Diversity Guide to Russia’s 2018 World Cup: Moscow in focus. Safety tips, LGBT+, racism etc

12 Jun 2018
PBM

Concern that the 2018 World Cup in Russia might be spoiled by hate crimes, motivated by racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other discrimination, caused the Fare network to issue a  Diversity Guide to Russia. Here follows extracts from the the guide on Moscow which is positioned as the mainstay of the 2018 World Cup.

 Introduction

Moscow is one of the largest cities in the world, comparable in size to London, Tokyo or Mexico City. A cosmopolitan city that never sleeps, featuring a fascinating ethnic and cultural diversity, imperial grandeur and luxury in the centre, and gloomy residential areas in the suburbs. The dynamism of Moscow City gives rise to the relaxing vibes of Gorky Park, the grandeur of the Bolshoi Theatre to the pleasant modern art scene at the Red October factory.

Safety

For accommodation, the safest areas are within the Garden ring. Avoid going to remote districts beyond the ring after dark. The exceptions are Izmaylovo and VDNH districts that are considered safe with traditional tourist accommodation clusters and infrastructure.

Organised attacks on visiting fans by Russian hooligan groups are less likely partly due to the preventive work undertaken by the security services, but the potential for spontaneous violence is still present especially if political issues or bad results of the Russian team are involved.

Some Russian fans might perceive loud chanting and excessive drinking in public as an insult or provocation, especially if any reference to Russia is involved or the Russian team performs poorly in the competition. The threshold between verbal and physical confrontation is very slim in Russia and people might feel the violent reaction to be legitimate due to being ‘provoked’.

Discrimination in Moscow

Despite the apparent hardships, Moscow is still a magnet for migrants seeking new opportunities. Many choose to stay and navigate their way around the difficulties.

People from Central Asia and North Caucasus are the most frequent victims of hate crimes, racial profiling and extortion by the police, something many sadly accept as a given in Moscow.

Discrimination in the rental market in Moscow is another largely accepted evil. A recent study of Moscow real estate ads found that 16% contain a ‘Slavic only’ clause. Due to this and Moscow city’s high rental prices (comparable with London or New York), migrants are pushed out to the most depressing and challenging districts. Such districts include the southern, south-eastern and north-eastern parts of Moscow – Biryulevo, Kapotnya, Tekstilshchiki, Lyublino, Lyubertsy, Bibirevo, Sviblovo, Vykhino.

The African communities in Moscow and Russia at large are not well organised, with their countries’ embassies often largely powerless or unwilling to help them. A very rough estimate suggests that around 100,000 people of black African descent live in Russia. Many face the harsh realities of Russia’s very strict migration legislation.

Many Africans came as students during the Soviet period and stayed, their children have been born or joined them in Russia. There are also new migrants who arrived after the 1990s, some of whom were lured into coming to Russia having paid agents to obtain visas and promised employment contracts, including with football clubs, only to discover they have been victims of fraud, trapped with no legal status, no possibility of legal work and facing daily harassment and racism.

Using the magnificent Russian metro system to commute anywhere has become a risk for many due to police profiling and extortion. There is no data to quantify the profiling, but a study by the Jurix legal organisation suggests that non-Slavic looking people are 22 times more likely to be stopped by police in Moscow. Many newly-arrived Africans end up with the only jobs available for them – giving out leaflets at transport intersections advertising fast food restaurants.

Advice to ethnic minorities in Moscow

Racial profiling by police is also a very serious problem in Moscow. You are advised to carry your ID and city registration documents at all times.

Hate crimes against ethnic minorities in Moscow are in decline in recent years but still represent a threat outside central Moscow. Don’t walk alone at night in remote areas outside the Garden ring and use only authorized taxi apps. Never take a taxi by waving a hand from the street.

Safety of LGBT+ fans

It is difficult to predict how people and the police in Moscow will behave during the World Cup, but the Russian LGBT+ community in daily life is limited in the rights available to publicly express their feelings, including walking or holding hands (more relevant for male couples as female couples holding hands attract less attention) or any other expressions of feelings that would be acceptable in public by heterosexual couples. This can lead to harassment or aggression against gays and lesbians.

Despite assurances by FIFA and the LOC that LGBT+ people will be protected along with everyone else, usually in Russia the police may react to seeing a rainbow flag (for example, on the shoulders or on a belt). Less noticeable rainbow symbols (ribbon, bracelet or pin) most likely will not attract police attention.

The ‘anti-gay legislation’ and climate it has created in society has empowered many aggressively homophobic people to simply approach those who they think look gay or display any symbols of the LGBT+ movement and physically attack them, facing little to no risk of being confronted by the police or prosecuted.

Homophobic vigilante and Cossack groups operate in Moscow and could potentially threaten LGBT+ fans. A grocery store owned by Russian millionaire Herman Sterligov called ‘Bread and Salt’ is located at one of Moscow’s central streets. The store is known for putting signs in the store windows reading ‘No f*ggots allowed’, later changed to ‘No sodomites allowed’ after public pressure.

In public places and at public events, it is always worthwhile assessing the sensibilities of people you are talking to. It is not advised to raise political issues or issues of human rights violations in Russia. Most likely your Russian interlocutor will take it personally or as a criticism. If you want to discuss the issue of equality and at the same time learn the opinion of your interlocutor, it’s better to discuss the experience of your own country.

LGBT+ friendly places

Moscow has a small gay scene which survives comfortably alongside the wider picture of intolerance. The places listed below come recommended as safe and interesting. Take the usual precautions when here.

LGBT+ community organisations

There are several LGBT + organisations in Moscow that carry out activities for the community: campaigns, HIV/AIDS prevention, sports events, psychological and legal support. A community centre for LGBT+ people is functioning in Moscow.

info@probonomatters.co.za

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