Below is an interesting piece on racism in Russia by Andy Turpin from the Armenian Weekly, Feb 24, 2007 issue (received via e-mail)

The image of the soft but undernourished girl, shivering by the riverbed of a Gotham city, is everywhere. Take your pick from the songs of Edith Piaf, Puccini’s Mimi, Pasternak’s Lara or Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.”

It is cliché and sentimentalist to a fault, but that is sometimes how I imagine Armenia when it comes to her relationship with Russia, especially in the wake of the ongoing number of hate crimes against Armenians and other Caucasians in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Financially, Russia may feed and employ Armenia’s many economic migrants and keep its utilities in check through ownership of gas and electric companies. The Cossack bear may even protect Armenia from its Turkic neighbors by supplying arms and barracking soldiers in Gyumri. But when such crimes are allowed to continue unchecked by Russian authorities, how can one call such backhands love for Armenia and her people?

One could always argue that Armenians shouldn’t take the crimes too seriously, that Russia is a place of death and chaos for anyone, not merely Armenians. They are just the targets of the hour.

Some argue that Russia lives in constant states of extremes: part police state, part mafia state, part prison, part wilderness, and never punctual with the rest of the world in her political and social trends. It is not a country for the faint of heart.

Certainly Armenians must be on guard to Russia’s growing sense of radical nationalism. Though unlike Turkey’s Grey Wolf form of nationalism, Russia’s berserker rage is not directly antagonistic to Armenia and the Diaspora, but is more of a xenophobic breakdown in Russian society. Domestic abuse is also rampant in Russia, so both figuratively and physically one could say that Armenia is taking the hits.

What is to be done? There lies the rub. How do you seek solutions to acts of violence against a specific group of people when criminality, corruption and violence abound on the streets of the Russian federation?

Most often the perpetrators of these hate crimes are not even deemed by judges to be murderers or criminals, but hooligans instead. How can justice be demanded of a culture that often sentences human traffickers to casual sentences of three years in prison?

Some hayastantsis have the option of seeking jobs with relatives in the Diaspora, but what of the Russian-Armenians persecuted without hope of justice in their own backyards?

I have no clear-cut answers to these problems, and from the silence of the Kremlin, it seems that Vladimir Putin doesn’t either.