By Rachel Pistol Research Fellow, European Holocaust Research Infrastructure, King's College London writing for the conversation
The invasion of Russia by Ukraine has sparked outrage and the desire to show support for the Ukrainian citizens. Many people want to help, yet as they watch the might of the Russian army rampage through Ukraine, causing death and suffering, they feel powerless to effect change. It's this feeling of powerlessness that unfortunately results in turning their anger toward anything Russians, even those who have nothing to do with Putin.
From the article,
Military anthems by long-dead Russian composers have been stricken off concert playlists. Russian cats have been banned from international feline exhibitions. Bar owners in the US have dumped Stoli Vodka, which is actually made in Latvia by a company headquartered in Luxembourg. Russian restaurants having their premises vandalised. Both then and now, however, there is confusion over which businesses genuinely belong to “the enemy”. And no consideration is given to the suffering caused to innocent civilians caught in the crossfire between their native country and their country of domicile. This begs the question of what these actions seek to achieve and who is being impacted. This is merely people’s continued manifestation of xenophobic bullying based on a desire to “do” something but with little understanding of how best to direct their anger. More concerning are the calls for deporting ordinary Russian citizens from western countries, even if they are opposed to Putin and his regime. In scenes that directly echo the treatment of so-called “enemy aliens” during the second world war, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Californian congressman Eric Salwell suggested “kicking every Russian student out of the United States” as a means of retaliating against Putin. In the UK, the MP for North Thanet in Kent, Roger Gale, went even further. He called for all Russians to be “sent home”, even though he acknowledged that many “good and honest” people would be caught as “collateral damage”. During the second world war, much harm was inflicted on innocent bystanders because of policies like these. The second world war offers multiple examples of destructive antagonism directed at German, Italian and Japanese citizens living in the UK and the US. As always in times of war, it is citizens who suffer the consequences of the actions of their government.