Moscow, you should be ashamed of your racist, xenophobic self — but, of course, you're not

Moscow fascists by the Kremlin, 2006. (Reuters)

Crossing the underground transfer to the Paveletskaya stop on the circle line in the Moscow metro this morning, I found myself swallowed up by a bunch of singing, rowdy youths.

Decked out in red-and-white scarves, they were on their way to Luzhniki stadium for a soccer match where they would cheer for their team, Spartak — thus the red and white. (These, coincidentally, are also the colors of Nashi, the Hitlerjugend-ish Kremlin youth group.)

The kids were warming up in the metro, having warmed up, it seems, with a couple beers beforehand.

Holding their arms out in a V or clapping, the kids sang. And here’s what they sang:

Россия для русских

Москва для москвичей

Изгоним всех хачей

This is the translation:

Russia for Russians,

Moscow for Muscovites,

We’ll kick out all the hachi.

Hachi is the quite derogatory term for people from the Caucasus or Central Asia who have flooded into Moscow in search of economic opportunity, and it is the equivalent of “spic” or “wetback.” This is always a curious sentiment because these off-my-turf nativists often pine for the glory days of the Soviet Union, and don’t seem to mind that its glory depended on Russia bending the Caucasus and Central Asia under its scepter.

But I digress.

So this horde of racist shitclowns was yodeling this hateful shit all through the metro — and passers-by cheered. And laughed. And clapped their hands. And raised their arms in a V.

And the metro police, fully aware of the strict Russian laws against inciting extremism that have been so handily used to shut up the liberal opposition, quietly ignored them.

I decided to video tape it, but, sadly, they had moved on to a regular soccer cheer by this point.

The video ends, you’ll notice, with one of the goons giving me a good shove and telling me not to fucking tape them (pride, you know). At this point, his girlfriend tried to hurl her nails into action, and he very gallantly held her back.

[youtubevid id=”CBXBnrfLfiE”]

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22 Responses to Moscow, you should be ashamed of your racist, xenophobic self — but, of course, you're not

  1. Kim Zigfeld says:

    Many thanks for the great and courageous reporting Julia. Your point about ordinary Russians supporting this racist horror is a vital one. Molodets!

    The most stunning fact about Russian racism these days is that America’s first black president is totally ignoring it. Dozens fall victim to race murder, often bordering on lynchings, yet Barack Obama not only remains silent but allows the Kremlin to make it appear they are in partnership with Washington.

    Some of this blood, then, is on Obama’s hands.

    • grafomanka says:

      well I’m not sure how Obama antagonizing Kremlin could help those people. Sure he could rise the issue but it’s not like Russian government isn’t doing anything. They recognize the problem but they’re just being ineffective (as usual). I remember Putin saying that those who say “Russia for Russians” aim to destroy Russia.
      It’s really scary, this rise of fascist sentiments in post soviet Europe and in Russia especially. Football fans chanting racist stuff, okay fair enough, but when you think about all those murdered anti-fascist activists…:(

      • Julia Ioffe says:

        Or about people in the metro cheering them on, or ignoring them. There’s no good counterweight to these sentiments and, unfortunately, Putin saying “this is bad” doesn’t cut it unless he proposes something better. That’s how you get murdered judges that went after these guys. That said, give credit where credit is due: the number of hate crimes here has dropped significantly. Still a long way to go, though.

  2. Mark Adomanis says:


    Is there anything in Europe less extraordinary than nationalism and racism inspired soccer hooliganism? Isn’t this a problem virtually everywhere? Doesn’t some asshole fan assault someone every time there’s a match between any of the major European clubs?

    I just really fail to see how this is something over which Moscow should feel particularly ashamed. I’m from Philadelphia, and there were numerous people beaten to death at baseball games last year. At Eagles games, they used to have a courtroom (an actual city courtroom with a judge and everything) in the basement of the stadium to process all of the people charged with public drunkenness.

    Isn’t the combination of ignorant people, fanatic sports loyalties, and large quantities of alcohol always a bad one, regardless of nationality?

    • Julia Ioffe says:

      Yes, absolutely. I happen to be a massive fan of “Among the Thugs” for illustrating precisely this. What was shocking, though, was watching people in the metro cheering them and clapping along. If it happened in London or in Paris or in Rome, I’d say they had a lot to be ashamed of. And, frankly, given their attitudes to immigrants, they do, too.

      Also, were the Philly deaths racially motivated, or just stupidly channeled fandom?

