Is Ukraine racist or not?

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May 30, 2012, 5:34 p.m. | Op-ed — by Michelle Goldhaber

In this photo taken Aug. 19, 2007 soccer fans show German Nazi flag with a swastika during an Ukrainian League Championship soccer match between Dynamo Kyiv and Karpaty in Kiev, Ukraine. Kiev and Warsaw on Tuesday May 29, 2012 decried a BBC report that portrayed Ukrainian and Polish soccer fans as racist ahead of next month's European championship as unfair, vowing that all foreign guests would be safe to attend matches in the two Eastern European countries.
© (AP Photo/Ukrinform)

In the days running up to the Euro 2012 European football championships, Ukraine has seen an onslaught of media reports and heated debates regarding racism in the country. As an American expatriate who has been researching racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine for the past 10 years, I must admit I am delighted that these societal handicaps are finally getting the international, not to mention domestic attention they have long deserved. Reports of swastikas and Celtic crosses, hooligans training new recruits in forests, and fans beating up all sorts of people of color do not surprise me. They are nothing new.
In fact, according to my contacts in African communities, the situation may have actually improved somewhat in the past year or two. What is new, and refreshing, is the spotlight.

As the Union of European Football Associations intended when they designated Poland and Ukraine as co-hosts of the 2012 competition, this is an opportunity to showcase the relatively newly democratic and independent countries in Eastern Europe, and to bring attention to and increase awareness about their societies. Finally the spotlight has rested on the warts of racism and intolerance as well as price-gauging and folky skepticism regarding Ukrainian “road readiness.”

The dominant voices of the recent flames wars can be summarized in a simple dialogue between Europe and Ukraine.

Europe: Oh my God! Ukraine is racist and anti-Semitic! It is dangerous for anyone non-white to go! You may end up coming home in a coffin!

Ukraine: There is no racism in Ukraine! There has not been a single incident ever anywhere of anything smacking of racism, xenophobia or anti-Semitism. We love all foreigners! Everyone is welcome! We 100% guarantee everyone's safety!

Clearly this not-too-exaggerated call and response is lacking moderate voices, so indulge me while I fill in the gaps.

1. Of course there is racism in Ukraine. Black students have been getting beat up for years. Swastikas have been painted on city walls and ignored by most passersby for decades. But thank you, Euro 2012, for bringing it to the attention of the mainstream European press of late.

2. Media reports are often dramatized and inflammatory. Is this really news? Like it or not, this reporting strategy certainly serves to stir the pot and stimulate discussion. And though the tenor of racist reports in Ukraine may sound hysterical and overblown, it may just accurately convey the shock that many foreigners feel when first encountering the extent and openness of intolerance in the country.

3. Ukrainian officials and citizens who deny claims of racism, or attempt to redirect the accusation at “English xenophobes who are targeting and patronizing Ukrainians” do nothing but:
1. Make themselves and thus Ukraine look even more foolish, and more importantly; and2. Further marginalize and disempower people of color who reside in Ukraine or plan to visit.

Please, Ukraine, the sooner you accept your blights, own up to them, listen to the stories of those who have been attacked, harassed or threatened, and (not holding my breath) attempt to educate your populace and actually address these deplorable trends in your society, the faster you will actually prove to be respected and taken seriously in the European sphere. Of course, that is not necessarily your primary aim …:)

Pluralism and diversity are your assets, not liabilities and it's time to come to terms with your history, and your present, and to stop allowing hate crimes and discrimination to be culturally accepted. And I'm not only talking about beating up black students, using the word “Jew” as an insult and threatening to physically remove Asians from your country, but also about gay-bashing and anti-Russian or anti-Fascist rhetoric (pick your poison).

Does this mean that all Ukrainians are anti-Semitic, homophobic and white supremacist? Absolutely not!

These trends are present in society. But so are advocates for human rights, a growing willingness to face a difficult history, and a strengthening of civil society. This in spite of a political climate that is less than favorable for democratic advances.

So should fans of color, gays and Jews avoid Ukraine during the games? Stay home and watch it on TV instead? Well, it depends.

Can Ukrainian or UEFA officials guarantee safety and security for all fans? Nah. Will Jewish, gay, Asian, Black, Arab, etc. fans face intolerance? Probably.
Will it be violent? Probably not.

Will they also meet Ukrainians who are allies and happy to help and welcome them? Almost definitely.

See, unfortunately, it is not only minorities or foreigners who suffer from racism in Ukraine. It is mainstream Ukrainians as well.

While of course there are deeply embedded prejudices among most people in the country (show me a country where there are not), and a general cultural acceptance of xenophobia, and even a willingness to often turn the other cheek, there are also a plethora of individuals who, sometimes even despite their own instincts, go way out of their way to help people, try to dissect their own assumptions and first impressions, and go even further to advocate for minority rights among their fellow mainstream Ukrainians.

Extreme and therefore visible racism also discredits well-meaning Ukrainians who are ashamed of such intolerance and are also fighting against it. Avoiding the country is one way to "stay safe".

