Several times during the Orange Revolution, I saw the words "Skinheads for Yushchenko" written in orange on the walls of Khreshchatyk buildings. My friend and I even tried to call Yushchenko's headquarters once, but it was busy for too long and we gave up. I didn't think the slogans, no matter how disgusting, were capable of tarnishing Yushchenko's reputation in any way (even though they looked like deliberate attempts to) - they were as harmless politically as announcing that in the crowd of a few hundred thousand wonderful people there was a bunch of assholes who happened to support Yushchenko, not Yanukovych. Of course, there were assholes at Maidan, and maybe some of them were skinheads - without it, the whole thing would've looked artificial.
But I felt a lot more uncomfortable seeing the skinheads' slogans in Kyiv because they reminded me of St. Petersburg. There, every once in while, a crowd of drunk animals would kill someone looking non-Slavic: a Vietnamese foreign student, an Azeri gastarbeiter, a 9-year-old Tajik girl. The girl was killed almost across the street from where we lived - and I'm still wondering what you have to do to your son for him to go out, get drunk, stab a black-haired child to death and then continue considering himself a man, not a little stinking piece of shit. And all the swastikas on the walls. And Hitler's birthday - I learned the date here in Moscow, not in St. Pete, because the police used to cordon off Moscow's center on April 20, to prevent the skins from making a really unignorable mess of a celebration.
In Kyiv, I was so proud of our young people - they made it all happen, and not a single person was killed. Not a single one. Amazing. Impossible to imagine something like this happening in Russia.
But it doesn't mean we don't have our own shit, including skinheads. And it's so sad.
Here's an English-language account of what happened to a black USAID employee yesterday, in Kyiv (from the Washington Times, via Registan.net):
A black American diplomat yesterday said he was severely beaten by a white thugs in the Ukrainian capital in an unusual racial attack in a country still celebrating its newly won democratic freedoms.
Robert Simmons, who serves with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Uzbekistan, said the attack occurred Saturday night, as he was walking along a street with friends during a visit to Kiev. He told the Associated Press that he was beaten by more than a dozen men who had shaved heads and wore combat boots.
"I was attacked because I am African American. They did not touch my friends who were there with me, but were not black," he told an AP reporter in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.
"They beat me in turns. It looked like training for them."
Police arrived after the attack by the skinheads, and the U.S. Embassy in Kiev said it will insist that the Ukrainian authorities find the assailants.
A spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington said such attacks are rare.
"It is not common in Ukraine. We have a very friendly atmosphere for all foreign nationals," said Iryna Bezverkha.
Ukrainians are working hard to improve their country's government and human rights record after the December pro-democracy protests led to the election of reformist President Viktor Yushchenko.
In November, the U.S. Embassy warned of "racially motivated incidents against non-Caucasian foreigners, including American citizens of African and Asian descent."
The embassy also said that blacks and Asians "may be subject to various types of harassment, such as being stopped on the street by both civilians and law enforcement officials."