      • Mark Adomanis says:


        Surprisingly for a city such as Philly that has such a nasty history of racist violence, race wasn’t a factor in the attacks (both the victims and perpetrators were white, though I’m pretty sure class played a role as some were from a lower-middle class area of the city proper and some were from the suburbs). It was just another sad example of drunk louts doing what drunk louts do best: stomp people into the sidewalk.

        I will say, though, that I greatly admire your courage in filming such rabble: that take some serious stones.

      • Julia Ioffe says:

        Yeah, I’ll admit it was maybe the second time I got scared in Moscow. (The bloggy wryness aside, I don’t this is an evil, scary place, though it doesn’t do good job PR-ing itself.) I was just upset to see them take over like that — and to see people respond favorably, giving voice to that ridiculous “ponaekhali” bullshit one hears all the time here.

      • Philipp Churilov says:

        When I happen to use metro in the football derby hours, I’m also scared – because having to be accompanied, even briefly, by dozens of retar.. “intellectually challenged” football hooli.. “supporters” IS an experience to avoid if possible.

        But I should ask if this drunk stupid uneducated redneck crowd actually qualifies as “nationalists” and not as “drunk stupid uneducated rednecks shouting things”.

        An example to clarify my opinion.
        While in Spain, I had a conversation with a local (~40 y/o). He said that he would never buy anything from Catalan and Basque stores and companies. That is nationalism.
        Now in Kyrgizstan there are reports of ethnic conflicts and property damage caused by ravaging mob shouting nationalist slogans. That is an incontrollable crowd.

        I perceive football hooligans as the latter.

        As for people “responding favorably”, what the hell do you expect? Mind you – I’m not even talking about the “obvious” reason: the problems with Nortern Caucasus.

        You, having left Russia in young years, lack the background necessary to grasp the current tendencies.

        You see, that’s not only “ponaekhali” which spurs conflicts and animosity. The structure of ethnic relations in any country has much more to it than meets the eye of a foreigner.

        An examples.
        If you were studying in any more or less prestigeous university in Moscow, you’d notice a significant increase in “ponaekhavshie” students in recent years. While not at all a bad thing in itself, there’s a twist to it. ~30% of them are hard-working and talented who came here to receive education and to succeed later. They happen to be mostly Russians. ~70% are lazy, condescending, vulgar pricks with lots of money who do exactly nothing but partying, driving cars and being rude to everyone around. In a funny statistical fact they happen to be predominantly of Southern non-Slavic origin.

        Surely there are exceptions in both camps, and it goes by default that local students follow the same type of division. But Moscow students offer all shades of grade, ranging from intelligent people to arrogant idiots with all combination, while the Southerners are just black or white: either he’s a normal person or a prick, with pricks dominating heavily.

        The rule is simple: if a rich Southerner comes living to Moscow – he behaves like a prick in most cases. And it is his behavior which provokes “nationalism”, not his nation.

        I’m not even beginning to comment on the fact that the attitude towards different groups of immigrants is extremely varied. Migrants from Central Asia, Russian citizens from Northern Caucasus, Armenians and Georgians, Ukranians and Bielorussians, people from the Baltic states – the relations to each group is strikingly differents, so a more profound research is advised before making any kind of conclusions, like “Moscow should be ashamed” of anything.

        I could go on and on about this matter, but I’ll probably stop here before getting winded and lured into total off-topic.

        As a Russian, I perceive this post as lacking background to be true, and therefore as expressing more of author’s opinion and less of reality regarding a complex phenomena.

        I’ll leave you with a little video:

        Notice the nationalism all over the place: video itself, it’s name, comments, etc.

        And then think whether it’s “nationalism” or just hatred towards a specific behaviorial pattern mixed with social status.

      • Philipp Churilov says:

        I guess I also should apologise for the high number of mistakes in my posts.

        Not having chosen English as neither first nor second foreign language in University was a questionable decision, but I do not regret.

        I hope I’m “understandable”.

      • Kim Zigfeld says:

        Julia, do you think it would have been only the second time you’d been scared in the Moscow Metro if you were a black woman?

        If a black friend of yours visited from the USA, would you feel comfortable sending him/her into the Metro alone?

      • zed244 says:

        “..doesn’t do good job PR-ing itself”.
        You know, Julia – it is people who are mostly doing the PR job for the West. People like you.


      • Kim Zigfeld says:

        Mark, I’m curious, as I know too are your millions of other awed readers, since you are such a great expert on Russia: How many years have you spent living in the country? Are you just native fluent in the language, or do you speak it even better than the natives? How many black people who live in Russia did you speak to in the time you lived in Russia?

