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Debora Weiss: You are an author of a reasonably large number of studies on xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. Could you please assess the current situation in this area, including East European countries?

Oleg Kozerod: - Racism is one of the most burning issues for Eastern European societies. Due to various reasons which are specific for each state in the region, this topic is particularly pointed in the mentioned countries. It’s explained by a range of prejudices in these societies, younger generation education gaps, and a lack of political will to combat racism. Many former USSR states face serious ideology troubles; their population does not know what ideas are the best to follow, why and whom to fight with. This leads to creation of public organizations and parties confessing racism and drawing population into their “struggle against the world evil”.


Weiss: - For a long time the UK has been running discussions on the scale of xenophobia and anti-Semitism in such countries as Poland and Ukraine. Do you think Ukraine has succeeded in overcoming racism?

Kozerod: - Angry letters from the foreign affairs ministers and politicians from these countries which were based on investigations of BBC reporters are well known to those who follow this topic. In my opinion, this issue got a completely wrong interpretation among the elites in East European states and, as a result, the response was inadequate. What happened in fact? BBC reporter arrived at the Kharkiv stadium (Ukraine) where he just wanted to make footage on the city’s preparation to the UEFA Cup. What did he see while filming? Local racists on the rostrum were beating the Indian or Pakistani students. In fact, the police did not interfere with the process and took no steps after the incident. Injured students commented on this egregious case recorded by BBC reporters. When this footage was watched by the footballer Sol Campbell, he said it was better to avoid visiting this country. Feedback of the national authorities was quite weird; they began to boil over “creation of Ukraine’s negative image abroad”. And they did it instead of just finding those who are responsible for this case in Kharkiv, punishing them in some way, and announcing this to the whole Europe. This is what the authorities of any country would do when finding out about any barbarous conduct from their or foreign reporters. Apparently, this is not yet the behavior followed in Ukraine.


Weiss: - Is there any racism observed in East European countries, in particular, Ukraine?

Kozerod: - Yes, unfortunately. Besides, it’s seen with the naked eye. You can easily meet racists in public places, among your neighbors or even close friends.

Weiss: - Fortunately, the racism issue is not so widespread in other regions of the world, in particular, in the developing countries of the East. By the way, how do you assess the Islamic Revolution development process, in particular, recent events in Syria?

Kozerod: - We see the whole international army acting during the Arab Spring in the North Africa and Middle East states. It aims to overthrow, as they believe, the outdated totalitarian regimes. For me it’s an open issue how fast this total revolution will cross the frontier of the former USSR.



Weiss: - Do the revolutions and the islamists’ rise to power encourage the terroristic spirit in the Muslim world countries? Should we be afraid of these processes? Or those wonderful steps are bespeaking of the democracy dawn in new regions, and all their criticisms are nothing but islamophobia, aren’t they?

Kozerod: - It’s normal that representatives of the western society are criticizing changes taking place in the Muslim world. I would call this phenomenon as the Islam fear. It’s quite a normal reaction of the civilized society treating some ideologies and trends, representatives of which incline to organize terrorist attacks, with some caution. It’s an open issue whether the democratic societies will be established in place of totalitarian regimes (photo by clinsdh).

Weiss: - Thank you for the interview.

Kozerod: - Thank you.