Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Russian Community & Politics

In the last ten years, the Russian-speaking community in New York made huge progress on the political scene. There were numerous state and city races where the votes of the Russian-community made a difference, especially in the close elections. Today, we have Russian-speaking Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, Democratic District Leader Mark Davidovich and Republican District Leader Boris Pincus. I estimate that the number of Russian-speaking voters in the general election is about 80,000 citywide while the total number of Russian speakers in New York City is about 350,000.

Still, old habits prevail. Russian-speaking citizens are not very sophisticated and are heavily influenced by the opinions of Russian media outlets. These supposedly "credible" sources of information are easily swayed by campaign ads, gifts to reporters, and even free dinners disguised as press conferences. Non-for-profit community organizations are neither non-partisan nor non-political. The leaders of the largest groups usually endorse candidates in a very public way.

Till this day, plenty of Russian immigrants have no idea how to register to vote, ignore the importance of party affiliation, misunderstand district lines, confuse city/state/federal [political] offices, and underestimate the number of non-Russians in their neighborhoods. This produces chaotic events at Election Day, when some Russian seniors grow frustrated and even furious when poll workers turn them away from the voting booth.

The majority of popular journalists in the Russian-language media are very conservative, and hate the idea of being "politically correct". They often use terms like, "lazy n******", "sleazy gays", " Barack Husseinovich Obama" , and " smelly Muslims". If any of their offensive rhetoric would ever reach English media outlets, they would be instantly fired.

The Russian community is very close-knit. Our community still largely stays within itself, and rarely involves itself with other ethnic & racial groups. We often feel ostracized unfairly by the English language media and by the mainstream American community -- but this is our own fault!

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