        I’m awed by your knowledge, which is obviously far more extensive than mine. I only spent a few years there, and the three or four dozen blacks I spoke to were obviously strange exceptions. They cowered in fear to enter the Moscow Metro, where they were routinely attacked verbally or physically by guys who were stone sober and nowhere near a football match.

        With your great knowledge of Russian language, I wonder if you could point out some articles in the major Russian national newspapers condemning race violence, the kind that surely would appear in the Philadelphia Inquirer if such an incident occurred in Philadelphia. And while your at it, could you document your claim about people in Philadelphia clapping and cheering the chants in favor of race violence they heard in the subway? Philadelphia, of course, has a black population far larger than Moscow’s, so such brazen racism would be rather more dangerous for the racists and quite sensational, so it must have been widely reported.

      • francissmythberesford says:

        Well, here’s what a black woman living in Russia has to say about it.

      • Philipp Churilov says:

        The solution for black people’s problems is very simple:

        Don’t. Come. Here.


        And don’t start with “that’s a racist statement, everyone should be able to chose where to live, it’s all about freedom and democracy etc. blah-bla-blah”.

        No, it’s not. The West bashes us – you, LaRussophobe, being a canonical example – with all kinds of hate about us being “authoritarian”, “not democratic”, “xenophobe”.

        Don’t. Come. Here. Ever. Period.

        It makes perfect sense. If we begin to lose numbers “good” immigration – like students, young scientist, talented people, professionals coming from less fortunate states (like some CIS countries, ancient satellites like Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua etc) – the government will begin to take action.

        As for illegal immegrants coming here to be near slaves – I personally am against such practice, but on the other hand, even in such conditions they manage to support their family far better than their own government offers them the possibility to. The situaion must be changed with more persevere application of Labor Code, particularly in what touches business owners who “optimize” the hell out of gastarbeiters.

        So, back to topic: don’t come here. Easy.

        If you come here as a journalist – to make money on writing here, you face the risk.

        If you’re a black person coming here to work by orders from your CEO – either you are an idiot or your CEO is a sadist.

        Don’t come here.

        We don’t need you or anyone else, really.

        You hate Russia so much, you should be enormously happy by having US citizenship, a nice house, a good family, a caring democratic state – so we offer you a kind “Have a nice life”.

        And while you’re at it, please ignore the existence of Russia and it’s “cruel undemocratic totalitarian warmongering regime” as best as you can.


    • jkd1 says:

      У нас не хуже!


  3. Not really sure what Putin could do about people clapping for Nazis.

    But the government, which shouldn’t be reduced to one VVP, is doing more. It shut down the Slavic Union a few weeks ago and there are rumors, according to Russian Newsweek, ( that the it might shut down all nationalist/fascist groups before May 9. They say that DPNI might be next. The question is whether all this legal action will simply drive them into the underground.

    These Nazi assholes are also getting sent to prison more and for longer sentences. Quite an improvement to three years ago when beating a Tadzhik half to death only got the charge of “hooliganism.”

    Also the Newsweek article points out that the security organs are starting to believe that BORN (a supposed underground paramilitary Nazi group) actually exists.

    Sadly, dealing with racist violence is tough in a place where my fruit guy feels free to make racist jokes about Africans when I buy bananas.

    • Philipp Churilov says:

      There aren’t that many Africans in Russia for them to actually be target of racism. People with black skin are perceived as exotic foreigners in northern parts of Russia.

      So hatred towards Africans and Arabs is USA/Europe thing. Here it’s even hard to be racist towards Asian because the eastern provinces have significant percentages of percentages of people of Mongolian type.

      My opinion is that you can’t judge the attitude of a city or a nation towards basing on what some uneducated redneck idiots say or shout.

      The ethnic conflicts are based on common behavior, different mentality and disparity of wealth. And the “favorable reactiob” of the bystanders is reflecting exactly that.

      • jkd1 says:

        Is that a joke?

        If you ever want to see pure, primordial fear, look at an African person’s face on the metro. Not only that, my Korean and Japanese friends are scared to leave their homes after dark in groups of less than five. This isn’t about what people are shouting, it’s about people being beaten, stabbed, etc., etc.

        Though, I will say that I find Eurocentrism on the continent absolutely nauseating, though it’s a different matter entirely from actual violence. It’s Russia, so everything is more intense.

      • Philipp Churilov says:

        It is not a joke.

