Russia: “Presumption of Guilt”

LJ user tibetka wrote this (RUS) about xenophobia and hate speech in LJ community moya_moskva (“My Moscow”):

Lately, something unimaginable has been taking place in [LJ] community moya_moskva. People keep writing and writing and writing about their hatred for [those who are not Moscow natives].


What's scary is the “domestic” hatred, expressed in kitchen conversations, “humorous” TV shows – because no one considers it dangerous […]. […]

The post – which is slightly longer than the quote above – has drawn nearly 350 comments in less than three days (LJ community moya_moskva is read by 3,642 LJ users, and 3,214 more are authorized to post in it).

One blogger (distort303) felt that LJ user tibetka was too idealistic and recommended that she read posts in another Moscow LJ community, ponaehali_msk, maintained by people who dislike migrants – in order to learn “how many crimes are committed by aliens from underdeveloped countries.” (An attempt to figure out what the Russian “ponaehali” – or “ponaehali tut” – stands for has been made in this thread at, “the virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians.”)

Below are a few items from the “manifesto” (RUS) of LJ community ponaehali_msk (317 readers, 280 participants):

[…] They seduce our girls and get pregnant from our young men, in order to stay in our city.

They take away our jobs, because they agree to toil for [very little], just to become part of the capital's life.

They lower the average salary level, because they cost much less than we do.

They jam our roads, because they aren't capable of driving in heavy traffic.

They paralyze the work of public transportation, because they get disoriented on the subway and aren't used to moving quickly inside buses.

They destroy our language, because it's much easier to litter the pure language with village dialect than learn to speak correctly. […]

Xenophobia is not limited to virtual Moscow, of course. LJ user varfolomeev66, a Russian journalist, described (RUS) his real-life encounter with someone who did not trust Moscow's non-Slavic cab drivers:

Presumption of guilt

One evening, I was […] flagging down a car for [a female acquaintance]. She put forward a task:

- Only please make sure that the driver isn't “black” [non-Slavic, a Caucasus or Central Asia native].
– ?
– I don't want to ride with them, especially at night.
– Have you had any problems?
– They always bother you with questions, like “Do you live on your own?” etc. Had enough of it.
– But that's their mentality, oriental.
– I understand everything, but I'm still not going [with any of them]!

Ironically, only [cars driven by] the “guests” were stopping. I had to offer them a really low price, in order to reject their service politely. It took us ten minutes to find a “white” [Slavic-looking] driver and send the female friend home successfully.

She, by the way, is a very modern woman, working in a quite progressive organization.

LJ user varfolomeev66‘s post has received 107 comments; below are three of them:


According to my observations, young people of Caucasian looks are a lot more polite than the majority of the locals. They are the ones who offer you a seat on a bus and subway.

And when I once took a cab for my 90-year-old mama, the Georgian driver got out of the car, opened the door and helped her to get out, and I just stood there, admiring the scene.



[…] Many times I rode cars with various Caucasian people. We talked about many things – about theater (with a director from Baku), and about music, and about the differences and similarities between Turkish and Azeri languages. About grapes that the driver cultivated back home, and about the wine made of these grapes. About his wife, children. About war. Sometimes they'd offer to walk me to the door – because it was dark and there were drunks around. Sometimes we were both silent, each thinking our own thoughts. But I never get into a car with someone who appears not sober/overexcited/disturbed – regardless of his ethnicity. […] Once, I was in a car with a deaf driver – wrote the address on a piece of paper for him. It went fine. Without unnecessary conversations.



Since I'm carless, I'm a true expert in this :)

I've been trying to classify drivers for a long time, basing it on the main features: how much they take, how they behave, etc. – but I've fail to classify them by their ethnicity.

Still, I do have some observations.

If I'm with my child, any Caucasian native is more preferable. They treat children – all children – as something sacred. They regularly refuse to take the money, even though I insist, they laugh at my son's jokes, and this is exactly what my kid needs… If I'm on my own, they almost always begin to flirt, but decently, and I've learned to deter them […] by making jokes about them, and sometimes I explain very politely that I'm in a [terrible] mood and that it's not good to have conversations in such a mood – and they leave me alone. As for the “whites,” the young ones are a lot more tiresome. It's harder to deter them. They don't get it and are asking more questions, by the way.

Oh, and the music [playing in the cars of] our [local] guys is almost always worse.

The day before yesterday, a black […] guy was giving me a ride, and he was listening to Armstrong, and didn't ask much money, and knew Moscow well, and was a good driver. […]


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  • Dean

    I very much enjoyed reading this glimpse of culture in Moscow. Thank you for the translation and the observations, Neeka.

    People are the same everywhere I think. I’ve heard many similar conversations when I was driving a cab. Here almost everyone is from somewhere else, but everyone has a perception about people from other cultures. Some of us whites feel comfortable expressing prejudice when we are alone with another white person. But many celebrate diversity too.

    It is changing for the better I hope. I hope many of these feelings will go away when my generation exits. Sometimes it takes a generation or two for people to forget. Things are changing fast everywhere. People cannot keep up.

  • DEAN:

    It’s easy to tell from your comment that you are not a dark-skinned person living in Moscow — nor, indeed, are you capable of imagining what it is like to be one. In fact, I daresay that you’ve never had a single meaningful conversation with such a person in your entire life.

  • How do most Russians (“nationalists” in particular) view Pushkin? How about the American brother on the Russian national basketball team? When alive, my very fair skinned, blue eyed, one half Russian Orthodox Christian/one half Baltic German Jewish father greatly loved my very dark 100% Greek Separdic-American mother and her family. Ditto my father’s Russian Orthodox Christian friends. Like my father, their roots to Russia aren’t/weren’t far removed.

    Contemporary Russians are a mixed bag. Plenty of non-Russian racists, inclusive of many racist examples. Meantime, I’m sure that among Euros, Russians collectively have had one the highest inter-ethnic rates of marriage.

    Someone directed my attention to a recent piece in a leading Brit media venue which appears to essentially wish for a high mortality rate among Russians as a means of ending ethnic differences in Estonia and Latvia.

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