Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Moscow’s War on Ethnic Minorities

By MASHA GESSEN, NYT
NOV. 4, 2014

A pair of pudgy, hairy man’s hands draped over the back of an ornate chair; two gold rings; a gold watch on a bracelet a bit too tight for the wrist; amber cufflinks pulling together crisp white cuffs that also seem a touch tight. Everything in this picture connotes wealth and excess. To the Russian eye, the dark hair on the hands also connotes someone who is ethnically non-Russian: The hands might belong to a Jew, a Tartar, an Armenian or the representative of any number of other ethnic groups that, according to stereotype, have dark hair.

This picture of a generic Shylock appeared on Oct. 28 in Lenta.ru, one of Russia’s oldest online publications and arguably the best-read, whose enterprising editor in chief was replaced by a Kremlin loyalist earlier this year, causing the entire staff to walk out. The picture was used to illustrate an article headlined, “Who’s Got It Good in Russia?” The subtitle promised a breakdown of Russia’s richest entrepreneurs by ethnicity. The authors of the article took a list of the country’s 200 wealthiest businesspeople compiled by Russian Forbes magazine and attempted to classify the 199 men and one woman on it by ethnicity.

The authors acknowledged they were tackling “a delicate issue” — if only because “many people do not advertise their ethnicity and don’t talk about it.” They claimed to have conducted something akin to an investigation by combing through the lists of donors and honorary members of ethnic associations. One suspects they also conducted amateur analysis of the rich people’s surnames. The result was an infographic with the 22 ethnic groups the authors identified among the 200 entrepreneurs, with some helpful statistics, including: the cumulative worth of members of a particular ethnic group on the list, the percentage of the list the group represented and the percentage of the ethnic group in the general population.

(More here.)

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