November 8, 2014

Despite Russian Complaints, Buryat Woman Given Prize in St. Petersburg

photo novayagazeta.spb.ru

Paul Goble

 Russians who voted online for the title “Mrs. St. Petersburg” complained that one of the 25 competitors was a Buryat and charged her with Russophobia, a accusation Viktoriya Maladayeva denied.  Organizers said this was the first such situation in the five years of the competition and awarded her the consolation title “Mrs. Tolerance.”

Some residents of the Northern capital apparently were simply upset that anyone not a Russian and a native could win the title, but others were angry because Maladayeva has sharply criticized Vladimir Putin’s policies in Ukraine and especially his use of money from Russian pension funds to pay for them (kp.ru/daily/26305.7/3182814/, novayagazeta.spb.ru/articles/9253/ and asiarussia.ru/news/4902/).

 Maladayeva herself said she was “ready for the negative attitudes of some” but not to the extent that were on display. Some of the Russian “’patriots,’’  the media reported had said that it was unthinkable and impermissible that a Buryat should be Mrs. St. Petersburg and said she “was not “’a people’s mrs.’ but a SHAME on St. Petersburg and Russia.”

 Maladayeva for her part said she had no intention of backing down because she “lives in a still free country and has the right to her own point of view.

 Contest organizers tried to stay above the fray, suggesting that because of online voting, the Buryat competitor had received votes from her home republic and other non-Russian areas but that some of the Russian criticism of her was misplaced.

 “Buryatia, if I am not mistaken, is part of Russia,” Natalya Rogova, the director of the competition said, and so a Buryat has as much right as anyone to participate in such competitions and competitors have the complete right to express their own political views even if others do not agree with them.

This is the second recent beauty contest in Russia in which ethnicity has become a source of conflict. In 2013, a Tatar Elmira Abdrazakova won that competition, infuriating Russians by her remark that her mother is a Russia, her father a Tatar, something she said she did not “see as anything criminal.”

In reporting this latest controversy in Buryatia’s ARD portal, Yevgeny Khamaganov praised the organizers for coming up with the consolation title for Viktoriya Maladayeva. He said that this was “a small victory of inter-ethnic accord over primitive Naziism” and with regard to the future, he suggested “let us hope…”



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