What do Russians see in the Black Lives Matter protest movement?

Russia and the Black Lives Matter Protests

What do Russians see in the Black Lives Matter protest movement?

Journalists Discuss BLM’s Parallels to the Russian Protest and the Submission of American Protest Activity to Russian Television

The name Black Lives Matter (Black Lives Matter, BLM) is now understood in the world without translation: after the death of George Floyd when he was detained by the police in Minneapolis on May 25, the wave of actions against police violence not only does not decline in US cities, but has continued in other countries.

Protests and marches with BLM slogans raged from the UK to Japan, and it was reasonable to expect that attention to what was happening in the United States would be shown in Russia as well. Media professionals, who were gathered to talk about this by the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington on July 28, spoke about the Russian reaction to the BLM movement using the example of two points of view: one is characteristic of Russian society, the other is Russian propaganda..

According to Mikhail Fishman, host of Dozhd TV and ex-editor of the Russian edition of Newsweek magazine, what state-controlled Russian television says about the US protests is not a reflection of public opinion, but an attempt to form it. what is shown on Russian television, with what Russians really think about it. Federal TV channels are engaged in propaganda, and their goal is to replace the reality in which Russians live with something invented “.

In the approach of official Moscow to the movement for the rights of blacks, Mikhail Fishman believes, there are two conflicting factors: “On the one hand, the Russian government, the current Russian leadership is inherently extreme right-wing, anti-liberal, with the utmost suspicion of any liberation or liberal trend, and on the other hand, Russia is positioning itself as the heir to the USSR – a state that was known as formally left, socialist, and expressed full support for the struggle of African Americans for their rights, this is a historical fact “.

“Putin’s statements boil down to the fact that he might have supported the Black Lives Matter movement, but his support ends where the ransacking of stores and riots begins. This is how, quite easily, Putin solves for himself the problem of contradictions in the approach to American protests “- notes the Russian journalist.

At the same time, according to Mikhail Fishman, many social movements emerging in the West are taking root in Russian society:

“We saw this on the example of the #Metoo movement, which began in the United States and Europe: now in Russia there are several rather high-profile scandals that have developed in social networks and concerning the predatory behavior of men towards women. This is not a completely direct continuation of Western #Metoo, but Russia is clearly affected by it. However, it looks different with the BLM movement, because the subject matter and reasons for what is happening are very distant for Russia. “.

Steven Rosenberg, a correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation BBC in Moscow, believes that “all the attributes and values ​​of BLM – the idea of ​​equality, justice, the expression of anger by citizens, a message against the establishment, against the police and for change – are absolutely anathema to Putin. ; the very possibility of people taking to the streets, toppling statues and demanding change fills the people of his administration with horror. “.

What do Russians see in the Black Lives Matter protest movement?

“At the same time, the Kremlin is using the Black Lives Matter movement to its advantage, which can be inferred from the same television coverage of all these events in Russia. There are two important thoughts being held there. The first is “protesting is bad, don’t try to repeat it, look at chaos and anarchy.” Second – “look at the United States, which is literally crumbling before our eyes, and compare with Russia, which, in comparison with America, is just an island of stability” – Steven Rosenberg notes..

According to the BBC’s correspondent in Russia, the spread of such signals is especially important for the Kremlin now, as the economy in Russia is stagnant, the coronavirus pandemic is turning into a recession, real incomes of Russians continue to fall, and protest sentiments are boiling in various Russian cities – especially in Khabarovsk, where the region protests the removal and detention of a popular governor.

“Unlike the protests in American Portland, Russian state television practically does not show performances in Khabarovsk, despite the fact that tens of thousands of people go to unauthorized street actions there. TV channels are all the time trying to present the rallies in Khabarovsk as something insignificant, while coverage of the actions in the United States is quite significant – from the positions I spoke about, “Steven Rosenberg notes..

At the same time, in the Russian society itself, the rise and fall of racist sentiments replaced each other, stated Ann Simmons, the Wall Street Journal correspondent in Russia.

The journalist herself, a black British woman, said that she did not encounter any manifestations of racism against herself, but several times she witnessed that in Russia racism manifests itself against people from the Caucasus and Central Asia: “I once rode in a taxi when the driver began to say in front of me: “How tired of these blacks!”, and when I asked him to explain what he meant, it turned out that his statement did not apply to me at all – he emphasized this, explaining that he meant Caucasians, which is also absolutely unacceptable “.

The British journalist recalls that many of her black male acquaintances who lived and studied in Moscow in the 1990s and 2000s faced attacks from racist local residents who demanded that they not meet with Russian women. “Perhaps then I did not face these manifestations myself, because I was of the opposite sex,” she suggests..

About the facts related to the protests in the United States, continues Anne Simmons, Russians clearly want to know more: “I have been asked many times recently by my Russian acquaintances whether such inequality really exists, whether the black population is really treated this way. And yes, many of them were worried about the footage of robberies and arson, they said: “Why do people set fire to the places in which they live?”

According to a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Russia, people in Moscow are clearly not sufficiently aware of the historical context of the US protests. Also, Russians often blame the victims of racism themselves: “Many in Russia write on social networks that George Floyd was at odds with the law, that he almost deserved what happened to him. That is, neither the fact that there is a problem of police violence in the United States, nor the problem of institutional racism, which still makes itself felt, is simply not understood by many Russians. “.

  • Danila Galperovich

    Reporter for the Russian Voice of America Service in Moscow. Collaborates with Voice of America since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and host of programs for the BBC Russian Service and Radio Liberty. Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.

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