Russia’s Caucasian Problem – and Ours

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Russia’s Krasnodar region will host the Winter Olympics in 2014 and governor Aleksandr Tkachev is already working on security. As Ellen Barry of the New York Times put it, Tkachev “has enlisted the area’s Cossacks as an auxiliary police force to prevent darker-skinned Muslims from the North Caucuses from moving there.” Apparently the ethnic Russians of Kasnodar don’t like Caucasians and consider them “outsiders,” most of the time.

“When Caucasians win three gold medals, they’re Russians,” noted state official Gadzhimet Safaraliyev. “But when they move somewhere, they are unwanted individuals.” Governor Tkachev doesn’t want them in Krasnodar, so he has given 1,000 Cossacks powers beyond those of the police. For their part, the Cossacks are already experienced in ethnic cleansing. They served as shock troops for the czars and seven years ago they reportedly drove out a local population of Meskhetian Turks.

The North Caucasians are Muslims but that is not likely the issue because Tkachev’s example was ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Whatever the motive, these events confirm that what passes for democracy in Russia is not exactly strong on freedom of movement. Imagine if David Cameron had deployed Gurkhas to keep the Welsh or Irish out of London during the Olympics on the grounds that the English consider them outsiders. But the Russians manage to get some things right.

They know that the only Caucasians are people from the actual Caucuses region. That is not the case in supposedly enlightened America. For example, if governor Tkachev moved to Los Angeles and managed to get arrested, the police would profile him as a “male Caucasian.”  So would government officials, university administrators and editorial writers, despite the obvious reality that governor Tkachev is not a Caucasian. Neither are millions of Americans of Swiss, Russian, British, Belgian, Polish, Latvian, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish or French descent, among others.

American misuse of Caucasian is longstanding and has served up fodder for satire. In Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 The Loved One, set in Los Angeles, Dennis Barlow is arranging a funeral for Sir Francis Hinsley and is asked if the deceased is Caucasian. “Certainly not,” a stunned Dennis replies. “He was purely English.” Even so, Caucasian duly became part of a politically correct classification system that makes no sense on any level.

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  • Alexander Gofen

    The author confuses purely linguistic and social issues.

    1) There exist a few internationally recognizable words jokingly considered "the enemies of an (inexperienced) translator". For example, the word "nationality" in Russian means "ethnicity". The same way the word "Caucasian" in English means simply a white race (having nothing to do with Caucasian territory or population).

    2) In Russian the term "Caucasian" is vaguely applied in exactly opposite sense – to distinguish racially non-white, or ethnically non-Slavic population. Both categories tend to be adherents of islam – and this is why Cossacks are commissioned to keep islam out of Krasnodar, and rightfully so.

    3) Similarly, America must establish forces too to keep islam out of America.

  • Alex

    Actually, Latino could include as well citizens of French ancestry as far as France is a latin country as well. To go deeper, Quebec could be part of Latin America as well.

    • oldtimer

      And if you want to go way back, the original Latino's were the Romans.

  • Bamaguje

    Mr Billingsley's deliberate attempt to muddle up race categorization is disingenuous.
    "Caucasian" is not the first word that can have several meanings depending on context.

    In common usage around most parts of the world, Caucasian refers to one of the three major human races – Mongoloid & Negroid are the other two.
    This is not a politically correct leftist classification but a scientific one recognized by anthropologists.

    "Caucasian" generally refers to a specific group of people with distinct physical features indigenous to Europe, Middle east and the Indian subcontinent.
    "White" on the other hand mainly refers to Caucasians of European origin.

    That the word "Caucasian" may have etymological roots in the Russian Caucasus does not preclude its more widely understood usage.
    It would not be the first time a commonly used word has etymological roots at variance with its original meaning.

    Having said that, I agree that commonly used racial classfication is sometimes imprecise. For instance in UK, "Asian" in Equal Opportunity forms usually refers to people from the Indian subcontinent. Chinese are classified differently.

  • Reuben

    Whites of European descent are named "caucasian" because when historians ask then question of "how was Europe populated" they have concluded that most of our ancestors arrived into Europe mostly when multitudes of them arrived into Europe through a narrow pass in the Caucasus mountains. They were first placed near by the southern border of the dead sea and eventually migrated into Europe via the Caucasus mountain range, hence "Caucasians". ….And this "coincidentally" occurred around the same time that the "lost 10 tribes of Israel" (who's northern kingdom was sacked by the Assyrians) "disappeared" off the history pages…..hmmmm…i wonder where they went?

