Euro 2012 – Racial insults & Ukraine

May 30, 2012

Elsewhere in cyberspace a heated debate amongst the Ukrainian Expat community and some English football fans is engaged, fueled by media coverage in the UK of Ukrainian and Polish supporters football violence and racist actions and chants.

Now there is no denying that there is a racist element amongst certain fans and in particular those associated to certain football clubs in Ukraine.

There is also one Ukrainian football club whose supporters are associated with anti-fascism (not that such a thing would be reported in the UK media).

However,  this heated debate between the Ukrainian Expat community and traveling English fans has now centred over the word “nigger/negro” (негр).

It is time to be crystal clear.  In Ukraine and Russia there is no racial derogatory slur attached to the word “nigger/negro”.  It is not an insult here and neither is it meant to be insulting!

Despite the negativity attached to the word in the UK and other nations, historically and currently, the word nigger has no such undercurrent in Ukraine or Russia.  It is not a word that Ukrainians or Russians would use to insult a black person.

In Ukraine and Russia, the word nigger/negro simply means a black person and nothing more.  It is politically correct here.

If a Ukrainian or Russian wanted to racially insult a black person, nigger is most definitely not the word they would use to do it.

They would use words like chernomazy (черномазый) or several others I won’t bother to list that have the same distasteful connotations as those attached to the word nigger in the UK.  Anyway, you get my point.

So, if you are in Ukraine for the football (or Russia or Ukraine for any other reason) and hear the word “nigger/negro” – it is not the insult you will automatically associate it with if you are an English football fan or western tourist.   It is a politically correct word with no insulting undertone whatsoever!

Do please remember not all words have the same insinuations or inferences in all cultures and languages.  Taking a drunken swing at somebody you hear using the word nigger here will land you (and not them) with a robust response from the police as they have said nothing wrong – in fact they have been politically correct.

Cultural, linguistic and historical awareness is a necessity if you are looking for an excuse to call racism over words like nigger in Ukraine.  Wonder if the BBC or UK media will actually highlight this, or whether they will simply be so ignorant as to see it as a racial insult – that it isn’t?


  1. […] explained the use of the word “negr” in Russian and Ukrainian: […] Now there is no denying […]

  2. […] explained the use of the word “negr” in Russian and Ukrainian: […] Now there is no denying […]

  3. I think it is you who missed the point when you ignored Alexander, when he said: ‘but it is more likely to be ‘haha, look at the nigger, boooo!’ with some monkey sounds.’

    It is all about context. Would you shout ‘white person, white person’ AT a football team with one white player? .What purpose would it serve other than to intimidate?

    I think most Ukrainians who follow international football are smart enough to know that in western Europe this word is offensive to those English speaking players on the pitch.

    • But does that happen when foreign teams play in Ukraine? Most European national teams have played Ukraine in Ukraine in the past 6 years. Complaints from those teams? Complaints from the officials? Reported crowd trouble?

      Even at club level, Dynamo Kyiv and Shkhtar are permanently in the UEFA Cup and Champions Leagues and foreign club teams and fans are here numerous times each year.

      Any complaints from those teams? from those match officials? Any reported crowd trouble?

      Any racism seen on the live Europe wide television broadcasts?

      Historical evidence for racism when it comes to foreign teams and crowds playing in Ukraine? It has all been televised live when they have been played and reported upon in the media thereafter.

      As for shouting white person, white person, well I have no idea having never been in a partisan crowd in Africa or Central or South America, however I have been in Arabic nations and know enough Arabic to know I have been racially insulted for being white.

      But returning to Ukraine, is there any historical evidence relating to international or even foreign domestic clubs and fans suffering racial abuse when playing in Ukraine?

      It should also be remembered that this word is used in every day life far removed from football when referring to black people with no malice intended by Ukrainians who have no interest in football and would be mortified to hear others use what are known and identified to be derogatory racist names.

  4. My girlfriend (Russian, Moscow, uni student) disagrees. For her, негр is insulting as well, she would not mention the word when talking about black people (although a lot of people do) and you would/should not hear the word on TV
    Perhaps it’s not as negative as in other countries, but also not completely neutral, and it depends from person to person how it’s interpreted?
    I guess this issue is perhaps not as black and white as it seems (haha, sorry ;)). But if someone would point at you and highlight your skin colour in whatever wording, I would perceive this as a form of racism anyway.

    • So, lets say you were in some Chinese town/city and some one described you as the “white guy” you would be offended? Perhaps you all should think of it as part of describing someone to someone else …
      “Hey do you know Jordy?”
      “Jordy Jones or Jordy Smith?”
      “Oh the black Jordy….”

      In Ukraine it might be “Did you meet John?”
      “Which one?”
      “The nigger John.”
      “Oh yeah him ….”

      In Ukraine it is completely natural. No harm intended. Though, I have to admit, the first time I heard it was such:
      “How do you like having a nigger for President?” I was asked here in Ukraine.
      I knew he was asking how I felt about a different colored President, as it was our first one. But, since most politicians haven’t earned my respect, I answered accordingly, “Dumb asses come in all colors.”

      • I understand your point (though my gf says she would not use nigger in that case to describe the black guy).
        Ofcourse one usually uses the colour to describe you as white person in China for example, but the reasons this blog post started was because of recent discussions, that started from the BBC report about football related racism in Ukraine. In that case, we are not talking about one of the supporters saying ‘Hey Dimitri, do you also think the penalty of the nigger in our team was done very well’ but it is more likely to be ‘haha, look at the nigger, boooo!’ with some monkey sounds.
        So my point: I’m not convinced that nigger in Ukraine is 100% harmless and without any negative intentions

      • You are missing the very important point that it is not a word any Russian or Ukrainian would use to racially insult somebody. It is not seen as insulting.

        There are far more words with far more racially insulting connotations that would be chosen to insure the racist slur conveyed,

  5. Excellent clarification and an education. Too many people are ready to make too many assumptions. Distorted western media propaganda is designed to create hysteria and take attention away from domestic issues such as poverty, inequality, homelessness. . .

    • Thanks. It seems too many people do not have the backbone to take these things on even when it is quite obviously necessary to do so.

  6. Thank you!

    • Well somebody has to set the record straight and you can guarantee that won’t be the MSM who will either be too afraid to touch the issue or too keen to misinterpret the inferences of the word to simply sell copy or generate viewing figures on a faulty foundation.

      It is after all, not just the football fans who may hear it, but any tourist, most of whom are completely ignorant when it comes to what is, and what is not, an insult in Ukraine.

      I see no point to seeing whose xenophobia and racist rantings can trump each other in some faux media ratings game which completely ignores the facts.

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