Russian Nationalists Aim Double Standard Critique at Muslim South

Posted November 7th, 2011 at 7:08 pm (UTC+0)
18 comments

Nicole, a Moscow State Linguistics University journalism student, showed up for dinner Sunday night, a bundle of energy, ready to interview me for her thesis. I was more interested in what she had to say, so I asked if anyone had approached her on the 10 minute walk from Kievskaya metro station to the Georgian restaurant.

“Stop Feeding The Caucasus” reads a banner held by protesters, backed by Czarist-era flags, at nationalist rally in Moscow, on Nov. 4, a holiday ironically called “National Unity Day.” VOA Photo: James Brooke

Although bundled up like a winter fur ball — coat, hat, scarf, mittens, boots — Nicole said she walked the usual gauntlet of leers and sexual invitations from young men from the Caucasus who hang around the metro exits. In fact, she said, it has become so common that she had not even thought about it, until I asked her specifically.

I had been pondering something very strange that I noticed Friday at the rally in Moscow of 7,000 Russian nationalists.
There was a total absence of signs denouncing the USA or NATO.
Instead, the Nationalists were entirely focused inward, largely on the Caucasus.

“Stop Feeding the Caucasus,” seemed to be the most a popular slogan, objecting to the billions of dollars funneled south to pacify Russia’s heavily Muslim southern border region. Another was: “Stop Stealing from Russian Regions.”

If you want to draw a nationalist crowd in Moscow this season, don’t waste your energy hyperventilating about Kosovo, missile defense, or even Georgia.

Instead, appeal to the sexual politics of the city’s streets.

Margarita Simonyan, a Russian journalist of Armenian descent, is editor-in-chief of RT, the Kremlin-supported television channel formerly known as Russia Today. Shielded by these impeccable establishment credentials, she broke a mainstream media taboo last week, by writing an essay that was aired on Dozhd TV and then published in The Moscow Times.

Under the headline, “Why We Hate Each Other,” she wrote:
“Last weekend, I happened to be at the Kazansky Station where I witnessed a disgusting scene: Three young men from the Caucasus were taunting female train conductors standing on the platform. ‘Hey babes, are all women in Moscow as beautiful as you are?’ they jeered. Then they joined hands and began yelling, ‘We are from the Caucasus!’”

Russians love the phrase double standard – “dvoinoi standart.”
For decades, it has been directed outward, to the West.
But now, more and more Russians are directing the double standard critique inward, to their heavily Muslim South.

They object to the fact that some young men come from the Caucasus to Moscow under the impression that they have just won a ticket to a sexual Disneyland. If you just proposition 10 – 20 – 50 girls on the street, the thinking goes, eventually, you will get lucky.

Earlier this year, I was down in Chechnya and its sister republic Ingushetia on reporting trips. Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, but now it lives under virtual Sharia law. Last week, a Reuters friend reported from Chechnya that security men are invading beauty salons and tearing down pictures of women modeling hairstyles. Apparently hair dressers can no longer display photos of hair styles. It sounds like Monty Python, but that is Grozny today.

Ms. Simonyan is a well-traveled, multi-lingual, 31-year-old executive, whose family roots go back to the southern Caucasus. She blames the problem on parents sending the wrong signals to their sons: “Why do some from the Caucasus behave this way in Moscow? Do they behave in the same way in their native regions? Of course not. They respect their countrymen. But they have no respect for Muscovites — or Russians in general. If those young men at the Moscow train station had dared to taunt “their own” in such a crude manner in the Caucasus, somebody certainly would have broken their jaws.”

Next month, my three sons, all American university students, will visit Moscow for the holidays with two college buddies. I will explain to all five, very clearly, in plain English, that their health insurance policies do not, in any way, cover the consequences of harassing girls on the streets of Moscow.

James Brooke
James Brooke is the Russia/CIS bureau chief for Voice of America. A lifelong journalist, he covered West Africa, Brazil, the American Rocky Mountain States, Canada, and Japan/Korea for The New York Times. A resident of Moscow since 2006, he was first Bloomberg bureau chief for the region. In 2010, he joined VOA. In addition to writing Russia Watch, his weekly blog, he also does video, radio and web reports from Russia and the former USSR.

18 Responses to “Russian Nationalists Aim Double Standard Critique at Muslim South”

  1. Pyotr says:

    James, you are right about barbarians from Caucasus. Their conduct and disrespect to the people who try to make them a somewhat civilised tribe is the main reason why Russians call the regions chernozhopia.

