During the second week of the military operation in Ukraine, the whole world witnessed an outburst of hatred toward Russians. Not only abstract slogans against Russia, but also specific calls for killings were spread. Quite often such hate speeches turned into actions. In Ireland, a truck rammed the Russian embassy, and in Vancouver, unknown vandals spill over the doors of the Russian theater with paint. In Germany, the doors of a Russian school were set on fire. In Oxford, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church was burglarized while collecting aid for Ukrainian refugees. And in the United States, a restaurant called “Russian Samovar”, owned by a Jew from Ukraine, was vandalized.
More absurd things started to happen in Europe, where Russian culture and history have been ostracized. In Italy, there were attempts to ban Dostoevsky, but active intervention of the local Russians prevented this political madness in the style of the German Nazis who had burnt literature considered not corresponding to the “Aryan spirit”. Tchaikovsky has also been banned.
Last week, Meta, contrary to its usual rules, temporarily allowed calls for violence against the Russian military to be posted on Facebook and Instagram. This follows from the internal communications seen by Reuter’s reporters. A representative of the company commented to the news agency that this would only be allowed in the context of the war in Ukraine and only against the military (but not against war prisoners). However, they would not be allowed to write such things about civilians. According to Reuters, on March 14 the Vice President of Meta Nick Clegg already announced a ban on death wishes for presidents, as he wrote about it in his letter to the staff.
But Facebook and Instagram have already been blocked in Russia, and many users rushed in protest to the domestic social networks. Meta stock plummeted on the stock market. Obviously, the self-discrediting of this company will continue, and not only Russian users will leave it, perceiving it as a toxic platform.
But alongside Russophobia, the problems of racism have also clearly been exposed. What is more, the first signals came from Ukraine, where foreign students who were among the refugees trying to leave the country and go to Poland were denied the necessary services. They were simply stopped and made to wait, causing a storm of outrage in different countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
A telling case occurred in Mexico, where the Ukrainian embassy in Mexico City, which recruits mercenaries, was also scandalized because of racial discrimination. A Mexican journalist Gabriel Infante made a remark in the Ukrainian embassy’s Twitter account that the Ukrainian government had closed the opposition media: 112 Ukraine, ZIK, NewsOne and Страна.ua. In response, the Ukrainian diplomats said that “you are still spreading Russian propaganda without ever having been to Ukraine. So we have a question for you, Mr. Journalist: are you paid in rubles or tamale?”
The fact is that in the Mexican discourse, the word “tamale” can be a derogatory term depending on the context in which it is used. It is a traditional Central American dish of corn tortillas wrapped in a banana or corn leaf. In the U.S., Mexicans or Chicanos are often subjected to this kind of insult, because there they are imputed to obligatory love of tamales, burritos, and tacos, and given the message that the only job they deserve is to be a janitor or a drug dealer.
This message on the official page of the Ukrainian embassy immediately led to accusations of racism. The Ukrainian diplomats attempted to justify their actions, but were shown to be completely incompetent. Even the President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador reacted to the case calling the Ukrainian ambassador an “ambassador of an unknown country” who “does not even know what a tamale is” and saying that thanks to the social networks, everything comes out, including racism.
But social networks are instrumentalized consequences. What is the cause? Undoubtedly, the political and corporate elite of the West has played a major role in fomenting Russophobia. Instead of restraining spontaneous outbursts of hatred and conducting preventive measures on tolerance, which the democrats and liberals like to talk about, the EU and the U.S. set the machine in motion. The former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul even said that “there are no innocent Russians”. Of course, with his experience in Russia he understood that our society is fundamentally different from the Western society. But what is the fault of the newborn, the elderly and ordinary citizens of Russia who are far from politics?
Here we can see a manifestation of the underlying causes of the Western epistemological racism. Probably the first systematic Russophobe was the French Marquis de Custine, famous for his book about his journey to Nicholas Russia. After him, there were quite a lot of works by other authors who accused Russia of inferiority and underdevelopment and considered Russians savages and barbarians. Neither the scientific nor the cultural achievements of Russia, and later of the USSR, have changed this point of view. In 1983, the British Andrew Cockburn called the Soviet Union the “Upper Volta with rockets”. And Ronald Reagan used the term “evil empire” the same year. The rockets later became nuclear weapons in the Western discourse, though Upper Volta remained. The demonization of Russia continued into the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and only intensified with the revival of its former power.
Nikolay Danilevsky linked the fear of Russia with the spatial thinking of Europeans. In his book “Russia and Europe”, he made a simple thesis: it is enough to look at a map to understand that a huge land mass looming over the small western peninsula of Eurasia frightens Europeans. Probably, the desire to break down Russia, to make it weak and not independent has derived from this fear. And here is a sovereign decision on Ukraine, going against the will and interests of the West!
The second reason for the current Russophobia is the very state of the Western society. After the successful tests with Black Lives Matters, Cancel Culture, and disciplinary actions under the guise of anti-Covid measures, the citizens once active in the matters of democratic decisions have become, at most, a silent majority. Honest people are in danger of going to jail for their opinions and freedom of speech. The diagnosis is very serious. And this grave disease will be difficult to treat. But it will have to be done, one way or another.