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February 26, 2013


In her book about the war in Chechnya Crying Wolf, Vanora Bennett describes the moment when, coming back to Moscow to her Russian journalist friends and colleagues, after a dangerous stint in the Caucasus, she found herself confronted with the Russians‘ instinctive arrogance and superiority complex, bordering on racism, which she hadn‘t remarked before that (the term ”Blacks“ in her text refers to the fact that Russians call anyone from the Caucasus черная жопа, ”black ass“, “black arse”):

”Russians were unpleasantly surprised to discover that the blacks could be cheeky enough to hold up an unflattering mirror to them. Two Moscow journalist friends of mine were poking fun at the wild macho Georgians, and laughing even more at the Abkhaz, for in their language almost every word begins with the letter ’a‘ (A-bomba! A-respublika!… and they collapsed into giggles [actually a- is the Abkhaz article, like the English the, D.A.]

”Did you know that Georgians have a generic nickname for Russians?“ I said, meanly trying to burst their bubble. ”They call you skapkas.“

”Even in the south, where the cold is not intense, Russians spend their winters with their heads inside their big fur hats, or shapkas. Russians hold the shapka in almost religious awe, in spite of the fact that it wrecks destruction on the Russian women‘s elaborate hairdos. Without it it is deemed impossible to survive a Russian winter, and some Russians, men and women, simply keep their shapkas even indoors, until the spring. Georgians and the other Caucasians find this very funny.

They paused. They were both visibly discomfited.

”What, Georgians make fun of us?“, said Andrei.

Skapkas?“ said Lena. ”Us? They call us names?!…“

She shook her head. They exchanged glances. They were taken aback.

”I didn‘t know that“, she said. ”How rude of them!


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