Is there increase in discrimination or intolerance towards ethnic Russians since the beginning of the military conflict in Ukraine? I am particularly interested in the data on Eastern Europe (former USSR and former Soviet satellites), where, for historical reasons, the dislike of "Russians" might go back decades or even centuries.

Clarification: I am asking about the discrimination based on ethnicity/language/cultural background, i.e., not associated with the Russian citizenship or the position on the conflict in Ukraine.

Background: Perhaps it is worth mentioning that the number of ethnic Russians not living in Russia is estimated to be 20-30 millions (about fifth of the total number of Russians in the world.) The question is mainly about this group (not about whether measures applied to Russian citizens or Russia supporters are qualified as Russophobia.)

More background
The following article outlines what might constitute discrimination: Following Ukraine Invasion, Russian-American Workers Are Being Harassed

"If the employer does wish to make a more forceful denunciation, the employer should limit it to denouncing the decision of Vladimir Putin to attack a sovereign nation—as opposed to using language like 'Russians attacking'—and indicate that the employer supports all those fighting and protesting the invasion," she added.

"It is one thing to condemn the Russian government or Putin. It is another thing to make disparaging comments about the Russians as a people," said Jonathan Segal, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia and New York City. "The former is appropriate and acceptable. The latter is unacceptable and harassing," even if it isn't severe and pervasive enough to be unlawful harassment.

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    Since there is no entity keeping track of who the ethnic Russians are, there is no possible way to answer this question as it is asked. You may want to rephrase this as being about citizens of the Russian Federation, but I suspect that is not what you are interested in. In fact, based on the "clarification" section of the question, I am almost certain of it.
    – wrod
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 14:22
  • Given that the poor drivers of trucks with Russian plates that transported goods between Russia and EU found their trucks damaged in Poland overnight … Wires cut, hoses cut, tyres cut … The answer is, basically, yes, for everything of yours that has "RU" attached to it, whether it's your passport, your car, your truck, or your language, regardless of what you think about Ukraine.
    – user44356
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 19:16

3 Answers 3


Yes, basically. To exemplify with Poland, as reported in April:

Over fifty cases of discrimination were reported to the Center for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior in Warsaw, its head Konrad Dulkowski told Kafkadesk. This marks a drastic increase compared to the pre-war period, and is likely to be much higher in reality considering all the unreported cases.

(Personally, I would have been amazed if this didn't happen, judging from past wars. Such data/events are not restricted to Eastern Europe; they've also been reported in Germany, Israel, or Canada for instance.)

I suppose (reading another answer) a point of contention may be whether a sign like "we don't serve Russians" (in a shop--mentioned in that piece) or whether someone running Russian language lessons getting "murderers" yelled at them (for Bucha) can be easily ascribed to ethnicity vs citizenship discrimination. I think human rights organizations (NGOs or state-run) just don't find desirable to try to further sub-classify incidents based on such finer-grained criteria. So, it may not be exactly possible to answer the question as asked with "hard stats".

Also/aside, there's some variation in how various EU countries treat nationality in harassment/discrimination laws (p. 75).

several Member States have included nationality as an expressly protected ground in national anti-discrimination law, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and the United Kingdom.

(Also Ireland and Sweden, apparently.) As noted there, in some [other] EU countries, nationality based discrimination is only more narrowly prohibited e.g. for workers, but not necessarily for customers. So I suspect that would also affect at least how the official statistics on such issues are gathered. Poland, specifically, seems to fall in that latter category, as far as its laws go. The Center mentioned in the earlier quote is actually an NGO, not a Polish gov't org.

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    Setting aside that such "anti-racism" organisation have a serious conflict of interest when spotting racism (could they get any donations if they told everything is mostly fine?), there is more fundamental problem. Based on front lines, most of Ukrainians that escaped are from Eastern Ukraine where Russian language is dominating. So without seeing passport one can't tell whether a person is Ukrainian or Russian, which makes discrimination a bit tricky.
    – Shadow1024
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 15:41

Citizens of Russian Federation, drivers whose cars bear Russian license plates, companies seated in Russia and similar face increasing disregard and official sanctions. This is because citizens are seen as responsible for the actions of the democratically elected government, with the war being run under they name and representing they interests. The opinion is mounting that citizens of Russian Federation support Putin and invasion (source) so they are responsible (source). Among other things, people attempting anti-war postings get actively reported by ordinary people who see them. As it is said here, “You cannot abstain from this war. If you want to abstain, don’t complain that you are being kicked out."

This is very different from the Soviet way of thinking along "we are small people, we have no control over that government, it will be sh..ty regardless how do we vote, we even do not know the truth and will never do, this is not our war". May even be true but Western world does not think so.

More than 120 ethnic groups, speaking some 100 languages live within Russia's borders. 30,000 of Black live in Russia. These 120 groups all share the same grave treatment with no exceptions. Sources claiming that ethnic Russians are treated differently from others invariably mix citizenship with ethnic origin. Most often either "Russian citizens" are mentioned in the beginning of the article and then "Russians" are used dowstream or the word "national" is used and you need to google separately to figure out what it is.

I found no notable (statistical) references confirming that Russians are discriminated by exactly they ethnic origin in notable numbers. One guy in Lithuania posted hate speech against ethnic Russians in public media and earned immediately a jail sentence. And a local Russian guy who also attempted a hate crime faces the same and now wears an ankle monitor. So two references, but both have been dealt with by the state that does not tolerate. These cases are clearly not in thousands or hundreds.

