editorial

False explosion

14.11.2011 | kyivweekly.com.ua

Foreign students victimized in Luhansk

Foreign students received the brunt of the anger of roving groups, who took to the streets with bats, in the Russian-dominated eastern city of Luhansk this week. The rampaging young men deliberately sought out particular ethnic groups like Azerbaijan food kiosk operators and students from India and Turkmenistan, putting at least four in the hospital with serious injuries. The bat wielders were summarily rounded up, labeled hooligans and stuck in detention, but the stench of racism and ethnic intolerance still hangs in the air. Ethnic Ukrainians have long been used to foreigners in their midst, being invaded by a variety of peoples over hundreds of years. For the most part, they have managed to get along. Ukraine has been so welcoming that those from countries like neighbouring Georgia come to feel Ukraine as a second home. For example, murdered journalist Georgi Gongadze was an ethnic Georgian and staunch defender of Ukrainian nationalism. And Georgian national team football star Kakha Kaladze has a second home in Ukraine. The real question is are these hooligans the harbinger of real racial tensions or are they simply bored youth bringing a bad name to Ukraine? Unquestionably, there is a rising intolerance to the hard-working newcomer getting ahead of the less motivated locals. Rather, this outbreak of violence can be seen as successful brainwashing of the privileged by the current authorities. The irony of the Luhansk ethnic clashes is that the perpetrators are themselves foreigners second generation, blue collar Russian ex-pats. In the last century, the USSR shifted around populations with large groups of Russians coming to settle permanently in Ukraine. They are likely feeling threatened by the latest crop of newcomers who are trying to get ahead at local level. And yet the real message is lost in the violence. The very presence of so many foreigners is actually a compliment to Ukraine, which is perceived as a secure option with real educational and employment options for those in more depressed places like Azerbaijan, China and Africa. Ukraine might not be on par with the EU, but it represents opportunities for Third World citizens.

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