‘I’ve had a death threat in my DMs’: Edi’s Russian Speaking Society speaks out on Russophobia
There have been attempts to ‘cancel’ the society altogether
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, The Russian Speaking Society, which aims to support and unite all Russian-speaking students, made a public anti-War statement condemning the actions of the Russian government.
Despite this, Russian and Russian-speaking Edinburgh students say they have experienced severe Russophobia. This is defined as actions that reflect an irrational sense of hatred or fear towards Russians and it is a form of discrimination.
Katerina* is actively involved in The Russian Speaking Society. She told The Edinburgh Tab about her experiences with Russophobia, which she says have spiked significantly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
She said: “I know many people who have received very negative comments – I received an actual death threat in my Instagram DMs. This person was [not an Edinburgh student, but] he was actively involved in student life here. I reported him to EUSA (Edinburgh’s Student Association), who weren’t particularly helpful.”
“As the year has gone on, awful comments have been made about me and to me. I know that petitions were going around to cancel the Russian Speaking Society as a whole. I’m aware that some societies even contacted EUSA to attempt to make this happen. EUSA did make us aware that this was happening but did very little to stop it. None of these other societies have actually come to talk to us directly. Even at the society fair, people would laugh at us as they walked past.”
Maxim* echoed these experiences, saying: “Whenever we hosted an event, numerous complaints were made to EUSA over fears that our events (which include quizzes and kvas tasting) had political agendas. For example, somebody googled the legal address of the company that organised our Russian tea ceremony event and traced it to Crimea. They then argued that because we called it a Russian tea ceremony and not Crimean that we must therefore support the annexation of Crimea.
“EUSA doesn’t even bother to talk to us about occurrences like this because they happen so often. Whatever we do is scrutinised.”
The University of Edinburgh has made it clear that it will support its Ukrainian students – but students say there has been no official statement which protects the welfare and safety of the Russian students.
UCL’s student association, for example, unlike Edinburgh, has made an official public statement that ensured that the mistreatment of Russian students has “no place in our community”. UCL has made a point of saying that Russian students should not be associated with the Russian government, which is something Russian-speaking students at Edinburgh are crying out for:
The Russian Speaking Society say they have deliberately avoided posting an official post or list of committee members over fears of similar threats or comments being made. However, even when they are actively involved in anti-war or pro-Ukraine protests, they claim they are still being poorly treated and deemed as pro-war and pro-Putin.
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “The University is committed to promoting a positive culture that celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness. Our Code of Student Conduct sets out clear expectations of behaviour. We don’t tolerate any form of bullying or harassment and encourage anyone who has been affected to seek support. Conversations will be handled with due care and confidentiality, and our staff will work with you to find the appropriate means of safety and redress.”
More information on how to find support can be found on the Student Equality and Diversity pages. The University’s statement on Ukraine, which highlights the importance of respect across our community, can be found here.
EUSA was also contacted for comment.
*All names have been changed over safety concerns.