TNR Russia expert: “Quite a bit of violence against people considered to be black” in Russia

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.

From Reporters with Borders

From Reporters with Borders

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!


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • kaydenpat

    Actually, anti-Black slurs/behavior at sporting events happens all over Europe but I get your point.

  • kaydenpat

    Racist anti-minority violence in Russia is a fact of life. I’m surprised that most people don’t know that already. Just another reason why Russia shouldn’t have been awarded the Winter Olympics.

  • Moderator3

    Bye.

  • Bob Donnely

    True that. Bring back segregation already. Sick of seeing wiggers and interracial couples.

  • Bob Donnely

    Good. There needs to be areas of the world that are black and gay free. I’m moving to Russia.

  • ZRO

    Multiculturalism failed. So says Germany’s Angela Merkel. Multiculturalism is unnatural and the people are meeting it with disdain and resentment.

  • neroden

    Which is because the US, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have NEVER used the term “fatherland” or “motherland” domestically. (I’m not entirely sure about the countries of the UK.)

  • neroden

    The 19th century racial mythology was completely deranged, of course. But this is one reason why I refuse to misuse the word “Caucasian” to mean “white”. There is actual anti-Caucasian bigotry in Russia, and it makes it hard to talk about when people are using stupid 19th century racial classifications.

  • one_of_the_russians

    John Aravosis, are you really Russia expert? This article is totally ludicrous… The most of Russian people the very friendly relations to people with color skin. It’s the fact. Sorry my bad english.

  • QuestioningFailz

    I’m glad that you put “Russia expert” in quotation marks – this woman is much a Russia expert as I am a rocket scientist. Peddling in what Westerners want to hear about Russia does not make you an expert – it makes you a shrewd businesswoman – but should exclude you from any rational discussion of the topic.

  • Plisko

    Excuse me. . . I was looking for Americablog and all I can seem to find is Russiablog at this address. Am I lost?

  • Mocas Dad

    Shoot the messenger…that always works.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The US is a sewer of racism. So is the RF.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Yep, Missy Loffe gave her best Vichy-like collaborative advice.

  • Joehio

    Yes. Almost all languages have a word for “native country” that somehow derives from the word for father. ‘Patria’ in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian and ‘patrie’ in French are all derived from Latin ‘pater’ (= father). The connotation of that term in English with the Nazis is strictly a 20th century English language thing.

  • rerutled

    Exceptional graphic (the Olympic ‘brass knuckles’). Note however that you translated “sans” as “with”, which should be “without”. Important difference.

  • Mocas Dad

    I have zero problem with boycotting or moving the olympics. That said, I don’t see anything objectionable with what Ioffe said on UpWCH. I thought Fernandez was off the rails at the end, but IMO Ioffe was simply, dispassionately, stating the facts as she knew them. Isn’t that what we want journos to do?

    Same w/ response to black student. Essentialy, “If you want to go, here’s my advice.”

  • jytaqetizah

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kAgk

    Interesting thing, that. Russia
    can be both the Motherland and the Fatherland. The way I see it (my
    dissertation was on 19th-century Russia), one’s Motherland is where one
    is born, whereas one’s Fatherland is where one serves or lives. They
    can be the same, or (especially in the case of non-ethnic-Russian
    citizens/subjects) different.

  • http://theperfectnose.wordpress.com/ theperfectnose

    *coming *to* the Sochi games.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Russia’s greatest poet Pushkin was the grandson of an African slave. Their greatest composers, Chaikovskii and Mussorgsky were both gay. What the hell is wrong with these people?

  • Bj Lincoln

    All the more reason to move the games to Canada. We need to pull everything out including our money until the day they can act like a civilized population.

    We should not, as a planet, tolerate this behavior from any country. The internet has made the world smaller and we, the global population, need to start taking control of the violence and discrimination faced by ANY one for any reason anywhere.
    There is no excuse for ignorance on any topic and those who choose to be ignorant should be cut off and left to themselves until they can prove they have changed. The world does not benefit from their discrimination and hate so we should not allow them to benefit from the world. Cut them off in all ways and see what happens.
    Those who continue to spread hate and lies should be thrown in prison. Hate is not a value the world needs and a lie is a lie. Using lies to demonize any group of people should be against the law.
    The US allows for lies and hate just as much as other countries and this is holding us back,
    People like Bryan Fischer should not be allowed to broadcast the vile filth and lies. His broadcast should be shut down and he should be warned to keep his mouth shut or face life in prison.
    There are limits to our freedom of speech and we need to add a few more. Lies and hate should be
    outlawed.

