Russian Medical School Imposes Curfew for Hitler's Birthday

Vietnamese student Ha Quy Duong said he was accosted on subway.
Vietnamese student Ha Quy Duong said he was accosted on subway.
By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, April 21, 2007

MOSCOW, April 20 -- One of Russia's leading medical schools has advised its many foreign students to stay in their dormitories for three days, fearing they could be attacked by neo-Nazis and skinheads marking the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birth, which fell on Friday.

The warning issued by the almost 250-year-old IM Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy, which suspended classes for its 1,940 foreign students, was a reminder of the xenophobic and racist violence here targeting students and migrant workers.

On Monday, a street cleaner from Tajikistan was stabbed 35 times outside an apartment building in eastern Moscow. Surveillance cameras on a nearby building captured two skinheads carrying out the murder, according to news reports here. Five suspects have been arrested. On the same day a 46-year-old Armenian businessman was stabbed 20 times and later died in hospital. Three men were later arrested.

"It's no secret that some extremist young people, and not just in Russia, try to celebrate the 20th of April by attacking others," said Sergei Baranov, acting dean of the Sechenov Academy department that deals with foreign students. "For us, it's better to take preventative measures than deal with the consequences." The curfew ends Saturday.

Students in a dormitory near the academy's main building took the measure in stride, saying they had stocked up on food and were using the three-day hiatus to study for final exams next month. Some said they welcomed the concern for their well-being. "Security is very high, and we have very good protection," said Pari Vallal, 22, an Indian student who is in his fourth year at the academy.

Students interviewed at the school said they are constantly on alert, especially when traveling on the Moscow Metro, where a number of racist murders and attacks have occurred. "One person grabbed me in the Metro and was very threatening," said Ha Quy Duong, 27, a student from Vietnam. "I've been followed in this area, and you experience verbal abuse out on the street."

Baranov said there have been no serious attacks on students attending the academy.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company