14 October 2007

Fear of a Black Russia

While I’ve been away from my blog desk, Russia’s curious racial politics trot along.

Two weeks ago, V.V. Putin made fodder for the blogosphere with the following commentary on Russian sports: "Looking at our teams, one cannot immediately understand whether those are ours, or a team from Africa." Apparently the horror of appearing African was meant to motivate club managers to develop national talent instead of importing foreign stars. Ah, national glory. It's good to see that he's not pandering to the worst elements, right?

A week later, Dima Bilan’s [below, right] former mentor/patron, Victor Baturin managed to connect the massively successful pop singer with Bill Clinton (in my mind) by dubbing the star the “chief black man in Russia,” due to his collaboration with Timbaland. Then, as if to demonstrate how some Russians have a real knack for wrapping up insane racist notions in long-winded imaginary histories, he elaborated on his objection to the teaming:

Beginning with the 10th century and explaining how music was split into the Catholic and Byzantine traditions, Baturin expounded on how American music, coming from a Protestant tradition divorced from the Catholic church, was too young and fallow.

"If you say you love Russia, then you have to respect to its music and a musical tradition based on Byzantine orthodoxy," he said..."Who is Timbaland? He sings in falsetto. … It is not a voice. It is a parody of a voice," said Baturin, who called Timbaland "a fat African-American who thinks he understands something about musical culture."

It seems that Russia is suffering from a clear case of fear of a black planet, crossed with a touch of fear of small numbers.


In the meantime, a 26-year-old American student from RUDN (People's Friendship University) was attacked and the number of racially-motivated murders in the capital is still rising steadily. Most are still being labeled “ordinary hooliganism.”


tom said...

jesus christ!

BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

Interesting comparison, Tom. A black man who has been made the "chief white man" in Middle Eastern, if not world, history by others invested in long-winded bizarre imaginary histories.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting a post, but too scattered, so there's no really a statement made.

I don't know where did you found racial politics in Putin's speech -- he's a careful man when it comes to races as Russia's a multinational and multicultural country. And I'm sure this particular message is about developing national football. Really Russian football should raise new talents inside the country rather than just importing them. And any single new player from Russia would also come with some hunderts young enthusiasts of this sports, rather than equal amoung of young bandits.

It's a pity Putin has no actual levers to handle the situation, rather than saying speeches.

Btw, I have nothing about Africans playing in Russian football teams, if they are citizens of Russia, have families and raise their children here. But this doesn't seem to happen; ask you, why?

BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

I'll admit that the post is a little scattered. I figured that people could get the references or follow the links, think about the information posted, and figure out for themselves what to think. Perhaps I tend to err to much on the side of NOT being pedantic as writing that errs in the other direction is a peeve of mine.

The racial politics of Putin's statement is at least two-fold. First, his assertion rests on the notion that Africans don't look Russian and vice versa. Despite a few centuries of African presence in Russia, albeit a numerically small presence. Second, this statement came in the midst of a number of racist incidents at football stadiums where young hooligans called African players monkeys or heckled them with racist taunts. Putin's statement should be read as a signal, that is, he indicated his sympathies with the fans, while other officials criticized the racism. This is his classic both-sides approach.

Putin has no leverage to wield against racism? I think you live in some other Russia where Putin is a mere powerless figure-head and other forces control the administration of this country. I think he has shown that he really meant that whole vertical of power business.

Lastly, on why many African sportsmen don't settle in Russia... I don't actually have much information on this question. If you want speculation, I'd guess that it's because they breathe in the thick air of racism and threats of violence. Or they may have just read about any number of other social indicators that lead those with the means to leave Russia.

Anonymous said...

No, I meant Putin has little leverage to make football teams hiring more players from Russia.

"First, his assertion rests on the notion that Africans don't look Russian and vice versa."

I'm sorry if I miss anything, but did a mighty community of Africans appear in Russia recently? I mean, I see no criminal in that phrase ("Looking at our teams, one cannot immediately understand whether those are ours, or a team from Africa").

Besides, I don't find this phrase in the Internet.

Indeed, on October 2, 2007 Putin said:

"Incidentally, with regards to professional sport and club teams that act as centres for training athletes for national teams (and this is already the case): they recently took the easiest possible route. Vitalii Leontevich [Mutko] and I discussed this: rather than train youths and nurture their own homegrown personnel, tens of millions dollars are being spent on mercenaries. It would be so easy, quite possibly cheaper, and quicker to achieve the same end result in sports clubs. I would like to draw the attention of all the presidents of sporting federations present to this. The result is well-known. There is no one to play in the national teams."


But I don't find the word 'Africa' anywhere..


Besides, as I understood, you are currently residing in Russia, right? In this way it's important for you to know that you really have means to protect your rights or rights of your ethnic group.

I don't exactly say about courts, better about Russia's Ombudsman (Commissioner for Human Rights) Vladimir Lukin.

His office gathers complaints on human rights violations, then Ombudsman assembles an annual report which is reported to the President of Russia.

You can see English translations of 2005 and 2006 reports: the man has balls.



Perhaps a single complaint wouldn't get into the report (although this can't be said for sure). But repeating complaints from people within a certain ethnic group would certainly be represented there.

All contacts,



BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

"Besides, I don't find this phrase in the Internet."

Please follow the first link in this post for the source.

Thanks for the clarification and reports from the Ombudsman.