But perhaps it is not a bad idea to go ahead and risk a visit. Be cautioned, be aware, regulate your expectations and do not take unnecessary risks (sadly, this means not having as much freedom of mobility as those who can "pass"). Have an emergency plan, and have contacts ready to help.

Chances are you will be physically fine, and hopefully you will meet at least one person who will prevent you from concluding that all Ukrainians are intolerant racists. In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised by Ukrainian hospitality, no matter your skin color or religion.

If you are Ukrainian, I hope you will look for opportunities not only to be helpful to foreigners during the Euro 2012, but that you will take a deep and honest look at the legitimate concerns being raised, and either continue your efforts to advocate for human rights and safety for all people regardless of the international spotlight, or that you will consider becoming one who refuses to placidly accept anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia as allowable trends in your society.

Michelle Goldhaber is an American expatriate residing part time in Lviv for the past seven years. For the last 10 years she has been researching and advocating on behalf of African students in Ukraine, as well as working in Jewish-Ukrainian relations. She can be contacted at
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rcd1 May 30, 2012, 6:26 p.m.    

I've been traveling to Ukraine quite a bit since 2007. I'm an American born, raised and educated African American. I only add in the African American part here because in reality my medium brown skin is what most in Ukraine Identify with first then comes the American nationality ( which they quickly figure out when they hear me speak English). I would have to say in all honesty that I have not had single time or moment incountered a racially disturbed moment in Ukraine. Yes, there is racism in Ukraine and yes minorities are attacked in Ukraine. But it is not something widely seen in society. The majority of Ukrainians do not harass or bother people. If they harbor racist opinions they generally keep them private and or strictly in the private discussions of those close to them. I have been told by my friends a many of racist things said by Ukrainians in general discussions with my friends in private so yes racism does exist in Ukraine. It is reasonable to think though that anyone can come here, enjoy the country and the millions of Ukrainians that do not have the ignorant attitudes of fascist and racists and not worry or fear for their security. The chances are more than likely you will not have any problems and enjoy the visit. I think if you are a non-Ukrainian (a minority or a person of color) you are more likely to be hassled by a corrupt police officer for before before you are likely to be a victim of racism in Ukraine. Yes, Ukraine needs to aggressively acknowledge and confront the realities of this and prosecute to the full extend of the law those that harrass, cause hurt or harm from racist actions, but I cannot say that it is of epic proportions in Ukraine because that has not been my experience.

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paul nicholson May 30, 2012, 8:48 p.m.    

Tickets are expensive.

Hotels are expensive.

Getting around is difficult.

People are unfriendly un welcoming and racist towards foreigners.

The police are corrupt and unhelpful to foreigners.

Your loved ones would worry about your safety.

Why bother with unnecessary grieve and worry? Ukraine has little to offer.

My advice is to stay at home and save yourself a fortune. Then take a nice holiday in Greece or Spain when the Euro's are over.

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Paul Worthington May 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.    

The word &quot;racism&quot; is associated with the man who created it, Leon Trotsky (Bronstein).

&quot;This brief comment completely finishes off not only the old philosophy of the Slavophiles, but also the latest revelations of the “Racists.”&quot;

-Leon Trotsky

page 6

&quot;History of the Russian Revolution&quot; 1930

By Leon Trotsky, translated by Max Eastman

ISBN-10: 1931859450.

Trotsky was Jewish and a mass murderer, he genocided millions. So you've used the word of a mass killer. Is that what describes your morals?

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Paul Worthington May 31, 2012, 12:21 a.m.    

The Real Anti-White Racism was in Jewish Marxism in USSR:

Where that &quot;Racial Equality&quot; Constitution led: To World's worst genocide ever known.

That USSR and its &quot;anti-race discrimination&quot; Consitution, which was the world's first, went on to genocide approximately 60 million people. Rummel cites a large sample of demographers and averages their figures to 62 million deaths as a result of the USSR &quot;race equality&quot; Constitution.

&quot;Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1917&quot;

R. J. Rummel

ISBN-10: 1560008873

Solzhenitsyn cites Leningrad professor and Soviet statistician A.I. Kurganov:

&quot;According to the estimates of the emigre Professor of statistics Kurganov, this cost us from the October Revolution up to 1959, a total of...sixty-six million ---66,000.000--lives.&quot;


&quot;Gulag archipelago III&quot;

A. Solzhenitsyn

Chapter I

Fingers of the Archipelago

Random House Value Publishing (December 2, 1980)

ISBN-10: 0517337908

These are the facts of history, the agenda of Anti-Race Marxism led to the greatest genocide known to mankind, ever.

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Paul Worthington May 31, 2012, 12:24 a.m.    

Jews are afraid of what they did (Lazar Kaganovich was the commander of the Holodomor, and he was a Jew Marxist) in the Holodomor.

It sure is uncomfortable for the Jews (Jew Race) when they killed off 11 million Ukrianians (White Race) in the HOLODOMOR, then try to intimidate and force the Ukrainians to not defend their Race.

Bugging you yet, Goldhaber the Jew?

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Andrew Olexander May 31, 2012, 1:12 p.m.    