  • Josh

    But we know historians were wrong from DNA testing.

    The US government considers race self-determined. But the majority of people have no education in the complexities of European history,let alone their own heritage.How many Americans can tell you the migrations of their ancestors past 3 generations back ?

    The 3 race classification comes from forensic anthropology and is used to separate the 3 distinct bone structures .Skin color ID is not a common option they have.

    US racial identities are useless . Claims of racism are more amusing than factual. Accusing someone of hating Obama for his race begs the question ,which 1/2 ? The use of the term race should be discontinued unless there is a comprehensive system created to classify and simplify the variables , such as : skin tone,nuclear and ancestral DNA,bone structure,ethnicity and religion .

    Religion would be for 1 religion only. Judaism . As male Jews have several identifiable haplotypes.
    Unfortunately this distinction angers many Jews who refuse to be considered an individual race.
    A bit odd if you look at the ancient DNA from remains found in the ME. It has established Jewish haplotypes in Israel ,Lebanon ,Syria ,Jordan and Egypt as old as 12,500 years . Interestingly King Tut was R1a – ancient Celt.Adolph Hitler was E1b1b – Jewish with African admixture .

  • Western Spirit

    Caucasian indicating white people is perfectly acceptable. What isn't acceptable is the way the politically correct use the classification to represent victims and oppressors.

    Human nature dictates a crossing over of groups. For over 300 years this intermingling has been occurring regularly slowly but surely. So the "purity" of any group is suspect rendering the victim, oppressor classification moot.

    The way to solve the victim, oppressor categories is to acknowledge this truth not exacerbate the problem the way political correctness is doing .

  • cynthia curran

    True, Mexicans and Cubans and Puero Ricians thing of themselves different. Mexicans and Puerto Ricians are poorer hence the support for the Democratic Party In fact, even among whites income has little impact on voting Republican or Democrratic. Dems are not doing better with the upper middle class and Republicans with Blue Collar whites. In Red States Republicans actually do better with upper middle class whites that vote. And Dems in Blue states actually do slightly better with lower income whites. It just poor White states like Kentucky and West Virginia that confused. the situation. Dems paint whites as lower income and only vote on the social issues is untrue. The wealthiest burbs in Texas voted Republican and even in a blue state like Calif Republicans do better among the better off in nice burbs in Orange and San Diego and the least best among whites in poor Humboldt county. Granted, their are rich liberal counties like Marin but people ignored that Romney will probably received over 60 percent of the white vote in Mission Viejo and only 45 percent of the vote in Humboldt.

  • Chiggles

    "Caucasus," not "Caucuses".

  • jppc

    USA needs to greatly reduce immigration, combined with tax incentives for middle class (mostly White) people to have more babies. Problem solved.

  • Iratus Vulgas

    One could argue that defining people according to race is in itself racist. For example, if I were to tell you I'm black (and by looking at me you could presume that I'm not), by what criteria can you prove that I'm not? In a legal sense, you can be any race you choose in the context of US law. Whenever I fill out a govt. form that includes an ethnic survey I always choose "two or more races." Although I'm sometimes undecided which two races I represent, I do like the flexibility.

  • Jeamar

    Well, do you think classifying people as black, brown, white, ivory, or cafe au lait would be a better system? Linguistic system is used also by linguists, but for general use it would be useless. Why should a democratic government need to classify its citizens to begin with.? Maybe just two classes would be enough–"us" and "them".

  • mlcblog

    I took this as kind of fun article. How can we possibly as people be serious about all this? I think we need some frivolity. Hope I didn't miss the author's point. He seemed to be poking fun yet making a point, kidding on the square.

  • Marvin E. Fox

    Great article! I don't think you will get the present day population of instant misnomers to give up easy misidentification for the vicissitudes of trying to actually get things right, but I thought you made a good try. If you have started a trend, maybe we will resurrect sex identification to replace gender. We might even find the actual definition of liberal and conservative to be helpful during political discussions. We could even raise to the height of forcing a standard official Democratic Party definition of their democracy from the Democrats; something that is so unlikely is probably way beyond any real expectation!
    Marvin E. Fox