In a chilling warning, the New Republic’s “Russia expert,” Julie Ioffe, said yesterday that “there’s quite a bit of violence against people considered to be black” in Russia, raising fresh fears about the safety of Olympic athletes, visitors and media attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Ioffe warned that nowhere in Russia is safe for a person of color to visit, outside of Moscow’s city center.
Coming on the heels of growing concerns about the safety of gay and trans people coming the Sochi games, Ioffe’s warning about Russia’s rampant racism, during an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) discussion on the social media site Reddit, is a rather chilling argument against anyone who isn’t white visiting Russia at all, be it for the Olympics, business, or tourism.
Ioffe has been in the news this week due to her controversial advice to those concerned about Russia’s crackdown on gay and trans people: Give up.
“These are things that societies have to figure out for themselves,” Ioffe wrote recently. She expressed a similar you’re-not-helping reaction, to worldwide ire at Russia’s renewed threats against gay and gay-friendly Olympians, during a controversial appearance on Chris Hayes’ show on MSNBC.
(One wonders if Ioffe would have given the same fighting-back-is-counterproductive advice to German Jews during the 1930s, to Soviet Jews during most of the last century, or to Martin Luther King during the 1960s.)
With that in mind, during the Reddit Q&A, Ioffe was asked by a “black college student” whether it’s safe for an African-American to study in Russia.
Ioffe’s answer was rather terrifying. In addition to being virulently anti-gay – 88% of Russians support the country’s new draconian anti-gay, anti-trans law – Ioffe reports that Russians are virulent racists as well.
Here’s the “Ask Me Anything” question and answer:
BRUNETTECREEPER: I’m a black college student and am wondering if it would be safe for me to study in Russia. I’m sure on a day to day basis I may be fine, but what i’m worried about is the one time something goes wrong. What would be your advice as a Russian-American?
JULIA IOFFE: Hmmmm, that’s a tough one. I think that, for the most part, you’d be okay — if you consider people glaring at you and cracking racist jokes okay. (Russians are, er, not the most tolerant bunch.) There’s quite a bit of violence against people considered to be black, which includes, in the Russian mind, people from Central Asia and the Caucasus. My advice is go, but stick to the city center and try to go to a bigger city like Moscow. (St. Pete is crawling with skinheads.) Be extra, extra careful and make sure the American Embassy knows you’re there. They have a special unit to deal with threats to American citizens, so you should report anything that happens immediately.
So, to summarize the Russia expert:
If you’re a person of color – and that means any color other than pure white – and visiting Russia, for the most part you’ll be okay, if…
You don’t mind Russians cracking racist jokes at you all day long.
And you don’t mind staying only in the center of Moscow, and nowhere else in the city, lest someone physically attack you.
And you don’t mind avoiding St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, all together, since it’s “crawling with skinheads.”
And you don’t mind canceling plans to visit any other city in Russia – so in essence, your only safe place, in the entire country of 150 million people and 9 time zones, is the city center of Moscow.
And you’re sure to check in with the US Embassy, just in case case you disappear (and they need to know where to send the body).
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, enjoy the Olympics!