11 July 2007

Moscow Taggers for Hinduism? And other pictures and notes.

As promised, here are some pictures of my neighborhood and campus with special attention paid to local graffiti.

Home (for the enjoyment of a certain Bulgarian who loves mid-century Eastern European architecture)

Local Playground/Skatepark

Life on Campus: Students Relax while Elders take up the National Pastime of <<ремонт>>

Graffiti #1: Found on the side of the Kielbasa wagon near my Metro (Can anyone explain? Schweizerische Pädopathologiegruppe für Hinduismus is my best guess.)

Graffiti #2: Heavy Metal (More on психия here, proving the universal appeal of whining boys and simple basslines)

Graffiti #3 & #4: Unintelligible to Me (but post a comment if you can decipher them)

Graffiti #5: Xenophobic Youth Movement in the Campus Lift

The last bit brings us to the topic of political youth groups in Russia, linked in my previous post and recently much discussed, if not analyzed, in American and British mainstream media. Over at Seansrusskiiblog, there’s been some discussion of “Western” coverage of the phenomenon; I’m not sure that I agree with Sean’s optimistic take that there are few “hardened” Nashi youth, though the eXile’s photo-reporting provides some basis for this view. (More fascinating is the Komsomol parallel that Sean discusses, and that I'd love to hear more about.)

What is remarkable to me is rather the limited analysis of ethnic/racial violence in Russia and the lack of a visible counter-movement of foreign students and non-ethnic Russian residents defending themselves against rising violence. On the failure of analysis, one typically finds, for instance, ahistorical explanations like the following from

Public opinion polls show that more than half of the populace support the slogan, 'Russia — for ethnic Russians,' and half express negative attitudes towards peoples from the Caucasus, Central Asia, and other regions. The poll was conducted by the Levada Center from 2005 through 2006.

Such xenophobic feelings run deep because Russian society exhibits many characteristics of a traditional rural society, which has always been suspicious of 'strangers,' said Vladimir Mukomel of the bureau for human rights.

Southern Poverty Law Center has some odd coverage that links David Duke and local Russian movements, but this seems a rather Americo-centric take on Russian developments. There’s also a certain worry with the call for Putin’s government to crack down on extremist groups--many of which are far scarier than Nashi or DPNI. While prosecuting violent attacks makes sense to me, I’m somewhat afraid that the “vertical power” proponents are using the call to stop racial violence as an excuse for further censorship and to consolidate power. But we’ll have to wait and see what comes out of the Duma before a final verdict on that particular law.

Really, what one would like to see is a non-governmental political movement to track and protest against racial violence. I talked to a source far from the Kremlin who pointed me to SOVA, which has been trying to
systematically collect data on ethnic/racial violence in Russia for the past few years. (Their website, which is now the major source of statistics on racial violence in Russia, may be one of the only good legacies of neocon idol Scoop Jackson, whose foundation funded the website.) But SOVA is just a watchdog.

When I asked my source about the dearth of protests or organizing against xenophobia, she explained to me that many of the foreign students who tried to lead such movements have been discouraged by their universities that threaten them with poor marks or discontinued funding if they participate in politics. This, in addition to the threat of street violence for those who speak out--note the category of "members of youth subcultures and leftist youth" in SOVA's report on nationalist violence. An
anti-racist ethnologist has also been attacked. The list goes on, and those interested should go to SOVA's site.

These are the things I think about as I ride the lift staring at the racist graffiti.

Recent listening according to Itunes: Kris Kristofferson, The Essential…; Warren Zevon, Warren Zevon; Tortoise, Standards; Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cheap Thrills; Bob Dylan, Freewheelin’…; John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard; Siouxsie and the Banshees, Peel Sessions; Wire, Chairs Missing; Saul Williams, Saul Williams; Shellac, Terraform; Neanderthal, Fighting Music.

p.s. A friend of a friend has started this petition.


BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

And if anyone is wondering what to get me for Bastille/Woodie Guthrie Day:




You can send me a message for my Moscow address, if you don't already have it.

tom said...

russian speaking haters