  2. Gennady says:

    J. Brooke is right
    when he points at one more burning issue
    Putin’s regime was absolutely unable to solve during 11 years in power.
    The first one was incompetence of his government and his presidency
    at stopping the demographic tragedy of shrinking population.
    The second failure is no less:
    the incompetence concisely expressed in two nowadays popular slogans “Stop Feeding the Caucasus” and “Stop Stealing from Russian Regions.” http://rusplatforma.org/publikacii/node243/

    It is clear for every sober Russian citizen that
    his policy of funnelling south billions gas-petrol dollar revenue for selling off national resources to pacify Russia’s heavily Muslim southern border region
    has proved to be a failure without any future.
    At the same time the Caucasus nationalities (Dagestan, Ingushetia) hardly have a few ethnic Russians all over their territories, with no cultural or economic payback to Russian Federation.
    They are alien to core Russian culture and language. As it is shown in the article all what the Caucasus can export to Moscow is just hot eager promiscuous men.

    Do ordinary poverty stricken Russians with Russia’s vast uninhabited and under populated and under invested territories want the Caucasus?
    Do single mothers want pay for peace in the volatile regions with Russian soldiers’ lives and national resources having been wasted?

    The subsidizing gamble of Kremlin “politicians” are engaged in is at the expense of impoverished province population of the Russian Federation.
    Millions of ordinary Russians don’t need any additional territories, nowadays they can’t cope with what they already have.
    The core Russian nation badly needs the billions of petrodollars being got for national treasures for its own economic and rudimentary scientific development, for elementary healthcare and public education, shortage of kindergartens, closing down of rural schools. Homeless people, deserted children are everywhere, ghost villages and abandoned towns, empty factories and farms, airplanes and boats crumbling apart.
    Certainly it isn’t the right policy for ordinary Russians to waist precious national resources in such reckless way. PM Putin pours taxpayers money into tiny Chechnya and other Caucasus regions every day more than in a few subjects constituting the Russian Federation.
    With billions of petrodollars nowadays Russia with the shortsighted policy towards the Caucasus firmly stands … on clay feet.

  3. Olga says:

    I didn’t meet very barbarian Caucasians albeit I suppose they may be. I think the ugly politics of our rulers towards very problematic Caucasian regions and the disgusting long wars by there have given rise to Russian nationalism, what is to me not less disgusting. I’m sick of these extremely obtuse ‘belozhopian’ people who seek for the cause of their problems in other nationalities and unite in hatred to them. My nationality is the same but I have nothing else in common with them.

    • Pyotr says:

      So, Olga, relax and have fun when these very polite caucasian internationalists come….. True democracy is possible only in a national state. That’s why Russians have to get rid of all chernozhopias. Rossia is evil for Russians. Russia is the state for Russians, if you see what I mean.

      • Olga says:

        Pyotr, I think Russian people are magnanimous and hospitable, whereas the nationalists have no nationality actually, they are just fanatics, like Muslim radicals are. These are humans who cannot create and think on their own and prefer to seek for enemies or “worse” people on the outside to raise one’s price. Some of them choose to hate Jews, other choose Caucasians, and so on. This is a wrong way. At that the nationality is a strange object to hate nowadays when the world become in our sight like a small village. It is very stange to hear about a national state, it sounds uncivilized, like from the Stone Age. I know rude and violent may be among Caucasians for example, nevertheless I personally would not like to isolate me from other nationalities.

  4. Gennady says:

    To Olga:

    I completely share your point of view.
    On personal level the majority of ordinary Caucasians are proud and honorable people.
    They are polite to elder folk, they observe family traditions with almost no divorces, all are married. Alcoholism and smoking are rare. They are hard-working, laborious and industrious. They are not crazy in consumerism.
    It is in a strike contrast to present-day young Russians.
    I don’t believe that ordinary Russians had, have or will have any problem with the Caucasians.
    The tension was created by clumsy efforts to harass the proud Caucasian nationalities, to subdue them to ambitions and pretences of the “class” that high jacked contemporary Russian Federation.
    It is a convenient reason to pump down millions dollars of the gas-petrol money to the “Caucasian” problem and to keep in poverty millions Russians.
    In contemporary history the Caucasian problem was created by late J.Stalin
    after he had sent to deadly exile thousands Caucasians.
    In the exile thousands upon thousands of them perished.
    PM Putin is a great admirer of the “father of nations”. So, who can expect any progress in the Northern Caucasus under the present day leadership?
    If anyone had really wanted to solve the “problem”, they first should have distinguished primary causes of the “problem” and its consequences.

