The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day. But there’s one nasty little cloud that’s casting a shadow my way.
In the US, April 20th is the subcultural pot-smoking holiday. But in Russia, or in particular, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhni-Novgorod, it’s time for the Neo-Nazis to celebrate Hitler’s birthday. Every year, there’s an increase in violent acts leading up to his birthday. But hate crimes are not solely concentrated on April 20th — last year, about 70 people were killed in race-related hate crimes. Skinheads gang up on darker skinned foreigners and post videos of their attacks online, mainly to demonstrate that all foreigners are unwelcome in Russia. Last year, they posted a video showing the decapitation of a Ghanian man. Their time in jail? 23 years for one man, 9 years for a couple of others. The racism situation is somewhat exacerbated by the fact that there are Neo-nazi sympathizers in the Duma. It is horrifying that, in about 20 years, Neo-Nazism has grown to such ridiculous proportions. Before 1992, there were maybe two Neo-Nazis in Moscow, and five in St. Petersburg. And now, especially during the economic crisis and education collapse, the numbers are steadily increasing to ridiculous proportions. And with the numbers growing, the hate crimes are growing, too.
Thus far, I’ve been lucky — nothing’s happened to me, not even one strange look has been cast my way. But lately, I have been more on edge and much more self conscious. I apparently have a somewhat Asian-ambiguous face — as in, I could hail from China, Southeast Asia, or Central Asia. Unfortunately, all of those areas fall into one lump category that skinheads target: the foreigner.
To be honest, I can’t distinguish between skinheads and regular hooligans — which is even more frightening. I’ll ask myself, “well, was that a skinhead, a punk, or just another balding Russian with a bad sense of style?” And I know I’m overreacting, and I am pretty sure that nothing will happen to me if I do decide to wander outside on Tuesday. Even so, I’m not taking any chances — it will be an all-day, indoor party at home for me.