Not even having noticed, on March21 Ukraine celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws.

Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. All manifestations and practices of racial, religious and national hatred were recognized as violations human rights and a crime against human dignity. The UN admits that discrimination is a serious obstacle for economic and social development, as well as for international cooperation and peace.

Young independent state

In Ukraine, the matter of racial discrimination was brought up on the eve of Euro-2012, when BBC channel broadcast a film about racial discrimination in Ukraine, scaring many European fans. After the championship, the myth was dispelled and the incident was forgotten. The problem, however, remained.

As ForUm learned from the International organization for migration, in 2012 the Diversity Initiative (network of public organizations, coordinated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for refugees and International organization for migration) received reports on 18 cases of violent manifestation of racial discrimination. 19 victims included seven international students from Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Guinea, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and six citizens of Ukraine, including a Crimean Tatar and representatives of Jewish community.

The usual targets of attacks are natives of Africa. Violent manifestation of racial discrimination was registered in seven cities of Ukraine: Kyiv (6), Kharkiv (5), Rivne (2), Beregovo (2), Ternopil (1), Luhanks (1), Odessa (1). "The monitoring data is not full and does not reflect the overall situation in Ukraine, because not all victims report the attacks and cases do not get registered by law enforcements and public organizations," press secretary of the International organization for migration Varvara Zhluktenko said.

According to the data of the Interior Ministry, there were eight racial crimes registered in 2010 and only five of them solved. In 2011 there were three similar crimes registered and four cases solved (taking into account similar crimes of previous years). Last year the police learned about four more racial cases and solved five. Thus, the Interior Ministry states that the level of intolerance to other nations has decreased in Ukraine.

Discrimination of Ukrainians

While they speak a lot about discrimination of foreign nationalities in Ukraine, the cases of discrimination of Ukrainians are avoided for some reasons. Europe treats us as the second-class nation, and even within the country we do not agree. The language issue splits the west and east parts of Ukraine causing fights, quarrels and confrontations just because of what language some of us speak and where some of us were born. 

No matter how hard experts try to persuade that the language issue is an artificially created problem by politicians, the two camps continue the war. Take for example, the latest conflict on this issue - a people's deputy attacked a cashier in a supermarket just because the latter answered in Russian. The MP told the police, called at the scene, that answering in Russian the cashier insulted his human dignity.  In turn, social psychologist Oleh Pokalchuk believes that the language issue causes such problems because of mass media attention. He believes journalists have made a mountain out of a molehill and now the society is boiling.

Europe, however, does not care what language we speak. According to a 21-year-old student Anastasia, who lives and studies in Paris for over a year, Europeans still consider Ukraine as a part of Russia. "Every time I have to explain that Ukraine is a separate and independent state, but they do not listen. Eastern Europe for them is still a strange exotic place, inhabited by poor and ignorant people. That's why they think we can work only as servants," Anastasia says.

According to Oleh Pokalchuk, such attitude is supported by the modern labor market. "We get what there is on the illegal labor market. There is a demand for sewers, cleaners, nurses or those who provide sex-services, and Ukrainians go for it. But in general Europeans treat us disabled or impaired kind, which requires cure and food but still has a hope for recovery," he notes.
In Russia the situation differs. Andriy, 38, who went to Moscow to earn some money, told us that Russian employers consider Ukrainians as workaholics and are happy to take us as workers, while regular people do not like us much.  "There was an incident, when we were waiting for our turn near a recruiting agency in Moscow. A passing by couple with a dog started to play with their pet throwing the ball into us for the dog to catch it. When we rebelled against it, they said: "How are you, strangers, are better than dogs?" Moreover, Russian colleagues also did not show much respect. I wanted to take the job of a trolleybus driver. And you know what, Russian drivers from our park told the traffic police what routes Ukrainians drivers go for officers to fine us and earn some cash. Russians also gave us the oldest busses I've ever seen. They knew we would fix them at our costs. As for a vacation leave, Ukrainians are the last to get it," Andriy told ForUm.

In traditional psychology, racial discrimination is determined as a person's inability to comprehend his life rationally. Scientists believe that racism is a regular manifestation of the competition for social status. Speaking about representatives of neo-Nazi organizations, it is realization of their own fears and issues.

All world organizations, including the United Nations, call to stop racial discrimination. All developed countries, including Ukraine, have adopted relevant legislative acts condemning manifestation of racism. But how can a legislative act forbid someone to feel hatred for those who are just different from us? Even animals do not kill each other just because of differences. A man is a rational creature, and he has a soul and kind heart, which enable him to do golden deeds as well to take small steps towards others of his kind.

Tetyana Hryhoriyeva


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