‘Iron Doll Of Putin TV’ Skabeyeva Says Russians Treat Non-Whites Much More Humanely Than Westerners: Is That The Case? – OpEd


Speaking on the Russian propaganda TV show ‘60 Minutes’ aired on the Russia-1 TV channel on August 14, Olga Skabeyeva, its hostess, told the following story: “The ‘true face of humanism’ was demonstrated by the Norwegian climbers. It’s just a nightmarish story. They just threw an injured Pakistani porter out for him to die… It’s an example of total inhumanity”

She next went into talking about K2 climbers criticized over continuing ascent after finding dying porter. That is a disgraceful story, indeed. 

In this regard, the New York Times’s Chris Cameron two days earlier wrote as follows: “Mr. Hassan fell from a particularly dangerous stretch of the climbing trail on K2 known as the bottleneck and later died.  “There was no rescue mission”, Wilhelm Steindl, an Austrian climber who provided video footage of other climbers stepping over Mr. Hassan on the narrow mountain path, said in an interview with Sky News. “Seventy mountaineers stepped over a living guy who needed big help at this moment, and they decided to keep on going to the summit”… In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Steindl said that Mr. Hassan could have been saved if Ms. Harila and others had abandoned their climb. “There is a double standard here”, Mr. Steindl said. “If I, or any other Westerner, had been lying there, everything would have been done to save them. Everyone would have had to turn back to bring the injured person back down to the valley”.

In about the same way Olga Skabeyeva outlined the circumstances and impact of what had happened on the mountain on that day in late July. She then put the emphasis on the idea that if some ‘Westerner had been lying there, everything would have been done to save them’ and added a little something of her own at the end. “The Pakistanis may probably be thought of not as people – but just like bags for carrying items. It is just incredible, even impossible to imagine that the Russians could have behaved similarly”, Olga Skabeyeva, known as the ‘Iron doll of Putin TV’, said. 

The latter is, of course, a gross exaggeration. But as they say, you do not praise yourself – no one will praise. The true picture of the Russian attitude to non-Whites in Russia is for those same people something drastically different than for Olga Skabeyeva and the infinite host of Russian propagandists. This can be ascertained by getting acquainted with the following tragic story. 

When Sergey Nikolaev, a Russian International master in chess of Yakut ethnicity, had been brutally murdered by ‘a gang of racist youths’ near the subway station Yugo Zapadnaya in Moscow, the Moscow City police department immediately dismissed even an ethnic dimension to this murderous assault and stated street conflict as the reason for the murder. Next day, Russian Deputy Interior Minister said: “Ordinary hooliganism became the cause of the incident.  There is no question about any nationalist motive”

Here is what Stanislav Gribach, who was recognized by the prosecution as the main guilty of that murder, says about what had happened then: “We noticed a ‘slant-eyed’ walking towards us. This was just that chess player. One of our guys ran just as he was to that man and shove a knife into his stomach. Another one started cutting his back. Yet another one was stabbing him in the neck. One of our other guys shoved a burning firework in his face. As for me, I started hitting him with a [baseball] bat, putting all of my anger into those blows and shouting ‘Die!’ This Yakut was, as long as he could speak, yelling: ‘Hey, I’m one of you [a Russian national]!’. This did not help him at all. Bloody massacre continued”.

This is a horrible story, isn’t it?! The most terrible thing in this case is that all this was happening at the very heart of Moscow, ‘in broad daylight and under the eyes of the multitudes of passers-by’ – and nobody considered it necessary or possible to just call the police. A single call to the police‘rung a half hour after’Sergey Nikolaev died. During that time, thousands of Muscovites passed very close to the scene of the murder. As far as can be judged, all of them remained indifferent to what they had seen over there. Of course, that would have been quite different if Sergey Nikolaev had been an ethnic white Russian or European (Caucasian) looking person. One can make sure of this by drawing attention the following story.

People with East Asian facial features suffer most from racism in Russia

On October 4, 2021, in a Moscow subway train, on the stretch between Izmailovskaya and Pervomayskaya stations, Roman Kovalev, a white ethnic Russian guy, had been beaten by three natives of Dagestan. The incident agitated the entire Russian power and community. It remained a major discussion issue on the Russian TV political talks show for a number of days. Aleksander Bastrykin, Chairman of the Russian Investigative Committee, took the case under personal supervision and awarded Valor and Courage medal to Roman Kovalev. In March 2023, his assailants were sentenced to between 8.5 and 12 years’ imprisonment. For comparison: those Russian neo-Nazis who had killed Sergey Nikolaev, a non-White Russian national, had been sentenced to between 3 and 10 years’ imprisonment. 

