January 01, 2003

The Face of Russian Political Correctness



The Face of Russian Political Correctness

Some might say that “Russian political correctness” is an oxymoron. Nothing could be further from the truth. Russians have simply chosen a “unique path” to politically correctness. 

This is best demonstrated by a popular joke. Russia’s Tatars wrote a letter to Stalin complaining that the proverb Незваный гость хуже татарина (An uninvited guest is worse than a Tatar) was offensive to their sense of national pride. Stalin thought the matter over and announced that the proverb would be revised to Незваный гость лучше татарина (An uninvited guest is better than a Tatar).

The expression лицо кавказской национальности (a person of Caucasian nationality) was probably a similarly awkward attempt to be politically correct. It first appeared in police blotters in the early nineties, in reference to persons from the Northern Caucasus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Journalists adopted the term, perhaps trying to avoid specificity about citizenship, while at the same time identifying perpetrators as “others” or “outsiders.” The word proved extremely useful and quickly infiltrated our daily speech. 


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