Russia: On Xenophobia, Again

Here's the translation of one of today's top-rated posts at the Yandex Blogs portal, written by LJ user nl, one of the most popular Russian bloggers:

The degree of xenophobia in our wonderful land tends to remain underestimated right until you collide with its fruit and feel the shame for it with your own skin.

[My wife] is looking for a babysitter for [our baby daughter Maria]. She gets in touch with yet another potential babysitter and gives her the details in brief: the child's age, what kind of work, the amount of it…

Do you know what the first question of the potential babysitter is?

She asks:

- Tell me, have they informed you that I am not [ethnic] Russian?

[LJ user kmaka, nl‘s wife] says this question put her in a state resembling shock.

An elderly [ethnic] Armenian [originally from Azerbaijan's capital Baku]. A philologist. “I haven't lived in Moscow for a long time – 17 years or so.”

Me, I had just returned home from the latest [political debates] held at Bilingua (where I had the pleasure to observe a group of young people who were yelling [Sieg Heil] for about 20 minutes), and I tried to explain to [kmaka] that there's nothing whatsoever to be shocked about here, and moreover, this is how it's been for a long time.

So far, there are 638 comments to this post.


The debate nl is referring to was between Yulia Latynina, a Russian journalist and writer, and Maxim Kononenko, best known for his satirical vignettes on Vladimir Putin (Vladimir Vladimirovich™); the debate's topic was “Where are the democrats?”

At least two of the neo-Nazi guys who interrupted the event are also bloggers, and their posts describing the fun they had that night are – just like nl‘s post – in the top 30 at Yandex Blogs today.

I choose not to translate anything from their posts, except for Yulia Latynina's retort, which both of them quote, in two slightly different ways:


“If such creatures – I can't call him a man – keep killing Tajik girls and get drunk on beer, this isn't going to help Russia in any way.”



Latynina replied: “Here's how brave they all are. They must be the same guys who, in group of 20, are capable of nothing but killing one Tajik girl.”

The Tajik girl Latynina was referring to is the 9-year-old Hurshida Sultanova, who was stabbed to death by a group of neo-Nazis on Feb. 9, 2004, in the heart of St. Petersburg.


On a different note, unrelated to xenophobia, Lyndon of Scraps of Moscow has recently translated into English four of Maxim Kononenko's Vladimir Vladimirovich™ pieces – here and here.

Last month, Kononenko switched his LJ identity from mrparker to maxim-kononenko, deleting his highly popular blog (which, surprisingly, is still rated #5 at Yandex Blogs). Gone with the old blog is Kononenko's cruel remark about the Beslan mothers who lost their children in the school siege of 2004, the post dating back to September 2005, around the first anniversary of the tragedy. Though now erased, it features in many Russian blogs whose authors were outraged at the time; also, there's a mention of Kononenko's remark in the article by Yuri Saprykin in the Bolshoi Gorod magazine – whose translation Lyndon of Scraps of Moscow has recently posted as well:

In spite of its apparent democratic spirit, ZheZhe [LiveJournal] is more and more structured along the lines of TV: there are the ratings leaders, hooked on the feeling of their own importance, and an amorphous mass following their every move. The leaders set the key items on the news agenda (see the Ivannikova case, the story about the NBP members getting beaten up, or the one about Minkin and Latynina getting pelted with tomatoes), and the masses approve (or disapprove) with a discordant rumble. And as for the idiocies of the rating leaders, well even the [Russian TV stars] Malakhovs and the Solov’yovs of the world couldn’t dream of them. Just consider the (already paradigmatic) phrase about how “the mothers of Beslan should just have more children.”


  • We ran into this kind of thing when we were looking for cheaper apartments last summer – landlords are very clear about not wanting non-Russians (but of course they’re fine with having “white” foreigners). The situation only seems to be getting worse, although it’s hard to tell from afar.

    Interesting thing about Kononenko – I went to his new blog and realized he deleted the old one at roughly the same time he joined up with a new (or newly active) political party, Svobodnaia Rossiia.

    Could be a coincidence (his deleting the blog at the same time as apparently taking steps towards a life in politics), but an embittered SPS leader wrote a piece in Rossiiskaia Gazeta talking about Svobodnaia Rossiia and mentioning the blog’s deletion, and Kononenko felt the need to quote from it and respond by attributing some uncharitable words to the SPS guy.

    That’s a debate I’m definitely to far from Russia to have anything intelligent to say about, so I’ll just mention that I think one of Kononenko’s comments to that post would be appreciated by GVO readers: “ЖЖ – моя российская газета” – “ZheZhe is my Rossiiskaia Gazeta.”

    Or maybe that doesn’t translate so well.

  • The sadest thing of all is the use of the word “Russian” in the question “Tell me, have they informed you that I am not Russian?”

    But in fact, she could very well BE Russian. She’s quite possibly a Russian citizen, and nobody is interested in whether she is nor not. What’s she’s not for sure is SLAVIC. A “Russian” should properly be understood not as a racial term but as a term of citizenship. The fact that people in Russia equate the terms “Russian” and “Slavic” is one of the saddest and most outrageous realities of Russian life (there are two different words in the Russian language for “Russian” — one meaning “Slavic” and the other meaning “not Slavic” and really meaning “not really Russian).

    When Chechens ask for their freedom, Slavic Russians say “you can’t have it, you are part of Russia.” But when Slavic Russians speak about Chechens, they speak about them as different in every way and unequal to Slavics in every way. This fundamental contradiction is destroying Russia from the inside out.

  • i’ve edited the translation: in the original, it’s clear she’s talking of ethnic russian, not russian by citizenship.

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