Xenophobia is back in Russian universities


March 14, 2011

Xenophobia is back in Russian universities

After the bloody events at the Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, when the radicals beat up everyone who had “non-Slavic” appearance, the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin began to talk about the problems of xenophobia in Russia. Since then, the Moscow police began to guard the places where radicals could start a fight. However, such places are not only stadiums or discos, they can be even universities.  

22 year old student form Dagestan Aida lives in Moscow 10 years. Her homeland is believed to be the center of Caucasian terrorism. Aida says that she has faced xenophobia many times, while living in the capital. “Recently, a very unpleasant incident happened with me. It happened after the explosion in Domodedovo Airport in late January. As always, at the entrance of the university, I showed the guard my student pass. He attacked me with obscene nationalistic rail, began to insult me and said something about me not knowing Russian and so on” - the student says.  

But not only students from Caucasus are being attacked by the police, by security guards and classmates. According to Dmitry Dubrovsky, professor of history at the University of St Petersburg and expert on human rights, the heads of the universities suspect that something is going on.  

“My students didn’t tell me right away, and I found out later that all students from North Caucasus had to fill out forms, where they had to answer questions about their family, address, property, car etc. This is just outrageous! Moreover, it is violation of Article 51 of Constitution, which guarantees that no on is obliged to testify against their relatives,” he says. 

But not only students from Caucasus are being subject to xenophobic attacks. Overall in Russia study 130 000 foreigners, mainly from China, Vietnam and many African countries. A native of Congo Denhsten Boris came to Russia 3 years ago, as only here he could get a decent diploma. Last May, when he and his friend accompanied their fellow student to the bus stop, they were attacked by a dozen Russian students, who were very drunk. “One of them asked the girl why she is talking with these monkeys. I asked him, where are the monkeys, after all we are all human beings. But he just continued to insult us, and he hit me. I almost fell down. My fried tried to fight back, but we were already being attacked by 15 men,” he says. 

But everything ended with the expulsion of the Congo student, as the one who started the fight. Although this incident is a rare exception, yet it shows the challenges which non European students have to face in Russia. Black skinned students or immigrants from Asia try not to leave their dorms during the evening. And even though they often hear cutting remarks even from the teachers, only a few complain, notes Dmitro Dubrovsky.  

“The problem is that no one speaks about this out loud. Such countries as China and Vietnam don’t even want their citizens to file complaints. In the worst case, the student can come back home if he has problems. So, students clench their teeth, and we don’t know what is really going on,” said Dubrovsky. 

The case with the Congo student is publicly known: he turned for help to the lawyers and sued the ones who beat him; however he lost the case. Now he is preparing to return back to Congo. Education in Russia was the biggest mistake of his life, says the former student.