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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Racial Purity Never Goes Out of Style

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The most convenient way to follow the twists and turns of the U.S. presidential election has been the Internet. It is amazing how often they manage to update their web sites and how quickly the information flows compared with television and the newspapers. And while you are waiting for the next update, you can enjoy the spectacle of "chats" on the subject. Goodness, the things they write!

Russian web sites also like to provide ample opportunity for web surfers to register their opinions. Goodness, the things they write, too! "All Democrats are Jews!" my computer screams at me. "Not only is Joe Lieberman a Jew, Al Gore is too!" "America is ruled by Jews." "The lawyers are all Jews. The people recounting the Florida votes are Jews. Too bad Hitler didn't finish the job …".

This is not just one sick person writing. The Russian Internet is full of this stuff. One web journalist I know said, "They don't even bother reading the articles. They just react to some buzzwords and automatically start typing 'Jew' or 'Chechen.'"

People who use the Internet are far from the poorest and least educated segments of our society. Unfortunately, Russian sociologists long ago discovered that the higher levels of education here correspond directly with higher levels of racism.

I suspect one of the main reasons for this is simply ordinary competition. The typical worker slaving away for $40 a month doesn't worry that some professor with a non-Russian name is going to come and take his job. Most villagers have never even seen a Jew, much less a Chechen. For them, talk of "racial purity" and the like is pure abstraction.

For our educated people, though, competing for lucrative positions in the bureaucracy, "racial purity" can be a competitive advantage. And is Russia exceptional in this regard? I think not.

In the West, though, public displays of racism are taboo and that taboo has been internalized by virtually all of "educated society."

Even if someone is inwardly inclined toward racist views, he most likely won't risk revealing it, even to himself. Such feelings are kept as a hidden, secret shame.In this regard, Russia is considerably more free. Here, we are not only not ashamed of our vices, but we take pride in them. Publicly.

Just last weekend I saw a show on ORT television called "For Chinese Only." The point of the show was that "yellow" emigrants are taking over the Russian Far East and pushing out Russians. The Chinese are said to be taking away jobs from Russians. The show was a litany of racial stereotypes. The Chinese only help one another. As soon as one gets in the door, he pulls a hoard of others behind him so the Russians are squeezed out.

We've heard the same thing about Jews for centuries. And Ukrainian nationalists say the same thing about Russians.

There is no point in telling these people the Chinese are not taking away jobs but creating them through their energetic economic activity. There is no point saying the Far East is in a state of demographic crisis and needs immigrants desperately.

Once people get started on racism, they aren't going to listen to reason.

While ORT was going on about the Chinese menace, Russian State Television was playing all the various candidates for the national anthem. A dozen somber men with Russian faces sat beneath a two-headed eagle and listened to a host of songs, all exactly alike. "Russia, glory, Fatherland, Russia, glory …". The words all ran into one another.

In my mind, they also ran together with malicious whispers about Jews, Chechens and Chinese coming from thousands of television sets and computers.

Boris Kagarlitsky is a Moscow-based sociologist.