Here is how the latter sentence was assessed by Boruch Gorin, head the public relations department of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia: “If such a [serious] crime, with so many aggravating circumstances, entails such a light penalty, then an outside observer may deem that murder on the basis of national and racial hatred can serve as a mitigating factor at court sentencing [in Russia]. Both society and the criminals themselves perceive it this way”.

“Everything would have been different if the court punished [the perpetrators] to the fullest extent of the law. If it were, the defendants would hardly have dared to [gleefully] shout ‘Sieg Heil’ after pronouncement of the sentence”, – Borukh Gorin said.

So, it is very doubtful that in the above case, Olga Skabeyeva would have been quite sincere, almost crying tears over what had happened with the Pakistani porter and voicing outrage over the Norwegian climbers’ behavior towards him. Russia is apparently very far from serving as an inspiration in the struggle against racism and racial discrimination – even quite the contrary. People with East Asian facial features suffer most from racism in the Russian Federation. Neither the Russian authorities nor mainstream media pay attention to that situation. And it is to put it mildly. The situation in Russia relating to ethnically or racially motivated offenses against people with [East] Asian facial features is being further aggravated by two key contributing factors.

First, the vast majority of ordinary ethnic Russians appear to be zealously supporting the idea of Russia being white, being nationalist, and people being very proud of their presumed racial superiority with regard to the ethnic groups of [East] Asian or African descent. One of the skinheads who had killed Sergey Nikolaev, recalled: “As (we) had beaten a non-Slav in the train, an old woman and an old man, who were nearby, got very excited about it and shouted: “Well done!”. Here is another case. We were beating two non-Slavs at the railway station, and two men, having seen that, said: “Good job, guys, you’re right to chase those Churkas [Subhumans]!”

Among the majority of ethnic Russians, expression of contempt or disgust to even the most prominent members of other racial groups is perceived as an act to be proud of. Here it would be enough to simply cite as an example the case of Irina Rodnina, an MP from the Kremlin’s United Russia party and a triple Olympic champion figure-skater, who “posted an image of Barack Obama on Twitter that was photo-shopped to include a banana”. The incident “was widely discussed in the Russian press, with many commentators coming” to the defense of the MP. So the people of the Central Asian or Buryat, Karmyk, Yakut origin and the ones of their kind, who face verbal and physical abuses regularly in Russia, should not hope for some kind of public sympathy. It’s a country, where“so many people openly and even proudly declare their racism”. As Guardian once noted, “racism is rife in Russia”.

Second. The model of racial contempt to Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, as well as to the Russian Federation’s ethnic minorities of [East] Asian origin, is often being shaped by leading Russian politicians and Moscow television celebrities in front of millions-strong audience across the national TV networks and multiple digital and social media, that is, including Olga Skabeyeva’s colleagues on the Russian state-owned TV channel Rossiya such as Boris Korchevnikov.

Many ethnic Russians think of themselves as kind and sympathetic, which others allegedly take advantage of. Maybe that’s true, but such goodness on their part as a rule does not apply to those they perceive to be non-Russians. 

In Russia, the word ‘non-Russians’ actually means ‘non-Whites’, or ‘non-Caucasians’

To get an idea of who, according to the Russian official and popular understanding, those non-Russians in Russia are, one first should figure out who are considered Russians from the point of view of specifically Russian perception. 

A new single history textbook, co-written by Kremlin aide Vladimir Medinsky, a former culture minister who spoke openly about his dislike for [East] Asian physical look, which will be used across grades 10 and 11 in all Russian schools from September 1, states in this regard that the notion of the Russian people ‘include Great Russians, Tatars, Ukrainians, Daghestanis [Russian Caucasians] and Bashkirs’. It, this has to be said, further adds, ‘i.e. all peoples in our great country’. But the latter appears to be merely a nod to formal political correctness.

