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Colleagues Mourn Death Of Russian Antiracism Campaigner Galina Kozhevnikova

Galina Kozhevnikova, shown here in a 2007 photo, "was a strong defender of all the foreign migrants and nonmigrants...who were victims of racial attacks."
Galina Kozhevnikova, shown here in a 2007 photo, "was a strong defender of all the foreign migrants and nonmigrants...who were victims of racial attacks."
By RFE/RL
MOSCOW -- In a country with few prominent voices speaking out against racism, Galina Kozhevnikova was a determined exception.

Kozhevnikova was the deputy director of SOVA, a Moscow-based group founded in 2002 that has proven one of the few reliable sources of information on xenophobia and racist attacks in post-Soviet Russia.

She died on March 5 from an unspecified illness at the age of 36.

Historian Vyacheslav Likhachev, a specialist on nationalist movements, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that Kozhevnikova was "an honest, professional, and very good person."

"It was clear that this was work, but for her it was also very personal. It was more a matter of antifascist activism than plain professional motivation," Likhachev says. "It's known that she was received serious personal threats from neo-Nazis. But she understood the kind of sphere she was working in. She understood the ways in which it could be dangerous. And for her it was a conscious choice. It was her struggle, so to speak."

Russia has been plagued by growing racism in the years since the Soviet collapse, as social and economic uncertainty have fed both labor migration and a rising resentment of non-Slavic newcomers.

Outspoken Critic

A number of patriotic, nationalist, and neo-Nazi groups have sprung up in recent years, the most extreme of which have sought to intimidate non-Slav residents and labor migrants, including many Central Asians and other former Soviet nationals.

It's actually pretty difficult to imagine how we're going to live without Galya.
Hundreds of migrants and other non-Russian residents are beaten and killed each year in Russia. SOVA was one of the few organizations to publish statistics on such attacks and to offer counsel to their victims.

Kozhevnikova was an outspoken critic of ultranationalist trends in Russia. In an interview with RFE/RL following the January 2010 contract killing of human rights lawyer Sergei Markelov and a young journalist, Anastasia Baburova, Kozhevnikova said the rising power of the far right threatened the security of the entire country.

"The ultra-right has openly turned to antistate terror and direct terror and have set themselves the aim of destabilizing the situation in the country, creating an all-out panic with which they then aim to start a military coup," she said.

Tatyana Lokshina, the deputy director of the Moscow office of the watchdog group Human Rights Watch, told Interfax that Kozhevnikova the "No. 1 expert" on radical nationalism.

Kozhevnikova's death is being mourned by many members of Russia's diaspora community, who saw in her a valuable ally and defender of migrants' rights.

'Big Loss'

Abdullo Davlatov, who heads the Tajiks in Russia association, the largest Tajik-diaspora group in Russia, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that his community had lost a powerful protector.

"Her death is a big loss. She was a strong defender of all the foreign migrants and nonmigrants, including Tajiks, who were victims of racial attacks," Davlatov says. "Diaspora groups always claim that we are the ones defending our migrants, but I believe that Tajik migrants got more support from Galina than from all of us."

In a statement, SOVA said Kozhevnikova "kept working until the last moment," despite suffering from what they described as a "grave disease."

Her latest report, on racism and xenophobia in Russia in 2010, is expected to be published soon.

Natalya Taubina, who heads the Public Verdict rights foundation, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that she was a rigorous researcher who was deeply committed to fighting racism in her country.

"Galya was probably one of the very few experts in our country who understood this problem really well and could speak about it in a very professional and thoughtful way, without hysterics, and very convincingly," Taubina says. "I'm sure that she could prevail in a dispute with any opponent on issues related to xenophobia and ethnic hatred.

"It's actually pretty difficult to imagine how we're going to live without Galya," she adds.

written by Daisy Sindelar, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Russian and Tajik services
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Comments
     
by: Anatoli
March 06, 2011 21:33
She was one of the few who treated racism in Russia seriously and spoke directly about it without trying to make many concessions to nationalists. I'm afraid I don't know more people who could face racists in Russia like she did.

by: Liberte from: United States
March 07, 2011 12:38
Sad to hear about the death of someone so young, of course, but I do think her crusade was truly characteristic of the ongoing anti-White racism that dominates the Western world and exudes hegemony through every channel.

Hopefully nationalism will continue to grow in Russia and spread throughout Europe - perhaps even to the flabby US.

God Bless!

In Response

by: SK from: United States
March 08, 2011 23:53
@Liberte:
Nationalism is bad, my dear compatriot. FYI, nationalism is booming in Europe and thats how the spillover effect happened in Russia. What kind of nationalism in America are you talking about? Against blacks, hispanics? I am holding on to the uncensored version of this post of mine, but you are really ignorant and stupid, and because of racist jerks like you American nation is misrepresented in the world. Please, do me a favor, and refrain from posting, you are embarassing my nation.

by: Sergey from: Chicago, USA
March 07, 2011 19:11
It's a very big tragedy that this young and caring woman passing away. However, it is also important that human rights activists in both Russia and the West understand that if they want to retain credibility with general public, they should not be selective in their criticism of racial hatred.

Neo-Nazism and nazi-like skinhead gangs in Russia is a terrible tragedy for the country that lost tens of millions of its soldiers and civilians in World War II. However, there are also plenty of hateful intolerable activities among Muslim youth from Russian North Caucasus and migrant youth former Soviet Central Asia. Ignoring their outrageous attitudes toward women and Russian culture should not be tolerated either. Any form of physical violence toward people because of their color or appearance cannot be tolerated and Human/Civil rights activists if they want to be respected, must give a full account of ALL violent groups and gangs--not just groups by ethnic (or Euro) Russians.
In Response

by: Anatoli
March 09, 2011 11:59
It's embarrassing how rampant the racism and xenophobia are in Russia. Any criticism is met with "Russophobia" arguments and any proof of racial attacks are again countered with "we didn't invite them".

Galina was one of people who objectively criticised and published information about hate crimes in Russia. There is NOTHING russophobic about it and she made me proud.

Russia is going through the stages other countries have done a long time ago. Until my compatriots understand that there are criminals in every ethnicity and we should treat everyone equally, Russia may stay one of the most racist countries. Unfortunately. I am a patriot, I love Russia, Russians but I hate racism.

by: Nasir from: Xinjiang, China
March 08, 2011 12:50
Is this what a raging form of nationalism has brought Russia? I would like to ask what benefits nationalism has provided for humanity...
In Response

by: andrei from: USA
March 09, 2011 03:47
@ Nasir

Maybe Russian nationalism can save the country from rotting away. Like Russia is currently doing with high mortality rates, corruption, alcholism, rapidly shrinking ethnic russian population. Did you ever think about that?
In Response

by: Anatoli
March 09, 2011 12:02
Nationalism is doomed in the modern world, so will any country that takes it as a main ideology. Refer to history books on how ugly nationalism can get.

by: Nasir from: Xinjiang, China
March 10, 2011 10:01
Perhaps Nationalism could indeed ameliorate some of the situations that Russia now faces. It is not, however, a sustainable solution. Perhaps it is time to look past packaged ideologies when looking for a way to deal with problems. Why should a people be content to just "get by" when now would be an ideal time to try to learn from the nationalist mistakes made by many other countries.

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