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From Chechnya To St Petersburg: Russia's Divided Solidarities

10/04/2017 11:24 BST | Updated 10/04/2017 11:24 BST

Just like people in the West, who have become insensitive to the routine deaths of civlians in conflicts around the world, white Slavic Russians share no solidarity with the country's persecuted indigenous groups and other minorities. Whilst the horrendous terrorist attack on the St Petersburg Metro galvanised Russian society, reports of the detainment of 100 gay men by Chechen authorities fell on death ears.

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Chechnya's president, Ramzan Kadyrov

The news about the St Petersburg Metro attack that left 14 people dead reached me as I was trying desperately to concentrate on my university work. As most of my relatives still live in the country, I couldn't help feeling angry that yet again innocent people have lost their lives as a result of Putin's divisive policies.

I was especially angered by the lack of solidarity shown by people in the West. When an attack happens in London, Paris or Berlin, Facebook rightfully responds within minutes, activating the "I was marked safe in.." feature and our feed is filled with BuzzFeed articles urging everyone to stay strong and unite in the face of terrorism. I am no longer surprised to see friends as far removed from Europe as Japan dutifully drape the appropriate flag over their profile picture.

The same privilege wasn't afforded to the victims of the St Petersburg attack.

Apart from a thin trickle of posts from Russian-speaking accounts and a few mentions on the BBC, the incident was largely ignored. This is not a single slip-up, but just one in a long list of painful reminders about the extremely limited extent of our solidarity. In a weird echo of Colonialism, wherever we are we still care more about what's happening in Western Europe and the US than anywhere else.

I accept that Putin's Russia is not the friendliest of the states, but there is no need to blame innocent people who lack any non-violent means of regime change, given the lack of transparent elections and constant efforts to bar anti-Putin candidates from standing.

At the same time, I am sad that the incident that affected white Slavic Russians in St Petersburg has galvanised public support and met with immediate recognition from the Kremlin, whilst the routine persecution of Russia'a indigenous people like me is treated with imperialist indifference by the public and is largely dismissed by the authorities. I cannot help remembering that when my Buryat friend was the victim of an attack by a group of Russian nationalists in Moscow, the police refused to investigate.

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Moscow nationalist march

More generally, I feel that my solidarity with the rest of Russian society is largely one-way. Two-days before the St Petersburg bombing, Novaya Gazeta published a report about the illegal detainment and torture of 100 gay men by Chechen authorities. Russian social media responded with silence. Whilst unimaginable in Moscow or St Petersburg, the lives of some Chechen people were simply not important enough for the rest of Russia to care. What makes it worse is the hypocrisy. Whilst the Russian state has benefited economically from colonialism, ethnic minorities are reminded daily that we must be grateful to the Russians for civilising us and should do as we are told.

Chechen authorities were equally unconcerned for these men's lives, because they were gay.

I have not lived in Russia for almost 10 years, but until recently I would frequently visit the country. However, increasingly I find that I am simply not welcome. Russia - like the rest of the world - is consumed by increasing levels of ethno-religious intolerance and hate.

Last summer, when I visited the North Caucuses with my boyfriend and an East-Asian friends, we were happy to escape Moscow's racial hostility. A mere nine months later, I realise that there is no space in Russia for people like me. Where I am not being judged by the colour of my skin - light olive is apparently too dark for the average Russian - I run the risk of being detained, tortured or killed for transgressing some antiquated gender norm.