        When I’m in metro with football hooligans crying “Occupied, occupied!” and trying to squeeze into the wagon – I myself emanate fear.

        I also try to not leave home after dark except for densely populated areas, like the city center.

        And I’m a perfectly native Russian and Muscovite.

        “Beaten, stabbed”, please – stop the drama. There are as many, if not more due to sheer numbers, “beaten and stabbed” Russians as there are immigrants. We have a damn high crime rate in Moscow, and trust me – minorities are certainly not the most “victimised” social group.

        And, I should point it, there are numerous cases of theft, robbery and violation done by migrants, apart from the fact that a considerable part of them comes to Moscow and works here ILLEGALLY.

        I’m not saying that having nazi-themed youth groups in a city is “normal” or “not a problem”, I say one cannot judge about the whole city population on their activities.

        The whole “ethnic” problem should be dealt through normal functioing of immigration laws, Labor Code and control at the frontier.

        If the system is inefficient and lets a gazillion of illegal immigrants come to the city and be employed by “efficient managers” trying to use them as near-slaves by screwing them royally or paying 1/10 of normal salary thus forcing them to criminal activities – that is the cause worth fighting agains, while the rise in the number of stupid idiots who see themselves as “defenders of race” is only the consequence.

  4. Kim Zigfeld says:


    If you’re not sure, it could only be because you’re a moron.


    He could do it every week.

    It’s sad you find that so difficult to to understand.

  5. francissmythberesford says:

    As I was driving to work this morning, I pulled up to a stop sign…..when suddenly (cue Shreek! Shreek! Shreek! from “Psycho”) a chill ran down my spine, as I realized THE STOP SIGN WAS RED AND WHITE!!! The colours of NASHI!!!

    Okay, seriously. Spartak probably chose red and white for their colours in order to invest themselves with the menace of Nashi. It’s equally likely the following American schools did so for the same reason; Ainsworth, Alma, Anselmo-Merna, Arcadia, Arnold, Auburn, Aurora…that’s just the A’s. Ooooo, look! Harvard!

    You specifically say the colours were a coincidence, but still feel it necessary to draw a connection between Nashi and Spartak fans without any other evidence. Everyone who identifies themselves with the colours red and white is a Nashi enabler. It makes for a more gripping story, and I guess accuracy doesn’t matter.

    Chanting “Russia for Russians” is likely to win broad support in a country troubled by illegal immigration. Have you read the state of Arizona’s new immigration law? Seen the online “America for Americans” petitions? The new Arizona law specifically directs law enforcement officers to demand identification from anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant. Who’s that likely to be, in Arizona? Anyone Hispanic. Nearly a quarter of U.S. Army recruits from Arizona are Hispanic. How’s that going to fly when some white cop in Phoenix orders one of them to prove he’s an American, perhaps just after he’s returned from a combat tour in Iraq? Do you recall the lavish western approval for the Georgians chanting “Georgia for Georgians” during the “Rose Revolution” for Georgian independence?

    A representative voice for Russia’s relatively small black community suggests any racism experienced in Russia is considerably muted in comparison with what she could expect in the United States. I don’t know how familiar with America she is, but she’s likely to know Russia very well indeed.

    “Khanga notes that there was a very small percentage of mixed-race and black people in the Soviet Union…I was part of the first generation — now, of course, there are a lot more,” Khanga says. “But…we did not have the history of racism as they did in America. Not everything was easy, and I can be the first to tell you what kinds of problems we had. But, of course, you can’t compare them to the kinds of things that happened in America.”

    926 active hate groups in the U.S.A. in 2008, up 50% since 20000. A growth industry, you might say. Still, since you cited a specific incident, I guess nothing puts it in perspective the way that does.

    I’d have said getting beaten to death with a bat was worse than being shouted at and jostled by a bunch of racist shitclowns, but maybe I’m just quirky that way.

    Not fair to compare Russia with America, you’ll say. America has a much larger population. That’s true, so let’s compare Russia with just California. The Sova Centre in Russia, which tracks issues related to race and ethnicity, reported 97 racist attacks in 2008. In the same period, California reported 800 hate crime events related to race/ethnicity/national origin – 57.3% of all reported hate crime events for that year. (Warning: this is a 5.11 Mb PDF file)

    If you’d have said the murder rate in Russia is much higher than that in the U.S.A., you’d be right, and that’s a serious problem considering the difference in population. However, if you’re not white, your chances of being killed for who you are would be significantly higher in the U.S.A. That’s not my opinion; it’s mathematics.

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