The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Programcondemns the acts of harassment, violence, and killings impacting Asian Americans since the outbreak of COVID-19, and, most recently, the tragic Atlanta shootings of March 16. We affirm our support for the struggle against systemic racism affecting the lives of Asian Americans, Black Americans, and all other communities who have historically suffered, and continue to suffer, in inequity.
The fight against anti-Asian racism and hate crimes currently sweeping the U.S. has deep relevance for those of us studying and teaching Russian literature, history, and culture. Similar to the U.S., Russia has a long history of interactions with diverse groups of Asian peoples, communities, and cultures. Russia’s centuries-old engagement with Asia enriched and diversified Russian culture, but Russian imperialism was imposed with a level of violence that Russians have seldom acknowledged and addressed. The Soviet era subjected Asians to violent transformative projects and destroyed traditional cultures, though it also brought new opportunities to Asian and other minority groups. Racial prejudice against Asians has surfaced in Russian culture at various moments, from the “yellow peril” of the 1900s or “traitor nation” of the 1940s to present-day racist stereotypes about Central Asian workers in Russian cities.
In addition to doing our utmost to support our students’ and communities’ struggle against racial injustice, we strive to make issues in Russian studies relevant and meaningful to the world we live in. Examining the histories of racism, exclusion, and oppression in Russian contexts and placing them in dialogue with parallel conditions in America today helps us see that racism is a global issue. The importance of understanding the different histories of communities and of establishing solidarity between different groups cannot be overstated. As scholars of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and members of the community, we remain ever committed to the work of promoting tolerance and understanding among all races and cultures.