Katja Marova: Living next door to Russia

by , under Enrique Tessieri

As war rages on in Ukraine and we near the first anniversary of that tragic conflict on February 24, one question we should ask is how Finland’s Russian-speaking community is faring. Katja Marova, who lives in the border city of Lappeenranta, says that matters have not changed much in her home city, even if war rages in Ukraine.

“It seems that as there are now sanctions against Russia,” she continued, “it’s ok to discriminate freely as well [against Russians].”

Katja Marova lives in the border city of Lappeenranta.

Apart from discrimination, some Russians complain about racist harassment in public.

Marova, a Left Alliance candidate for parliament in Lappeenranta, wrote on Facebook about an incident at a bar when she spoke to a Russian friend.

“On Friday, we were at a bar in our city [Lappeenranta] when a man walked by us and purposely bumped into my friend,” she said. “The man apologized, and my friend said it was ok. But then he started to say Slava Ukraini (Respect Ukraine).”

Marova said that her friend was shocked by the man’s reaction.

“Whenever a Finn says Slava Ukraini it means that ‘I hate you,’ ‘you are not welcome in the bar, the city, the country,'” Marova wrote on Facebook. “‘This is my home, not yours,’ and ‘I am older and stronger than you and therefore can say anything I wish.'”

This type of harassment is common and not often spoken in public but accepted, according to Marova.

“Is this an example of a healthy society where we want to live and raise our children?” she continued. “Is this the norm and what we [Russians] have to get used to?”

Another friend in Helsinki, married to a Russian, complained about similar problems.

“Especially the Russophobia is getting out of hand,” she wrote. “We have already lost some friends because they cannot fathom the Ukrainian-Russian thing.”

A story published in February told about how discrimination affects Russian-Finnish dual citizens.

Yle writes: “One could not get a pilot’s license, another [dual citizen] was excluded from a research project[at Jyväskylä University] [and] a third could not take part in a skiing competition. According to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, discrimination against Finns is not allowed.”

Marova said even if she has advised people to contact the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, they have told her that they must drop cases because there are so many of them.

“I am worried about the rights of dual citizens, which must be defended,” she added, acknowledging that when a person is a Finnish citizen, they are legally a Finn and should have all the rights and obligations entitled to the person.

Marova said that one step in the right direction to challenge discrimination in Finnish society is for politicians to speak out and take a stand.

“Even so,” she concluded, “I am worried about the future. Things may get better or worse.”

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