Russians have watched shootings of and by police in the US — most recently in Baton Rouge, outside St. Paul and Dallas — with a mix of reactions.
Moscow reporter Charles Maynes says Russians are generally supportive of the victims of shootings — law enforcement and civilians — however in many cases the Russian government is fostering a different reaction.
“I think there is this sense of their own problems, and to distract from them [the Russian government] tends to celebrate some of America’s problems,” Maynes said.
Russia has a racism and violence problem of its own, though the schism in Russia is different. People from the Caucasus are called "blacks" as a derogatory term, even though many of them don’t have dark skin.
Boston Globe reporter David Filipov said he used to get profiled in Russia during the Chechen wars because of his dark features.
Author Anna Badkhen herself experienced being treated as an "other" as a child growing up in the Soviet Union.
“I was once assaulted in the street because I was a Jew. A blue-eyed, blonde, 12-year-old girl,” Badkhen said. “My attackers were two girls, strangers, maybe in their mid-teens. The giveaway? My nose.”
"Others" being treated differently was a staple during the Soviet period, however the intricacies of labels have changed since. Maynes says during the Soviet period the term "neger" was commonly used when referring to both Africans and African Americans, while the term "chorni," which means black, is used differently today.
“It’s actually an offensive, derogatory way of addressing a wider swath of different groups.”
These groups include ethnic Caucasians like Azeris, Georgians, Dagestanis, Chechens and Armenians, along with other common ethnic minorities in Russia like Kazakhs, Tajiks and Uzbeks. Many of these people go to mainland Russia as migrant workers where it is common for them to experience harsh racism.
“They’re not treated well and certainly we’ve had stories from time to time of slave labor conditions,” Maynes said. “A lot of them live in subterranean dwellings, essentially basements that are secretly rented out to them.”
At the same time, Maynes said, living in Moscow, it is noticeable that these ethnic minority groups “are the engine behind the city.” Maynes noted that the unspoken arrangement with the migrant workers in urban Russia is similar in some ways to migrants who come to the United States from Latin American.
“They do the jobs that other, native Russians wouldn’t do while at the same time there’s resentment against them coming,” Maynes said.