Keeping local ethnic Russians and Russian Federation far separately in the brain was the first lesson all Baltic states needed to learn for getting into EU. Nobody would have accepted them with ethnic clashes running. They managed to stand in 1991 under tremendous pressure, there were provocations worse than now so people have the experience with this, have the resistance. They are unlikely to be provoked.

V. Putin creates a confusion by saying that any citizen of Russian Federation can call oneself Russian. When so, the word "ethnic" becomes essential to know what are we talking about.

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    citizens are seen as responsible for the actions of the democratically elected government - this perhaps requires a clarification, since many people and governments hold opinion that Russia is an authoritarian state
    – Morisco
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 7:45
  • I have copied the same two references from another questions (about visas). I hope a citizen should be able to shake most of the disregard by simply saying they are strictly against the invasion and get free kebab (do not remember from which national). I cannot find that source any longer, be it my opinion.
    – Stančikas
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 8:41
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    Individual stories, are easy to find, especially in English areas which do put these in the news time.com/6156582/ukraine-anti-russian-hate I did't put 20 links like that in my answer because it asks whether was an increase and in Eastern Europe. You can disagree with the judgement(s) of the Polish NGO or German authorities whether “We don’t serve Russians” in a pub refers to ethnicity or nationality, but claming there's zero evidence to be found just leaves me speachless. Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 16:42
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    dw.com/en/… "Narina Karitzky founded a Russian-language school in the nearby city of Bonn in 2011. "The other day my colleague got a call from a gentleman who lives somewhere near the school, who said we were a disgrace to the whole street. 'You murderers,' he yelled into the phone," she said." Does it matter if the guy yelling that didn't ask for Narina's passport first, to make sure she's a Russian citizen? Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 17:03
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    @wrod There is an implicit anti-Russian bigotry in your comment, since you are rightfully pointing that Russian nationality is a recent construct, but will be very reluctant to post that Polish nationality, Lithuanian nationality or Ukrainian nationality are also recent constructs, which they sure are.
    – alamar
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 12:07

Short answer, "yes" and understandably so. When you appear to be from a country that is on an imperial rampage in the region, people will be defensive.

Now allow me to rant on the "Ethnic Russian" term, although you might be using it acceptably in this question, referring to former USSR satellites other than Ukraine or Belarus where there is no such thing as Ethnic Russians as a community.

I've spent time in Ukraine and Russia and I find the concept of ethnic Russian to be pretty absurd specially in the context of Ukraine. Originally it was mainly a propagandistic term used largely by Putin's regime and its outlets, but it seems like a lot of people have picked it up abroad.

It's an idiotic concept. It's not very different to calling English-speaking Irish people (the majority of them are either English-first or English-only) "Ethnic English" or the Spanish speakers in the Americas "Ethnic Spaniards" let alone in the context of an implied right to statehood, or to rejoin "mother Rasha" - it's a pseudo-fascistic blood-and-soil line of propaganda that assumes Russian Empire rebuilding to be legitimate on a Mein Kampf-esque Race, Nation and State basis.

I despair when people casually bring up "ethnic Russians" in casual conversation, unless it's in a sensible context like for instance where they are a clear separate minority that retains clearly delimited customs, even religion, as it may happen in places like the Uzbekistan or the Caucasus, and more appropriately inside of the Russian Federation but outside of actual Russia. There you can legitimately speak of ethnic Russians. But in Ukraine or abroad? absurd term to use. Russian-speaking Ukrainians are 100% Ukrainians and Russian is, despite of the understandable tensions inside of Ukraine, also a native language of Ukraine, perhaps more so than it is native to Russia.

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    Ethnicity was an important category in the USSR, and arguably remained so in Russia and other countries emerging from the former USSR. For one, many "Russian nationals" would not identify themselves as Russians, because they were not and are not viewed as such in their country - but as Jews, Chechens, etc. Same can be said about, e.g., Baltic countries, which for a while had non-citizen status for their Russian-speaking inhabitants, viewed as descendants of "occupation". Same can be said about Ukraine, where frictions between "Russian-speaking population" and "Ukrainians" are notorious.
    – Morisco
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 11:12
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    I think referring to "ethnic Russians" is just as meaningful as speaking of ethnicity in US - "caucasian", "hispanic", etc. One could use another term, like "Russian speakers" or something else - in any case, what "Russians" is supposed to refer to? 20% of Russian speakers in the world are not Russian citizens - how are we supposed to call them?
    – Morisco
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 11:15
  • @RogerVadim I believe the Baltic states followed the German(and Irish) model of identifying "nationality" rather than the Soviet one. That is a "Lithuanian" national would be someone whose relatives were born before year X lived in Lithuania. It's not a genetic bloodline, as much as a lineage attachment to a residency status.
    – wrod
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 13:23
  • @wrod Sounds reasonable. As far as I understand, by now the situation of "Russians" in Baltic states have been regularized. Ukraine has also shifted from away from nationalism - especially after Zelensky's election, and many "Russians" in the east identify themselves as Ukrainians. So I think it is very important to make the distinction between Russians meaning a) Russian government and the army, b) Russian citizens in general, and c) those who do not live in Russia (many of them have never lived there, but there are also several millions of immigrants - mostly in the US, Europe, and Israel.
    – Morisco
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 13:28
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    Please note that this website is not a platform for posting rants and personal opinions.
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 14:17

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