    • Olga says:

      And, in any case money sent there must not be used to built pompous super churches and super stadiums and celebrate local princeling’s anniversary with great pomp what takes place currently. If to send money, they must work to create jobs and enterprises and make a profit. As for our leadership, it is to be replaced.

  5. Pyotr says:

    Gennady and Olga, have you read the article at all? Even James, the foreigner, has noticed the outrageous and disgusting conduct of “proud and honorable” caucasians. We are different, this is the fact as solid as Caucasian mountains. We will never be parts of one nation. They do not want it and Russians don’t want it. Let’s separate piecefully. Thus had any attack happend on Russian territory from Muslim South in future we will not tolerate it any more and to retaliate would be our right. Not a foot of Russian soldier would step on that soil, we would do it by aviation. But we wouldn’t have to rebuild Grozny or whatever once again, this would be enemy’s territory this time.
    Caucasus is the corner stone of Putin’s “power vertical”. He gained popularity among Russians promising to bring Chechnya to constitutional order. But in fact he just buys the piece with them with our money, which could be used to improve the life of Russians. While we agree to pay this humiliating contribution to “defeated” chechens Putin has power. We have to remove this corner stone from under his “power vertical” and it would fall down like a house of cards.

    • Olga says:

      Pyotr, who is James? I didn’t find the author’s name on the page. What did he noticed? His acquaintance saw a scene once. I live here and I didn’t see such scenes, otherwise they’d have to pay, these guys)) Though the scene seems me implausible. As well as the French name Nicole in Moscow)

  6. Pyotr says:

    Well, I see many Russians prefer not to notice many things like sheep lead to a slaughter house prefer not to notice their friends hanging from the ceiling with their guts out. The state of denial is very common among Russians and this is very big problem. You, Olga, cannot even see the photo of the author and his photo in the top right corner. So I don’t expect you to see things that his colleague witnesses almost everyday.

    • Olga says:

      Pyotr, I’m ashamed. I didn’t notice the author’s resume, because I got accustomed on the side ads are placed, and I don’t look at that place.
      Okay, I’ll go to Kazansky station and see. I should see, finally.

    • Olga says:

      Well, I went to Kazansky station, as I was intrigued – maybe it changed since last time I was there? Maybe something special appeared?

      Inspecting the station I saw: trains, passangers, police, kiosks with food…

      I see James has good colleagues friends, but it’s a surprising way of writing – one person said this, another one said that, and, here you are! an article with far-reaching conclusions. With all my respect, it seems to be made from nothing, and the aim is unclear to me.

      Pyotr, I know from my own internet-experience, radical Muslim are completely inaccessible for communication with others, non-Muslims. Therefore I believe these fanatics are able to hang at the ceiling with guts out. But you are concerned about nationality? You, Pyotr, are quite an exotic person, in my eyes. I wonder Hitler story tells you nothing?

  7. Pyotr says:

    Well done, Olga. I never thought that my humble comments can make a person to set aside the daily routine of life and actually go on a quest. I cannot do the same I mean going to Kazansky train station and check it myself as you did. I live in Siberia in a small settlement. And I see that within a 3 km radius we have two chinese farms. Who let them to settle down there? Did anybody ask us Russians weather we want them here? The question is rhetorical, isn’t it? I want to call myself Russian without being ashamed. The Putin’s regime tries to persuade Russians that they do not have the right to be a nation, for him and his fellows we are just a glue to hold the clay empire from falling apart. They try to put an equal sign between nationalism and nazism. And looking at you and your ridiculous comment about Hitler I see that they actually succeeded. I do not hate other nations, even chechens. But if any nation doesn’t want to become Russian eventually we must let it go. Enough of empires, all citizens of Russia must be Russians, that is they must acknowlege the Russian culture and language as native and prove it. And it doesn’t matter if they are black with curly hair or blond with blue eyes. Look at Estonia, Latvia, Finland and so on. These are national democracies and nobody calls them nazis exept of course putinjugend. So, Olga, I beg you, please, think about it, and try to put some cliches off your mind.

