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German Anti-Immigrant Party Targets Russian-German Voters With a Xenophobic Ad

Anti-immigrant German party AfD targets Russian-German voters with an election ad. Image courtesy AfD Hamburg.

Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, or AfD for short), a conservative, Euroskeptic, anti-immigration party competing in the federal elections in Germany's Bundestag, has been busy courting its favored segment of the electorate: Russian-speaking Germans.

AfD is also vocally pro-Kremlin, which is a constant source of anxiety about potential meddling by the Russian government in Germany's elections. The party has been so persistent in targeting Russian-Germans that several diaspora organizations have publicly distanced themselves from its virulent rhetoric.

But AfD’s local chapter in Hamburg — home to a large Russian-speaking community — recently did something extraordinarily tone-deaf and offensive, even by its own standards. On its Facebook page, AfD Hamburg posted a campaign ad in Russian, rife with spelling and grammatical mistakes, but that’s not the worst thing about it. It also used a xenophobic idiom, dating back to Mongol invasion of early Russian proto-states in the 13th century.

Below is the translation of the campaign ad from Russian:

Смело за Германию и наших детей
Не званый гость хуже татарина
Защищать границы, высылать исламистов!

With valor for Germany and our children
An un wanted [sic] guest is worse than a Tatar
To protect our borders, to deport Islamists!

The accompanying post says:

Личное обращение к немцам из России в Гамбурге

Уважаемые Гамбуржцы, родившиеся в бывшем СССР! 24. сентября 2017 будут выборы. В связи с этим у немецкого народа будет возможность остановить вредную политику, последствия которой описаны высше. Я глубоко убеждён в том, что наступила пора совершить жёсткий поворот в политике; поэтому я обращаюсь к Вам за помощью. Будучи народом, история которого прежде всего связана с жестокими политическими переворотами, Вы очень точно замечаете, когда политика и общество подвергаются фундаментальным изменениям. Гамбургская Фракция АфД убеждена в том, что делам и нуждам немцев из России по сей день не уделяют должного внимания в политическом дискурсе. Поэтому нам хотелось бы наладить с Вами общение и узнать о Вашем опыте. Отныне Вы можете звонить нам по горячей линии 040 / 428 31 25 18. Давайте бороться за нашу страну плечом к плечу, поддерживая AfD на выборах 24. Сентрября 2017. Помогите мне, стать депутатом в Бундестаге, где я буду отстаивать интересы нашего города.

Dr. Bernd Baumann
первый кандидат Гамбурга
Дальнейшая информация:
http://bit.ly/2xhuS7s
#AfD#Russland#Deutschland#Hamburg

A personal appeal to Germans of Russian origin in Hamburg
Dear Hamburgers born in the former USSR! On September 24, 2017, elections will be held. Hence, the German nation will be offered the opportunity to reverse the negative effect of policies described above. I am deeply convinced that the time is ripe for a political U-turn. Which is why I am seeking your help. Being a nation that has survived many violent political turmoils, you are keenly aware when your country’s policies and society are undergoing fundamental changes. AfD’s chapter in Hamburg is convinced that Russian Germans’ affairs and needs are being consistently neglected in today’s political discourse. So we are interested in communicating with you and learning about your experience. From now on you can contact us by calling the number 040 / 428 31 25 18. Let’s fight for our country shoulder to shoulder by supporting AfD in the September 24 elections. Help me to become an elected member of the Bundestag where I will be advocate the interests of our city.
Dr. Bernd Baumann
Hamburg’s first candidate
Further information: http://bit.ly/2xhuS7s
#AfD#Russland#Deutschland#Hamburg

Tatars referenced in the ad are the largest ethnic and religious (Sunni Muslims) minority in Russia. Most of them live in the federal republic of Tatarstan, a constituent part of Russia since the 16th century.

A number of them live in Germany, too, forming part of the Russian-speaking diaspora — so AfD’s ad, charitably speaking, is problematic and caused an immediate backlash among its target audience.

Of more than 100 comments under the Facebook post, the overwhelming majority are highly critical of AfD’s clumsy attempt at addressing its potential voters in Russian and, of course, the blatant xenophobia of its message.

Others, native Germans, were puzzled at a message in a foreign language they don’t understand. One Facebook user wrote:

Экономические беженцы, бежавшие от совковой нищеты, ненавидят беженцев из горячих точек, бегущих от российских бомбардировок. А путлерские СМИ об этом рассказывают в киселёвских часах промывания мозгов.

Economic refugees, having fled from Soviet poverty, are now hating refugees from hotspots bombed by the Russian air force. And Putler’s media [“Putler” being a blend of the names Putin and Hitler] are praising the bombing during [Dmitry] Kiselyov’s [an ultra-loyalist news show host on Russian state TV] brainwashing hour.

Another threatened legal action against AfD:

от немки, родившейся в бывшем СССР, лично херу Бауманну: поскольку я только за то, чтобы бороться за нашу страну, думаю подать на Вас и Вашу “партию” в суд за разжигание межнациональной розни (знаете, статья такая есть в немецком законе, §130 “Volksverhetzung”, неплохо бы знать законы нашей страны, а ещё лучше соблюдать)

Here’s my personal message to Herr Baumann, from a German woman born in the ex-USSR: because I'm all for fighting for our country, I’m considering suing you and your “party” for incitement of ethnic hatred (you know, it’s a criminal offense according to the German law, [article] §130, which wouldn’t be amiss for you to know or even respect)

It might very well be that AfD actually hurt its prospects of electing their representatives to the Bundestag by appealing to the Russian-speaking community in such a crass way. One Facebook commenter put it bluntly:

Теперь я точно за CDU голосую

That’s it, now I’m definitely voting CDU [Christian Democratic Union, the party of Angela Merkel whose migration policies AfD has been fiercely criticizing]

The Russian-German community has been in the spotlight recently and is often cast in the media — unfairly, its members say — as Putin’s “fifth column” or “Trojan horse” in Germany. A recent feature in the New York Times Magazine detailed the infamous “Liza case”, in which a Russian TV segment about the alleged rape of a teenage Russian-German girl by “Arab migrants” sparked national anti-immigrant protests. The allegations were later revealed to be unfounded, but the “Liza case” has since been used as an example of Russia’s aggressive meddling in other countries’ affairs through propaganda and stoking fears on social media.

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