Staunton, July 22 – Moscow often can count on receiving enormous credit when it stops doing something horrific, with many Western officials and commentators insisting that the fact that Russian officials have stopped doing this or that is much more important than that they did it in the first place.
Indeed, it often seems that Russian governments benefit from this form of “double standards” even more than anyone else, especially given the proclivity of the many in the West to insist on the need to focus on the future rather than the past and to ignore that past in the name of a better future.
In fact, many of them seem to sympathize with the words of a character in a "Krokodil" cartoon from just after Khrushchev delivered his secret speech about Stalin. In the cartoon, a pupil is shown complaining to his teacher about a low grade on a test. "After all," the Russian student complains, "I've admitted all my mistakes."
Nonetheless, when Russian officials do do the right thing, it needs to be recorded; and today, they have: The Russian Football League has stripped Olga Kuzkova of her title “Miss Charm” after it was discovered that her Internet page featured pro-Nazi pictures and comments (sport-express.ru/football/rfpl/news/898741/).
Sergey Cheban, the executive director of the Russian Football League, said that his organization found such “manifestations of fascism, nationalism and racism” unacceptable. But at the same time, he expressed sympathy for the situation that Kuzkova had landed herself in by her actions.
Despite stripping her of her title – and Cheban added that Kuzkova was prepared to give it up to avoid dishonoring the league – the director asked that everyone show “understanding about this situation and individual. In our youth,” he said, “we all have committed mistakes … Who is not without sin?”
“Some errors are easier to correct; others are more difficult,” Cheban continued, adding that he “will be glad if all this history helps Olya is able to come to an understanding about her views on life.”
When Kuzkova was given the title, this sparked outrage among many in the Russian blogosphere. (For background on this, see ‘There is No Racism in Russia Just as There was No Sex in the USSR’ at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/07/there-is-no-racism-in-russia-just-as.html.)
And one can only praise the Russian football league for responding promptly and correctly in this case. But at the same time, this response should not obscure three other things. First, it should not be forgotten that the league gave out this award without checking and to someone who clearly has unacceptable views on various minorities.
Second, the league has not taken the necessary steps to discipline Russian fans who have become notorious for their racist and xenophobic language and actions. Instead, in almost all cases, the league has defended its fans and unconscionably sought to shift the blame to the objects of their abuse.
And third, there is the strong suspicion that the league acted the way it did in this case because of popular reaction and the fears of some in Moscow that by giving a Nazi sympathizer the title of “Miss Charm,” the league would have provided yet more ammunition to those who believe that Russia should be stripped of the right to host the World Cup in 2018.