    • Olga says:

      Pyotr, I just dropped at the train station on my way back from work, it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t take many time. You have Chinese farms near you? As recently Putin got China’s prize of peace, people remembered that some Russian territories, the islands, were transferred to the China possession, also they say Russia sells them electricity and oil cheaply, and they cut out many our timber.

      I agree, migrants have to assimilate, it’s logical for any sensible person. European leaders had to reject an idea about joint and independent coexistence with their migrants, essentially Muslims. They aren’t ready to walk past people praying at the streets. If people come to a country, they should know the language and follow the rules.

      • Pyotr says:

        Olga wrote “You have Chinese farms near you?”
        Is it really a big news for you? I don’t know about european part of Russsia, but Siberia and Far East is steadily being occupied by Chinese. They manage to do it very quitely, it is like a state in a state. They have almost no contacs with local Russians except may be with authorities, and these contacs I suspect are only to bribe our already corrupted statesmen. Their farms and hothouses pop up suddenly here and there. Once I even actually saw a rice paddy in Siberia! They don’t pay for water or land or anything, (the money for bribes I don’t count) I am sure of that, because if they did the price of their products would be enormously high and actually it is low.
        I also haven’t seen a Russian road worker, they are all from Caucasus or former asian soviet republics. The quality of the roads they make is awful. The asphalt layer comes off with the first frosts. So why do you think they are still invited to do the job over and over again? Right you are, because of corruption! Our local authorities are making huge profits sharing the bigger part of roads’ budget money. That’s why the authoities are always so anti-nationalistic.
        Olga wrote”If people come to a country, they should know the language and follow the
        rules”
        I think it is not enough, they must be willing to become Russian, French or German or Pole or whatever nation where an immigrant wants to live. Otherwise what’s the point of immigration? If you like your religion, traditions and habits of your nation, stay with it. We are not to care about immigrants, they themselves must be willing to be a part of the nation they come to. They even must be more Russian than Russians themselves actually are. If it were so, they would be very welcome I’ve no doubt of that.

        • Olga says:

          It’s sad, what you tell, and I happened to read on the forums about buying up of real estate and enterprises in these areas by Chinese.
          Road workers are all not local here too, I think they’re mostly Tadjiks before the recent conflict with Tadjikistan. The quality is the same, especially with the pedestrian paths, they make them rough and when raining large puddles appear.
          I think all this is the problem related to the authorities.

          You surprise me extremely again. The point of immigration is a best life and possibilities for it. Can you imagine yourself turned into a new ethnicity? I can’t, for me. Or imagine for example James trying to be more Russian than you and I are – it would be funny, wouldn’t it? It is well known fact that immigrants themselves remain those who they were, but their children completely adopt new nationality. It’s easily understandable and it’s a natural law.

  8. Pyotr says:

    Olga wrote”You surprise me extremely again.” :) , that’s the way I am. My point though was that if you want a better life for yourself and your children, be ready to change your ethnicity, so you generally right here to be surprised. But isn’t it logical? If one wants to take something, one should give something. If you are so desperate that you’re ready to immigrate, you then acknowledge by that that your nation’s way of life failed you. So what’s the big deal to cling to its rules and customs at your new motherland? You are to do the best to become a new personality. Of course it is hard for an adult, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and aspire to it. And I said that this should become the natural law as you put it.
    Olga wrote “It’s easily understandable and it’s a natural law.” I really doubt that and life proves that I am right. Yobs and rioters on the streets of London and Paris were mostly decendants of immigrants, weren’t they?

    • Olga says:

      I meant the adoption by the descendants new language and custom. But not all descendants manage to succeed, and those who didn’t succeed are easily involved in riots.
      I browsed the internet on this subject, and most comprehensive article I found was right at VOA site: voanews.com/russian/news/London-riots-expert-opinion-2011-08-09-127304533.html. The question is considered from different points of view. The key point is, to my mind, this sentence: “Social injustice and social stratification stimulate confrontation by more simple signs – skin color, language, religion. It’s a inevitable phenomenon”.

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About

James Brooke is VOA Moscow bureau chief, covering Russia and the former USSR. With The New York Times, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa, Latin America, Canada and Japan/Koreas. He studied Russian in college during the Brezhnev years, first visited Moscow as a reporter during the final months of Gorbachev, and then came back for reporting forays during the Yeltsin and early Putin years. In 2006, he moved to Moscow to report for Bloomberg. He joined VOA in Moscow in 2010. Follow Jim on Twitter @VOA_Moscow.

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