Reggie Yates Found Out What It's Like Being A Black Man In Extreme Russia
In the first of three programmes revealing the extreme side of Russia, Reggie Yates travelled to Moscow to get close and personal with some of the country’s far-right nationalists. The documentary aired on BBC3 and was eye opening, to say the least.
It all starts out amicable enough, Reggie meets with people who are essentially hipster nationalists, lovers of Russia who use their fashion brands and social media status to promote Russian values. He even comes across a card game where Vladimir Putin is the hero and David Cameron is the bad guy.
It’s when the issue of immigration arises that Reggie starts to encounter some awkward moments and is subjected to racist abuse. There are now 11 million immigrants living in Russia and more than half of Russian’s now hold anti-immigration views.
Reggie sets out to discover more about the ultra-nationalist groups, in particular The Russians, who are led by Dmitry Demushkin. Dmetry once led the Slavic Union, a group of 25,000 Neo-Nazis that Putin shut down because their views were too extreme.
Reggie attends a highly-charged nationalist march through Moscow. As the only black man on the march he isn’t exactly inconspicuous. The irony of him being there isn’t lost on the Russians, his image is quickly trending on Russian Twitter.
Upon seeing Reggie, Dmetry Demushkin is quick to befriend him. This isn’t your traditional old pal’s act, this is Dmetry using Reggie as a political pawn, a propaganda tool, a way of showing that they aren’t savages, that they can be trusted. It isn’t long before Reggie catches them uploading his image onto social media. They don’t want to meet Reggie because they care about him or his perspective, they only care about what he can do for them and their image.
(Dmetry Demushkin, leader of the nationalist group The Russians )
Others on the march don’t try and tread as carefully as Dmetry….
Let’s fast forward a little, skipping over some casual racism from Dmetry in a coffee shop, and a meeting with a man that was brutally attacked by extreme nationalists and then told to stitch up his own wounds by the doctor, until we meet Alexis, a member of one of the nationalist gangs.
Here’s a few screenshots on what Alexis’ views are….
Reggie leaves Alexis under the guise of it being too noisy for him to stick around but once he’s in his own space he vents about the ignorance and backwards thinking he encountered. Credit where it’s due, Reggie stood opposite a man who told him his kids would probably have defects, that he is essentially inferior and he never batted an eyelid throughout. He walked away from this scene the bigger, wiser and more honourable person.
After a heartbreaking meeting with a victim of violence from the nationalists there is another meeting with Dmetry, this time at a knife fighting class, which is essentially full of extremists learning how to use their knives effectively.
Watching it made the skin crawl with pending doom, what are these nationlists planning on doing with their knife fighting skills exactly?
When pushed they are coy on their use of knives, dodging any statements that may paint them in a bad light. It’s a cold hard fact that immigrants in Russia have, in the past, been victims of knife violence at the hands of extremists. It may not be these guys but it has happened. Is honing their skills with a deadly weapon really the right message to be sending under the circumstances?
The circumstances we refer to are Dmetry and his quest to be a legitimate political force, not just an extremist on the outskirts, this man is seeking the power to make an impact, he wants to be taken seriously. He wants us to believe that he has nothing against immigrants as people, just that he cares about Russia and the Russian people. It’s a tough pill to swallow, what he calls patriotism some others may call racism.
This is a great documentary and we strongly recommend you get on iPlayer and watch it. Here’s the trailer…