Monday, February 28, 2011
Should Black people travel to Russia?
Should people of color or black people go to Russia? The question was originally published as a blog post on the website Moscowthroughbrowneyes of a graduate student living in Moscow in 2009.
Because there is 'yes' and a 'no' answer I will post them both. And because Russia is a 'special' destination for black (and Asian) people I will also add a few links.
Should you go?
Says the blogger of Moscow Through Brown Eyes
A reader wrote to me:
I’m leaving this comment because since you have lived in Russia and know much more about what’s going on there than I do, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. I was wondering, do you think it would even be smart at this point for a Black student to go to Russia to study? I was planning on going there after the summer for a year-long study abroad program but after hearing about all the racism I’m thinking that it might not be the right thing to do. Did you have a lot of close calls when you were over there?
This is a painful question for me.
On the one hand, I have had amazing experiences in Russia and I have been indelibly marked by the time I have spent with Russian history, literature and contemporary society. I can’t imagine my sense of the world outside of my interactions with Russia.
On the other hand, I simply don’t know if I can, in good conscience, advise people of Asian or African descent to travel to Russia in light of the continuing problem of racist violence.
In the past ten days, there have been attacks on Bangladeshi and Chinese students in Moscow, in addition to the earlier assaults this year on citizens of Cameroon and Vietnam. Last December, a nineteen-year-old African American was stabbed multiple times in Volgograd on his way home from the gym.
While these are certainly the most extreme types of violence, interviews with African students also reveal pervasive everyday racism in Russian society. If you travel to Russia, you are, quite frankly, playing a numbers game with your life and your well-being.
Read the full story at http://moscowthroughbrowneyes.blogspot.com and read the comments and other postings.
Note: It's very good blog, but there is a risk you will stop reading and decide you will never set one foot in Russia.
Says Jonathan Fianu in Russia Beyond the Headlines
Recently, a reader of my blog wrote me an email asking what life was like on the ground for a black person in Russia, and if there was any truth to some of the stories about rampant racism she had heard in the United States.
Her son had studied Russian and was very interested in visiting Russia, but she was concerned about these issues. I knew that the issue was important; after all, it is normally the first question that pops into people's head when they hear that I work in Russia. But usually they ask something else. This particular question is generally left unspoken, or rather unasked. I know people are thinking about it, and I know people want to ask me, but they rarely do so.
In my experience, Russians are some of the most welcoming and accepting people around. As a black person in Russia, I have not only gone about my business unaffected, I have been embraced, welcomed and treated exceptionally well—even on par with being a celebrity in the smaller towns. Many people do not know this, but African students have been coming to study in Russia for decades. In fact, there is one in Chistopol, where I live. One day I was speaking to one of the directors in the local Vostok watch factory and he affectionately told me how he sold watches to this gentleman, who was training to be a doctor, and how he has been accepted.
Prime Minster Vladimir Putin touched on stereotypes about Russia in his speech in Zurich after his country won right to host the 2018 World Cup. He said something to the effect that there are still a large number of Soviet-era stereotypes prevalent in the minds of people in the West, and once these people have the opportunity to visit Russia, they will see Russia for what it is: a welcoming country that is continually modernizing. Read the full story at Russia Beyond the Headlines
Blogs and websites
The blog of a American graduate student, who worked in Russia for a one year. A top blog with a lot of links.
The blog of Afro-Russian blogger Sholademi (Russian)
The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, and English-speaking Christian congregation in Moscow
Some links to news articles in the Mocow times
The recent riots offered yet more proof that Russia still has not come to terms with what or who it is – a debate that has been simmering since the country’s foundation.
Link:Riots highlight need for Russia to define itself
I was sitting in the locker room at my local fitness club in Moscow on November 5, 2008, when a fellow sweat-producer remarked casually to a recent iron-pumper, "How about that American election, eh? Did they run out of white people over there or what?"
The country's Africans know that the capital is no place to let your guard down.
"I knew folks who lost their lives," said Nigerian-born JK Samson. "Attacks, fights, even in the lecture room and with lecturers, just name it."
Link:Moscow’s mean streets
Video: 'The multinational heritage of Russia and all Russians'. An interesting video to get an idea about Russia's diverse population.
My series of postings about Russia has come to an end, at least for now. Below the postings I wrote about Russia these two weeks.
Lily Golden, the Russian African-American social activist, has died
Video: Black in Russia - harsh life on the streets in Moscow
Black people in Russia - Yelena Khanga
The challenges of biracial children in Russia