  • Thom Allen

    Interesting that “modern-” day Russians consider people from the Caucasus “people of color.” The word “Caucasian” was derived from Mt. Caucasus in the region of southwest Russia. The word came to mean (racially) white (Caucasian). Now, they’re not even white enough for the Russians.

    From Wiki:

    Main article: White people

    In his earlier racial typology, Meiners put forth that Caucasians had the “whitest, most blooming and most delicate skin”.

  • slavdude

    Interesting thing, that. Russia can be both the Motherland and the Fatherland. The way I see it (my dissertation was on 19th-century Russia), one’s Motherland is where one is born, whereas one’s Fatherland is where one serves or lives. They can be the same, or (especially in the case of non-ethnic-Russian citizens/subjects) different.

  • FLL

    Your post does a very good job of addressing the concerns of visitors to the Sochi Olympics who are people of color (yes, as you say, any color other than pure white). Here is a 2010 article from the British newspaper, Daily Star Sunday, which discusses the same racist problem from the point of view of black soccer players on British teams who say they don’t want to be “thrown into a cauldron of race hate” in 2010 and want Britain to boycott the 2018 World Cup unless it’s moved from Russia:

    http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/165992/Boycott-racist-Russia-2018

    Here are some gems from that article:

    “Russia’s racist shame was highlighted two weeks ago when Spartak Moscow fans aimed monkey chants at black Olympique Marseille players in a Champions League clash…”

    “Nazi slogans and salutes are common at games, above, and some fans wear Ku Klux Klan masks to taunt opposition black players. The young England players the Daily Star Sunday spoke to said they would feel ‘intimidated’ and would not want to put themselves or their families through the anguish of similar abuse.”

    “But investigations by the Daily Star Sunday in Moscow show racism is ‘ingrained’ in many Russians, who were celebrating after beating England for the 2018 tournament.”

    “Football fan Aleksei Mironov, 35, told us: ‘Russian fans are racists deep in their souls, this is normal.’”

    “Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy director of information for a leading Russian anti-racism group, said: ‘There is almost nothing done to fight racism.’”

    Ku Klux Klan masks? Monkey chants? And as you point out, John, with such a large number of non-white visitors, there’s a possibility of a non-white visitor straying away from their hotel to “see the sights” and getting physically assaulted. The Sochi Olympic Games are a disaster waiting to happen.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    So what happened to Mother Russia?

  • slavdude

    I’m unable to see video at work, but the “fatherland” reference may be more innocent than it appears. Russians have been referring to their country as “the fatherland” (they borrowed the concept from the Germans) for over two hundred years, so it definitely predates any Nazi thing. Still, in this environment, of course, it does have more than one meaning.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Well, one saving grace is that the chances of most people ‘touring’ the rest of Russia while there for the Games is pretty remote. Sochi is a thousand miles from Moscow, two thousand from St. Petersburg. The vast majority of visitors won’t spend much time outside of Sochi beyond their 2-hours worth of layover in Moscow airport.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Every international event, especially sports events should be pulled out of Russia. I think Aksarbent, a really good blogger also, I think they said that there is going to be a NASCAR race in Russia. That it is booked.

  • Leota2

    Well that fatherland comment by Putin is seriously willing itself out in oh so many special ways—-isn’t it? What a day. Assange loving on the far right and Matt Drudge and the “black people aren’t being denied the right to vote” R Paul. Headache, headache, headache . . . .

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Wow… This adds some needed context to the reports I was reading earlier in the week, when researching Maxim Martsinkevich (aka Tesak), whose neo-Nazi group and allies got their start harassing immigrants.

    Here’s a documentary from 2007 titled “From Russia With Hate”, first aired on Current TV.

    http://current.com/shows/vanguard/videos/from-russia-with-hate/

    “Current’s Christof Putzel investigates a growing movement in Russia where neo-Nazi groups are brutally attacking immigrants and spreading their hate by posting violent videos online.

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