Will the internet forget russophobia?

I've often wondering what will happen when this horrific war in Europe will finally be over. I won't be discussing politics here, but what is mostly interesting to me is how (and if) all the companies who made high proclaims about not doing business with Russia will justify their getting back into the Russian market. They will probably count on the fact that the war will be long, and that people will forget what these companies' stance was. After all, the world has forget about all the companies who collaborated with the Nazi regime, so we can expect the same to happen with this war.

But I don't think that's right: if you made a mistake, you should be held accountable for it. You might be wondering what is the “mistake” I'm talking about: that's russophobia, indeed. To put it simply, and make a concrete example: if The Qt Company stops doing business with Russian companies and blocks its downloads page to Russian IP addresses because of the war, without being forced by the government to do so, but does not take similar measures against other countries who wage wars which have caused way more deaths and displacement of individuals, well, that's what I call “russophobia”. Of course, I'm aware that there's way more than that, and that the hatred for all what is Russian (including culture and sport competitions) is an even bigger issue, but in this blog post I'm especially focused on the IT world, so please forgive my semi-intentional narrow-mindness on this topic.

Now, I'm fully aware that we live in a mediatic bubble that directs our decisions in a way that is almost automatic, and I'm sure that most people working for companies who took russophobic decisions are not themselves russophobic at all (and I'm not dismissing the possibility that even the very same people who took these decisions might not be russophobic) and that these decisions were taken on impulse, because “everyone else is doing the same” and due to the media pressure that if you don't do that, you might get accused of supporting the “wrong” side of the war.

But that's not an excuse, especially for “smart” people like IT engineers (and I put the adjective between quotes for a reason), and especially after the initial heat has passed and when, after more than one year of war, we should have been exposed to different point of views and be able to evaluate the situation more rationally. It has been therefore especially stunning for me to learn that the Linux Kernel community, and hence The Linux Foundation, has recently given room to russophobic behaviours, refusing a patch coming from the Russian company Baikal (a CPU maker). For the record, the incriminated patch was not related to supporting hardware produced by this company (not that this would make the deed less serious, but at least one could have argued that there could be some spot of logic in it):

From: Jakub Kicinski <kuba@kernel.org>
To: Serge Semin <Sergey.Semin@baikalelectronics.ru>

On Tue, 14 Mar 2023 01:42:24 +0300 Serge Semin wrote:
> From: Serge Semin <Sergey.Semin@baikalelectronics.ru>

We don't feel comfortable accepting patches from or relating 
to hardware produced by your organization.

Please withhold networking contributions until further notice.

(here the link to the original discussion). One week later, someone denounced this as a violation to the Code of Conduct committee (unfortunately the only link I could find to this is coming from a Russian IT forum, and any other references seem to have been removed from DuckDuckGo and Google), only to receive a reply that it was all fine.

To me this is not fine. The war will end, sooner or later, but it bothers me that we never learn from the past and repeat the same mistakes over and over. We apparently know a lot about propaganda, yet we fail to recognize it when it influences our own mind and actions. My humble contribution is the creation of a page where I list the companies who have taken russophobic actions, and, on the opposite side, companies (like Flickr and Zorin OS) who have stood out for positive messages and helpful actions. My hope is that some of the listed companies will find the courage to review their actions, and either correct their stance, or at least clarify their reasons. So, I hereby present

Denouncing russophobia

where you'll find some of the good and some of the bad companies. I'm sure I'm missing plenty of them: I just started recollecting my memories and searching online a couple of days ago. I created this as a GitHub project, because indeed I'm looking forward for contributions, to help me make the lists more complete. I need to stress that the fact that a company has announced the suspension of its business in Russia does not automatically make it russophobic: what we need to look at is the reason for that decision: companies like LEGO and Nintendo, for example, have suspended their operations citing logistic and financial reasons; no judgement involved.

Let me repeat it once more, just to make sure there are no misunderstandings: it's perfectly fine for businesses to take a stance on politics, and sometimes it might be even praiseworthy; but if a company is international, and does not apply the same reasoning to other armed conflicts, or seem to care only about certain human rights violations and not others, then it's a case of double standards which we need to be aware of, and make the company think twice about it. And that's also the reason why you won't find any Ukrainian company among the “bad” ones, because in their case the reaction is perfectly understandable and they can hardly be accused of adopting double standards (well, technically speaking, they are adopting double standards, but when you are so directly impacted I think it does not deserve a blame): if it's your house which burns, you should definitely scream about it, even if you previously have been silent about your neighbour house's burning.

I'm especially looking forward for more “good” companies, who have shown empathy towards the people affected by the war (and maybe even collected money to help them) while refraining from taking the judging role and forgetting about all the injustice and suffering that other wars have caused (including on that very same piece of land that suddenly appeared on all newspapers' front pages on February 24th, 2022). I hope that these companies can serve as an example of positive action, humanity, and love.


There's also webmention support.