As the war rages on in Ukraine, Russian shops across the United States are receiving more attention from angry Americans. Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, many Russian shops are reporting increased incidents of vandalism and phone threats.
Russian Shops Are Vandals’ New Targets
Vandals now have a new favorite target to deface. Russian shops and restaurants are now reporting increased incidents of vandalism at their stores. In some cases, owners began receiving threats over the phone. Many said that they will bomb their outlets as retaliation for the war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, a restaurant named “The Russia House” was twice vandalized in the days after Russia invaded Ukraine. In particular, vandals broke windows and spray-painted anti-Russian messages.
However, mistaken identities happen in many cases. Ike Gazaryan, the owner of the Pushkin restaurant in San Diego, is one of the victims. Gazaryan said he already received two calls threatening to bomb his restaurant. “At first I thought it was just isolated incidents. But I’ve had about 20 calls and people leaving messages on our doorstep,” he said. In addition, many people called his family “disgusting Russian pigs.”
Unfortunately, Gazaryan isn’t actually Russian but Armenian. His Russian experience covered four years living in the country. In contrast, Gazaryan lived in the United States for 24 years, where he established his restaurant. He also said that he supports Ukraine in the ongoing conflict.“People are just ignorant,” he said. “We’re on the same side.”
Russian Immigrants Unfairly Seen As Supporters of the War
As a result of the newfound dislike for all things Russian, many Russian shops and restaurants are now bearing the brunt. From California to New York, people are avoiding Russian businesses. They mistakenly assume full-blooded Russians who support President Vladimir Putin own the shops. Victoria Pardini of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center thinks it’s a recurring tragedy. She noted that it’s easy for someone to group all Russians as supporters of the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin’s policies. “That’s just not the case,” she noted.
However, many vandalized Russian shops actually belong to Russian and Ukrainian immigrants. These immigrants actually spent more time here than in their home country. In addition, most of these people have nothing to do with Russia’s decision to engage in war with Ukraine. However, Pardini says that it’s a common phenomenon for people to vent their ire on the closest thing to the perceived enemy. “It’s really a misdirection of the frustration and confusion over what’s happening in Ukraine,” she explained.
Lack of Knowledge
Meanwhile, Valentin Tsalko, 28, thinks that many people find it hard to stay informed of the situation. Tsalko’s restaurant is also the object of vandalism threats and petitions to shut it down.
However, the restaurant isn’t exactly Russian, but rather serves a variety of Eastern European cuisine. Still, Tsalko had to blackout the word “Russian” from his restaurant name “Taste Of Europe Restaurant & Grocery Russian Gifts”. “Everyone is really misinformed. That’s exactly why,” he said.
In addition, the famed Russian Tea Room in New York had to clarify its stand on its website. “The Tea Room renounces Russia’s unprovoked acts of war in the strongest possible terms,” it said. The 95-year old restaurant insisted that it stands with the people of Ukraine and is firmly against Putin.
Watch the CBC Evening News video reporting that Russian businesses in the US facing underserved backlash
Do you avoid Russian or Russian-sounding shops lately? Do you feel that Russians living in America support Putin?
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