Concern that the 2018 World Cup in Russia might be spoiled by hate crimes, motivated by racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other discrimination, caused the Fare network to issue a Diversity Guide to Russia. Here follows their guide on Kaliningrad which hosts a number of in Groups B, D, E, and G. These include Croatia vs Nigeria, Serbia vs Switzerland, Spain vs Morocco, Englnd vs Belgium.
The Fare Diversity Guide to Russia describes Kaliningrad as a city that is generally considered safe but issues of street crime and several registered cases of hate crimes – mostly against Central Asians – have been reported in recent years.
As such the guide says “You are advised not to walk in remote areas alone or after nights out and use only known taxi apps like Uber, Gett or Yandex.”
The guide issues the following advice to LGBT+ individuals: “Kaliningrad does not have active LGBT+ community organisations and LGBT+ fans are advised not to display rainbow symbols outside the official Fan fest or the stadium.”
The guide reports that Kaliningrad lives with a legacy of being a ‘closed city’. This has not helped the diversity of the city’s population. Belarussians and Ukrainians make up the biggest national minorities, while Germans make up 0.4% of the population.The guide notes that within the last five years the general trend of labour migration from the Central Asian republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan has also reached Kaliningrad, increasing the ethnic, religious and culinary diversity of the city.
The Jewish community, says the guide, has been present in the city since at least the 16th century but suffered enormous damage during the Holocaust. “The city’s spectacular synagogue was destroyed during the Nazi pogroms of the ‘Crystal night’ on 9 November 1938. Currently the new Jewish quarter and synagogueare being built to replicate the historic building.
“The local Muslim community doesn’t have a mosque as a result of the city decision to ban the construction of a building 80% completed. The conflict was very public and led to speculation that the Kaliningrad authorities had given in to Islamophobic sentiment.
“The local club FC Baltika made headlines in 2017, suing the local newspaper ‘Novye vorota’ due to the racist wording of their front-page report about Baltika’s Ivorian forward Senin Sebai’s red card. The club issued a statement condemning racism in the strong terms and reaffirming their commitment to diversity. Senin Sebai is one of FC Baltika’s most popular players.
This article was first published in ProBonoMatters which runs an initiative that monitors racism and other forms of discrimination in and around the game of football in the run up towards the 2018 World Cup and beyond.