The fact is - yes there were many people of jewish background in the Stalinist regime, and many of Ukrainian background too, who helped perpetrate the Holodomor. Jews also died in the Holodomor alonside Ukrainians.

Another fact is that from it's very beginnings, many of jewish background participated in opposing this regime as part of the Independence movement of Ukraine - including many of jewish heritage who fought both Nazis and Communists in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

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Paul Worthington June 1, 2012, 1:52 a.m.    

Jews did the Holodomor. Marxism was invented by a Jew - Marx.

It is like saying the White man Hitler invented Nazism, which killed also some Whites, but that the White man Hitler was &quot;not responsible&quot; for Nazism.

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Paul Worthington June 3, 2012, 10:27 p.m.    

Well said.

When are we going to start Marxist hunting and pulling 90 year old Marxist Jews out of their beds to make then stand trial for the Holodomor?

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Andrew Olexander May 31, 2012, 12:47 p.m.    

Is Ukraine racist or not?


Ukraine is racist against.... Ukrainians!!!

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Phill M May 31, 2012, 5:51 p.m.    

Citing history and the crimes of the past is not an indication of the the attitudes and norms of that nation today. To say that Ukrainians killed Jews in the past is proof that they are racists today is a sign of ignorance and prejudice of the person making that comment.

Is Ukraine racists? There certainly are racists in Ukraine, and some of those attitudes are fairly pronounced and publicly displayed, more so at times maybe than anti-racist messages. The laws that exist in Ukraine against racism are inadequate and poorly enforced, adding to the openness that some people are willing to show their racist ideologies. There is also the lack of multiculturalism, which in turn makes it easier to spot outsiders, and easier to target them (they have less of a voice). This just isn't a problem in Ukraine, but in much of Eastern Europe. With the lack of multiculturalism there is also a lack of education. A majority are ill-informed about 'others' and so rely on pre-conceived ideas and 'protectionism' (keep &quot;others&quot; out of my job, from using my resources, etc), and so may treat with apathy or contempt outsiders.

At the same time, many Ukrainians can be, and are, quite friendly and opened towards others. I have witnessed it many times, and I am hoping that it is witnessed by many who visit Ukraine during the Euro Cup.

I am also hoping that for those who did have the opportunity to visit Ukraine, you don't have to deal with some of the idiots whose comments are below....

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paul nicholson May 31, 2012, 9:33 p.m.    

President Yanukovych talked to the BBC today on the issue of hooliganism during the Euro 2012 championships. He said the problem in Ukraine was probably &quot;smaller&quot; than in other countries. Nothing to worry about.

&quot;We have a list of people who behaved aggressively at football matches. Their numbers are tiny, they are known to us and preventive measures will be taken, Don't worry our security services have it all under control&quot;. :) &quot;We created all the infrastructure for football fans to feel good and for Ukraine to show all its capabilities&quot;.

&quot;We are waiting for our guests with great pleasure,&quot; What a relief.

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Eckard von Goeden May 31, 2012, 10:36 p.m.    

We want the Iron curtain back !

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Paul Worthington June 1, 2012, 1:54 a.m.    

We want our Nation Free of the International Communism, Neo-Marxism really, which is forcing a non-White invasion into Ukraine, and genociding the Ukrainians - AGAIN.

We fought the International Communism 1917-1923, and we are fighting it again, now, as they try to take away our Ukraine and our rights to FREE SPEECH.

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Paul Worthington June 1, 2012, 1:57 a.m.    

Race Speech is FREE SPEECH.

Get used to it Jews.

Unlike 1917-1923 Ukraine war for independence against International Communism, our White Race brothers and sisters in the West, in the USA and Canada know about our plight and support us. We will not lose this time.

The mayor of Kyiv is an Israeli Jew. Get out of our countries Jews. Go to your Israel. NOW.

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Eckard von Goeden June 1, 2012, 8:08 p.m.    


You are a poor circus monkey.

Here, have a banana !

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Paul Worthington June 2, 2012, 4:58 p.m.    

Funny when a banana is thrown at a Black invader to Europe, that he threatens to kill the native White Europeans.

Go back to Africa, Jews and Blacks.

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Eckard von Goeden June 2, 2012, 5:28 p.m.    

One more banana, little Nazi monkey ?

Ok - uh-uh uh-uh

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Paul Worthington June 3, 2012, 10:25 p.m.    

One more banana, little Jew Marxist monkey ?

Ok - uh-uh uh-uh

Jews killed 11 million Ukrainains in Holodomor. Time to move to Israel.

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Frederick Sass June 5, 2012, 2:01 a.m.    

I wonder if these people waving the swastika and endorsing neo-Nazis are aware that these are the same people, i.e. the Gestapo, the SS, Panzers, etc., who invaded, torched, raped, pillaged and plundered the Ukrainian Homeland while advancing to Moscow? Go visit the Museum of the Great Patriot War in Kyiv. I don't even speak Ukrainian yet this museum horrified me with what the German Nazis did in Ukraine. This is your own parents and grandparents in Ukraine killed by the Nazi's. Why are they now being glorified by Ukrainians??? Seems tremendously narrow-minded in my opinion.

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