It was actually happening within walking distance from where I live, but I wisely stayed at home yesterday. The neighbour called, cautiously asking me if I was going to brave the spectacle in my condition. That’s a negative.
And anyway, it’s not as if we need to see it happening. The pattern, by now, has become predictable. There’s rioting, there are the usual slogans, there’s the smashing of public property, and people who are deemed not white enough are attacked. Racist groups are claiming that their “reason” this time is the death of football fan Yegor Sviridov, ostensibly shot by another guy who’s, once again, not white enough (Sviridov’s widow has been quick to point out that she is outraged that her husband’s death is being appropriated in this manner, but it’s not as if any of the charming personalities who gathered on Manezhnaya yesterday would pay attention to her wishes).
Rashid Nurgaliyev, minister of Internal Affairs, initially said that those responsible for the Manezhnaya riot were “leftist radicals.” “GOOD GOD” said the internet. Politicians are so used to blaming “the left” for practically anything, that it seems that a bunch of the immediate statements in the wake of this debacle were made on autopilot.
Still, reading LiveJournal entries by the witnesses, I must say it’s important to recognize the actions of many police officers – particularly those that stood against the onslaught of racists on the metro, when groups of young men went around grabbing anyone who was not white, dragging them out of the trains and attacking them. Many people have pointed out that the police on the metro were outnumbered, but fearless.
In recent years, the powers that be felt that they could at least “deal” with the radical, racist right – at the very least, they were treated with less suspicion than all those annoying lefties who keep droning on about human rights and the like. As a system of brute force the radical right was viewed as manageable, perhaps even useful. Also, many political figures feel sorry for the radical right’s members, because they understand how disenfranchised these individuals were before they joined this movement. The nearly hopeless 1990’s were a fertile breeding ground for violent racism – the movement instilled ideals in a generation that was robbed of authority figures. With racism, they had something to hold on to, and someone to blame for their problems.
The events that transpired on Manezhnaya shock no one, of course. We all already know that the streets and the metro are not safe for ethnic minorities. We know that as much as racism, verbal racism in particular is found in all sectors of society (this is the phenomenon that’s responsible for the labeling of Slavic women as “sluts”, for example), it’s whiteness that affords a regular passerby the most safety and security. It’s why so many white people still believe that we can afford to be apathetic when a group of racists descends on a man whose only “crime” is looking too “dark” and daring to go about his business in public.
What people do forget about is the fact that racist groups also hate the government. Vladimir Putin? Why, he’s ” too soft”, “too insincere” – “he made that speech about Russia and Islam, doesn’t he realize that we normal people have nothing to do with that so-called religion?” (All direct quotes from a white power activist I had the displeasure of speaking to earlier this year) They want “proper” politicians – i.e. those who are hell-bent on the destruction of a multi-ethnic society (and the destruction of what is, by definition, Russia, in the process) and aren’t afraid to say it. They admire the power concentrated in the Kremlin, but can’t forgive that power for being too civilized. Political figures may think they can use the racists, but racist ideologues feel the same way about political figures.
Today, Manezhnaya is being furiously cleaned up (with many of the cleaners being, once again, ethnic minorities). Torn down holiday decorations will be fixed up soon. Lamps smashed in Okhotny Ryad metro will be replaced.
Fixing up society is another matter entirely.
But as far as symbols go, it’s important to send a message to the racists: you shouldn’t get to leave your mark on Moscow in this manner.