In the rest, the above notion of the Russian people is fairly clear who Russians traditionally consider very close to them or their equals and who they are willing to develop an increasingly close relationship with (on the basis of mutual sympathies and respects). As far as can be judged, these are other Slavic nations, as well as the native peoples of the the Volga, Urals and Caucasus regions. In a word, all the European and Caucasian peoples in Russia are included in that group. While the treatment of the indigenous peoples of Siberia and the Far East by the ethnic Russian majority is an entirely different matter. At the time, Vladimir Medinsky himself unambiguously made it clear that he did not see in them representatives of the Russian population. So now, one can assume that Vladimir Medinsky’s mouth wouldn’t let him tell that the notion of the Russian people includes Russian minorities of [East] Asian descent, too. Thus, it’s not surprising that he and his co-authors have not done so in their new history textbook and instead limited themselves only to a generalizing mention of ‘all peoples in our great country’.

These are those whom the Russian majority in Russia are used calling ‘non-Russians’, which actually means ‘non-Whites’, or ‘non-Caucasians’. They are also referred to among ethnic Russians as ‘Churkas’ (‘Sub-humans’, ‘Untermenschen’). Here is an example. Dyghyl, a former FSB operative of Tuvan origin, who has now moved to Kazakhstan, says plainly that he is more comfortable in Almaty, than in Russia: “In Russia, I’m seen as a ‘Churka’, as a representative of an inferior ethnicity”

What would have been better for Asians – the SA in 1970-80s or nowadays Russia?

There is the same attitude toward Kazakhs and Kyrgyz in the Russian Federation. That’s often the fate of representatives of the minorities of [East] Asian origin in Russia. One third of the territory of the Russian Federation is inhabited by those nationalities. They are often vulnerable, voiceless and marginalized people, wherever in Russia outside their autonomous territories they may be. Many of them consider it pointless to seek to complain to Russian authorities about racism, as the latter almost always take the side of their own kind.

In modern Russia, these people are quite often being humiliated, degraded and stripped of their innate human dignity, as it was the case with Antonina Li, a third-generation Korean Uzbek, who “moved from Uzbekistan to Russia in the late ’80s in search of better economic opportunities – only to face intense racial persecution for her Korean identity”. It is even worse for those, who are the country’s indigenous inhabitants of [East] Asian descent, since they have no home other than their autonomous republics or districts and they have no place else to go. Their voices are not heard. Their human rights are being violated without anyone to stand up for them. To have even a faint idea of their true situation in Russia, a country where even the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, allows himself to make a statement in the spirit of the White Lives Matter slogan, one is left to make assumptions on the evidence of those such as Antonina Li who now is representing ‘the 1,000-strong community of Korean Uzbeks in New York City, some of whom came to the US seeking reprieve from harassment and assault in Russia’.

Here is what Emanuel Hahn, in his piece entitled ‘After years of racial discrimination in Russia, this Korean Uzbek community finds peace in New York City’, said about Antonina Li’s experiences from living in the Russian Federation: “Li noticed that after the 1998 Russian financial crisis, locals treated outsiders with antagonism. Neo-Nazi groups and skinheads targeted those who didn’t have a “European face.” Li was attacked twice on her way home from work. “After that, you’re scared, you’re always looking around,” she said. Li said she received no protection from law enforcement officers who seemed to intentionally harass and extort people with Asian facial features. It was disheartening to live in a country where she was “nobody to that kind of people”.

The Russian authorities and society seemingly do make no difference between the Russian or ex-Soviet Asians, like Tuvans and Kazakhs, and the Asians from economically developed countries, like China and South Korea. It now seems that in this regard, the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1970-80s favorably differed from nowadays Russia.

Back then, Pretoria awarded the Japanese the status of ‘honorary whites’. The designation gave Japanese expatriate people living in or people who were born in South Africa with Japanese ancestry nearly all the same rights and privileges as whites, excepting the right to vote and conscription. The Japanese nationals, visiting South Africa in those days, were receiving from officials of the apartheid regime the same polite treatment as Europeans and Americans. It apparently is somewhat different in nowadays Russia. This may be confirmed by the information that the Moscow embassy of China – an economic superpower which now is so important to Russia – said it had complained that the treatment of the Chinese nationals was ‘barbaric and excessive’. Officials of any country which friendly to China needed to have done a great deal of annoying things so as to hear such words like ‘barbaric’ from the Chinese diplomats. They, it seems, are not going to tolerate any longer the discrimination of the Chinese nationals by Russian authorities. But this is another story.

Akhas Tazhutov

Akhas Tazhutov is a political analyst from Kazakhstan.

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