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Ukraine invasion and the rise of Xenophobia against Russians: From calling out the leader to Wokes cancelling average Russians

The Ukraine-Russia crisis has resulted in Xenophobia against Russia of the worst kind. It is an antidote to the idea of 'solidarity' where one group is hailed, and the other is demoralised while global leaders continue to solve the geopolitical puzzle.

The Ukraine-Russia conflict in many ways is the first full-blown war in the woke world. Expanded social media canvas has ensured the polarization of strong opinions among populations across the globe. Select narratives, carefully constructed propaganda seeped into news and opinion pieces to 280-charactered tweets are all visibly a part of ‘hybrid warfare’ strategic affairs experts keep talking about. When Russia invaded Ukraine, it became as much a ‘national’ and ‘local’ news as it seeped its influence into conversations on WhatsApp groups, local newspapers prime time debates on national news channels.

‘Solidarity’ became the word of the season with people outpouring their sympathies for the war-torn Ukrainian people with tweets, posts, stories all decked in yellow-and-blue (colours of the Ukrainian National flag). While social media platforms have empowered the impressions of love, sympathy and solidarity, on the other hand, they have also served as means to amplify hate, rampant boycotts and all kinds of racial and social divides – often underlined by political self-posturing.

Ukrainian Protestors holding a racist poster calling for the death of Russian citizens and diaspora as ‘invaders’

Today, irrational rage against Russians has become a natural flip-side to the solidarity for Ukraine. Holding states and their heads responsible for their actions is one thing, but casual xenophobia escalates when woke expatriates make common citizens and diaspora pay while shifting the blame on them. While it starts from ‘deconstructing’ the mind of Putin as a warmonger, it ends up cancelling all-things-Russian. From International Policy to internet politics, institutionalised ‘sanctions’ against Russia have now been normalised to an extent to group-shame Russian students, players, artists all over the world.

With a move to combat Putin’s Ukrainian invasion, a Democratic representative from California, Eric Swalwell suggested that Russian students should be ‘kicked out‘ of US universities. “Frankly, I think closing their embassy in the United States, kicking every Russian student out of the United States should be on the table. Vladimir Putin needs to know every day that he is in Ukraine, there are more severe options that could come, “Swalwell suggested a move that will make Russian students pay for the ‘crimes’ for their President. Upon this bizarre move, Ruben Gallego, a member of the US Congress commented on Twitter, “These Russian students are the sons and daughters of the richest Russians. A strong message can be sent by sending them home.”

This comes as a gory categorization of Russian students studying in US Universities as ‘children of the rich’ while many of them could be self-paying, hard-working individuals on a student loan. Not just limited to Russians, but this generalization of students from Asian and African countries has crossed limits in the racial premises of western societies.

Moving forward in the annals of universities in Europe, the news of ‘cancelling’ Russian novelist and thinker Fyodor Dostoevsky in the University of Milan came. Paolo Nori, a professor at Milan’s State University decided to skip his teaching of Fyodor Dostoevsky to avoid ‘controversy’ amidst the current geopolitical scenario. The anti-Russian sentiment has moved on from targeting individuals to cancelling Russian thought. Ironically, after the Communist totalitarian regime in Russia discarded Dostoevsky for his pro-Tsarist stances, it was in the ‘Western democracies’ later who then heralded him as an icon of conservatism. Dostoevsky’s fate has gifted him a second cancellation today – this time by the woke West, years after his demise.

The rising Anti-Russian sentiment has not restricted itself to the educational and intellectual circles but has spread like fire in the arenas of culture, entertainment and sports. OpIndia reported yesterday on how calls are been given to bar Russian players from international leagues – more so by the international sports bodies themselves. The institutionalised politicization of sports has ensured that Russia and its players are banned in the FIFA and UEFA football tournaments by football governing bodies in Europe.

Daniel Medvedev, the Russian tennis player who fared well at the ATP 500 tournament is on the verge of losing his position as world number one. The call given by the International Olympics Committee to ban Russian players in international tournaments serves the body’s political posturing well, while it mars the lives of individual players who toil a lot to achieve where they are. Adding to this, Russian players have also started losing their brand deals which were signed much before the Russian invasion. The U.S. life insurance company, MassMutual pulled out an ad featuring hockey team Washington Capitals’ Russian captain Alexander Ovechkin. 

After already cancelling Russian players in the Champions League men’s final and Formula One’s Russian Grand Prix, Russian singers have now to face the brunt in the Eurovision singing contest as well. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has happily announced that Russia would no longer be allowed to participate in a leading annual singing contest hosted in the continent. UK’s Cultural Secretary was glad on Twitter about the decision to take ‘action’ and ‘kicking Russia’ out.

Many concerts, performances of Russian artists, classical presentations including ballet performances have been cancelled en masse in Europe while taking political stances against the state of Russia. In Germany, The Munich Philharmonic – a classical band parted ways with its chief conductor Valery Gergiev over his alleged connections with Putin. Munich’s Mayor involved himself in issuing an ultimatum saying Gergiev would be ‘dismissed’ if ‘he failed to condemn Putin’s actions by Monday’. The case looks like a direct threat to an individual over his refusal to speak on a particular issue after characterising him based on his nationality.

Film companies including Warner Bros, Disney and Sony Pictures have halted the release of their films in Russian cinemas. Going ahead, The Ukrainian Film Academy has called for an international boycott of Russian cinema, including a ban on Russian films at international film festivals.

Gone are the days when ambassadors to a certain nation were sacked to send a political message to enemy countries. The woke world principles itself of making ordinary citizens ‘ambassadors’ for the acts of respective governments in their countries. When group blaming has become the norm, apart from the political and strategic isolation, the cultural, intellectual and societal boycotting attacks the individual more so than their leaders. While the Capitalist Hegemony of the West once sanctioned its Soviet counterpart, ordinary Russians have become part of this in the 21st century.

The Ukraine-Russia crisis has resulted in Xenophobia against Russia of the worst kind. It is an antidote to the idea of ‘solidarity’ where one group is hailed, and the other is demoralised while global leaders continue to solve the geopolitical puzzle.

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Suyash Sherekar
Suyash Sherekar
Writer, Architect. Negotiating the Present as a Journalist and the Past as a Historical Researcher. News Geek. Writes on Politics and Policy, Design, Culture and Media.

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