What about race/racism in Russia?

Martha asked:
This is a layered question, I'm sure---not easily answered with a couple sentences---but what has been your experience with race/racism in Russia? Here in the US we have so many problems with race, racial tension, racism. It is horrifying that 50 years after the civil rights movement so many people of color are still discriminated against.

Hello Martha!

As you know, our country has big soviet past. Which means where were times when people didn’t want (or couldn’t, or were afraid, or have not been able) to look, feel and act differently.

Have you heard of «fifth record»? Here is an example, and I’ve heard about many.

Back in USSR, borders with other countries were so closed that every and each foreigner was treated like god. Clothes they wore, things they’ve seen outside the country… When Olympic games of 1980 were held in Moscow, many children of mixed race were born in nine months. Women who had such connection with foreigners were blamed (because it was out-of-marriage and not-by-communist-ideals-so-physical) but still, having an affair with a person with another race was intriguing.

Having that in mind, what do we think now about people of another skin color in Russia? People on the streets still stare at anyone different, be it outed gay, dark-skin person, all-leather biker or weirdly-dressed anime fan. Any of this characters could be beaten entering dangerous quarter (but it’s the same in New York, I guess). But they all can safely board subway, walk around, study and work. There are haters, but there are also people that look very different. Now more difference is seen around so less social stigma appears. But I’ve heard that some dark-skinned students coming to Russia are afraid to go outside the campus, especially in smaller cities.

When you live in a small city, whatever your skin color is, you get to know who knows who and who can help you and who must be avoided at all times. As a resident of Moscow and St. Pete, I’ve never lived in a small town more than a month but I know that if you get local friends, it will be okay. It's not a matter of skin color, it's about social connections.

There is also another side of racism such as behavior towards ethnic groups from ex-USSR countries such as Uzbeks, Tajiks, Georgians, Moldavians and others. They look differently and they come to Russia to make money or business. Migrant workers get the less luxurious jobs and are paid poorly. They clean streets, sell fruits, fix shoes, make repairs, work as office-cleaners and unofficial taxi drivers. They usually have no permits to work here. I guess it’s the same with Mexicans and Filipino people is US or people from French-colonized Africa in France. People who live poorer in other country come to richer one to earn money in order to survive.

Many Russians underestimate migrant workers. They see them as lower class and people who have nothing to lose so they can be dangerous. This is common stereotype which is, in many ways, untrue. Many migrants come to Russia, earn wages and return to families with enough money to build home. They often have a lot to lose: wives, children, starving relatives. I’ve known Uzbek who had two diplomas in linguistics but washed dishes in Russian restaurant because no one will hire him here by the profession without permits (or even if he has permits, people will choose Russian person instead to teach English anyway). I personally think it’s unfair but it’s what we have.

See also: Nasreddin in Russia newspaper post

This post is an answer to one of The Listserve replies I’ve got.
You can ask your question, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment