Friday, August 28, 2009

it depends on how it's said...

I try to put mostly positive things about Russia, Russian, Russians here on this blog—after all, it’s a medium through which I try to support Russian Studies here at Stetson. I’m reluctant to post things that might further stereotypes about the area for obvious reasons. That said, a friend sent me this article

, and it is so beyond the pale that it merits a post. The article recounts an attack on a ninth-grade kid, Tagir Karimov, who lives in St Petersburg. (His name is clearly not Russian, probably Central Asian.) On his way to school, he and a friend Suleiman (also not a Russian) were beaten by “a group of 25-30 youth” who screamed «Убивай хача, мочи хача!», «Бей черных, бей хачей!», «Россия для русских» Roughly: We should kill the “khach”, wipe out the khach! No more darkies! Beat the khaches! Russia is for Russians!” (Хач is a very derogatory term for people from the Caucasus—derived from a common Armenian first name). The verb мочи is very coarse—it literally means “soak” but here it means something like “kill”—Putin likes the word. Its reflexive form, мочиться, means urinate…)

They nearly killed the kid, who spent months in a coma. Anyway, xenophobia-fueled hate crimes are certainly not exclusive to Russia. What shocked me, however, is the official response to the crime. The investigative commission in Petersburg made the following finding:
На основании выводов экспертизы Следственный комитет отказался расследовать дело об избиении до полусмерти петербургского школьника Тагира Керимова, поскольку не нашел в нем признаков экстремизма и ксенофобии.[…] Эксперт Центра судебных экспертиз Северо-Западного округа Елена Кирюхина пришла к выводу, что фразы «Крысам – крысячья смерть!», «Россия для русских» в контексте дела не направлены на разжигание межнациональной розни или унижение достоинства человека по национальному признаку. Направленность же публичных призывов «Убивай хача, мочи хача!», «Бей черных» и других эксперт затруднился определить однозначно. «Данные фразы могли как иметь, так и не иметь ксенофобской направленности», что зависит «от мотивов, которыми руководствовались произносившие их».

A very quick and dirty translation: “ON the bases of the expertise conclusions, the Investigative Commission declined to investigate the beating since it did not find any signs of extremism and xenophobia… Elena Kiriukhina, an expert at the judicial center, came to the conclusion that the phrase “A rat’s death to the rats” and “Russia for Russians” in the context of the affair were not directed at inflaming international [interracial] differences, nor did it abase the dignity of a person through national characteristics. The expert found that the aims of public calls to “Kill the khach, beat the darkies,” and other such calls, were difficult to define unambiguously. “The given facts may or may not have a xenophobic aim, depending on what motives the people who pronounce them.” Right. Ambiguous. Depending on the motives.

One thing that Russia lacks is strong non-governmental organizations. Say what you will about the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law, ACLU... Such a conclusion here, in the United States, would surely draw the fire of dozens if not scores of such organizations, along with the attention of our (mostly) free and disinterested local and national media.

Russia has no such safeguards.

Count your NGOs as blessings.

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