Opinion | Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will bring about increased levels of xenophobia

With the horror of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we should remember not to take out anger on Russian Americans who did nothing wrong.


Gabby Drees

Demonstrators listen to speakers during a demonstration for peace in Ukraine on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Around 60 people attended the demonstration.

Peter Anders, Opinions Columnist

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shaken the world to its core, and we have seen the discourse around it transpire in real-time. It is going exactly as many feared, with immense loss of life and tragic images bombarding our news feeds. Yet, predictably, some people have felt a need to take this rage out on Russians who emigrated here.

That fact that xenophobia against Russians is exploding is not unexpected. It can be easily argued that the isolation of Russia as a nation from the world stage in aspects like culture and sports is 100 percent the right course to take. But what is horrifying is how seemingly united across the political spectrum this hatred of Russians, in general, seems to be as a result of this conflict.

A perfect example of this is the vandalization of a Russian restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C. The people responsible have yet to be identified, but the timing makes their motive extremely obvious. The vandalization of a Russian school in Berlin shows this is going to be a problem not just in America, but across the globe.

And yet, in an increasingly divided America the two major political groups seem to have aligned to collectively spew xenophobia against Russia. An important example, Rep. Eric Swalwell, called for all Russian students in American universities to be expelled.

Judging someone based on their national origin is always wrong, and judging Russians for the actions of their government is uniquely misguided. Russians in the U.S. largely don’t support the war and the aggression of their government.

In a demonstration for peace on Sunday, Russians in Iowa City joined Ukrainians in calling for an end to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s violence.

“The whole idea that Russia is the aggressor of the war, it just, like, shatters my whole heart,” said Anna Kolesnikova Dyer, a UI professor of Russian language and culture, who is originally from Russia, in a previous interview with The Daily Iowan on Sunday.

Spewing hatred for a group of people based on their place of birth under the guise of unity never ends well. Republicans and Democrats showing the barest form of unity is good, but not when that unity is to find new ways to make Russian Americans suffer.

If you see a Russian American being bullied, harassed, or targeted in any way, please step in to stop it.

Ukraine deserves all the support it can get. Both as a nation and individually, we need to support it. Spewing xenophobia is not going to help the suffering people of Ukraine or their heroic president in his fight against the invaders.

In fact, it will achieve the opposite of what they would want; to make Russia and Putin see the error of their actions and stop. Putting in the minds of Russians in America that America collectively hates them as does the rest of Europe could have unforeseen consequences.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.