Thursday, April 19, 2007

Clockwork Orange

I've never seen the movie, but I recently read the book for the first time (in English). During the same week, my host brother discovered the book and read it (in Russian). Late one night at the dinner table, we realized we'd both just completed it and fell into an intense discussion.

He was amazed that Anthony Burgess had so clearly foreseen and aptly described what is now a serious problem in Russia - skinheads. The story could fit a description of senseless group violence in any country. However, the slang Burgess invents in the book is based on the transliteration of Russian. It was a little odd for me, reading late one night in my apartment, to open the book and see Russian words staring back at me in Latin script.

Russia can be generally hostile towards anyone who isn't white. A few semesters back, one of the teachers here (a woman) was part Italian. During her first semester, if I have my history straight, she was stopped twice by the police and actually detained at the police station at one point because they thought she was a Chechen terrorist photographing the marketplace. She left Russia earlier than planned.

Skinheads feed on this type of mentality and target "outsiders" to be killed.

The student attack described in the news clip below happened in Sept 06 to someone studying in my friend's class at St. Petersburg State University:

"On a Sunday night at 9:00 pm, an Asian-American student began walking home from an internet café on Nevsky Prospect. While walking, the student noticed a group of four young men behind him. Out of concern, and because he was still on a street full of people and cafés, the student stepped to the side and let the group pass by. All of the men where in their early twenties and were dressed in normal street clothes and none had shaven heads. Once the group passed, the student began to walk again. The group looked back from time to time. Once the student entered the first street without cafés or Kiosks, three or four more youths arrived and the two groups eventually sandwiched the student. Luckily, the student happened to be at his front door when this occurred and as he had a keypad lock, was able to enter swiftly. As he rushed inside the door, one youth jabbed an 8-inch kitchen knife at the student's throat, missing and hitting his hooded sweatshirt. The student was able to push closed the door and enter his apartment safely."

I have another friend who is a bit leery of the metro station at Nevsky prospect since a few years ago, his friend (Middle Eastern) was killed when a group of skinheads pushed him onto the tracks of an oncoming train.

Here are a few notes from the St. Petersburg Times: "In 2004 a Syrian student was pushed to his death under a metro train and a Vietnamese student bled to death, after being stabbed 37 times. The same year, the ethnologist Nikolai Girenko was also murdered in St Petersburg. In April, Lamzar Samba, a communications student from Senegal, was leaving a nightclub with a group of friends when he was shot dead in an alley. There was a swastika on the gun."

In an interview, one Congolese student explained "My friend, Roland Eposeka, who came from Congo like me, was murdered six months ago. He was studying forestry. He was on his own, just going to the local shop, when four youths fell on him and knifed him. The police are indifferent, at best. There is more law and order in Brazzaville than here."

And that's just a small sampling.

This month, like in many other years, several Moscow universities have ordered foreign students to stay in their dorms for the next 3 days because of concerns about ethnic violence before Hitler's birthday weekend. These restrictions are explained as a "fire drill".

Now, skinheads have started to turn on anyone who is "different", including fellow Russians. Students belonging to other subcultures - punks, goths, etc. are also being attacked.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember reading Clockwork Orange and being highly excited I knew he was using the Russian word for milk :) I liked the book better than the movie, although there are some cool scenes.. (can't remember which class that was English elective, I think :))

6:04 AM  
Blogger David Aames said...

As with everywhere the problem is disaffected young males. It's the same with terrorism, shooting up schools, most crimes. Societies the world over have simply stopped integrating young males into the wider social matrix. Marriage used to be the most effective means of doing this, but now that avg age of marriage has risen to like 30 or so, there is an extra ten year period in which young males can wreak havoc.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Wow... That is crazy.

7:59 AM  

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