazets”, according to your classification) will be cheering his death more than some Russian fascists.


object: Any [Azeri], aha. Any.

sumlenny: ok, lets say “many [Azeris].” Do you remember how during a joint NATO training an Azeri officer “lost patience” and killed his Armenian fellow-trainee with an axe?

In any case, the goal of my comment wasn't to insult Azeris. I was drawing attention to the fact that there is no such entity as “kavkaztsy”. Only for a journalist sitting in his ivory tower do the look the same, just like the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans do. But a Chinese would be very offended if you call him a Japanese.

object: For those who killed this poor Armenian, such an entity does exist, I think. After all, they don't ask for the passport [to learn the victim's ethnic origin] before attacking.

And here are some more reactions:

krumhilda: A nightmare… I'm more shocked by the people's reaction than by the corpses. Though that's monstrous, too.

lukyanich: Armenians love us [Russia], the only ones in the Caucasus, all the more a pity, a skinhead has bumped off a Christian. Perhaps time to bump the skinheads off, eh?

ac_diver: very likely that this will start happening soon… i heard today that (in Petrozavodsk, I guess) in a fight between “kavkaztsy” and skinheads, they did kill one skin… There's one question in this situation – who will these “kavkaztsy” consider as belonging to the entity called the “Russians”?

rusliner: Violence begets violence. Do you need that?

sumlenny: what you've said is nonsense. Violence can as successfully – and sometimes even more successfully – be brought on by the lack of resistance to violence.

rusliner: I'm not calling to ignoring violence! But to respond with violence is only possible when ALL THE OTHER means have been exhausted. Otherwise, I won't see any difference between the sides.

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