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Shoe Painting Discord

As in Yakutia a stupid joke almost turned into an ethnic conflict

In the afternoon of last Sunday near the shoe store in the center of Yakutsk an unusual picture was observed: a group of men furiously argued about something, and then suddenly one of them wrenched his hands and sprayed on the face with paint from a can. Thus, an "act of retribution" was arranged by residents of the capital of Yakutia over a migrant from Armenia who unsuccessfully played a trick on the local homeless and published a video with these shots on the Internet.

Shoe Painting Discord
Photo: Photo: YouTube video hosting
“Smile. Close your eyes and mouth. Stand back a little bit, or we'll paint over everything, ”someone behind the scenes says in a scandalous video, addressing a drunken homeless man who looked into a shoe shop. He obediently closes his eyes and allows, under laughter and tricks, to spray black shoe paint on his face. In this case, he refers to the one who holds the spray, on behalf of - Karen.

The video posted on YouTube quickly spread across social media. In just a few hours, users established that the video was filmed in one of the shoe shops in Yakutsk, located on Kalandarishvili Street. The flurry of indignant comments quickly turned into a demand to punish the "jokers". Several men approached the shop on Sunday morning for explanations, but did not find anyone except the elderly owner. He said that for some time hired workers worked in the shop who could make fun of the homeless. He tried to calm down the townspeople, promising to find the authors of the mocking video, but soon more men arrived, already more aggressive.

Somehow they managed to get in touch with Karen himself, and he agreed to come to talk. Facing a group of angry townspeople, the employee began to deny his participation in the incident. He was shown a photo in which he was captured with the homeless in the same shoe shop. In the midst of the dispute, Karen wrung her hands and splashed the same paint on her face as on the published video. In the end, the migrant apologizes for what he did to the camera in front of "all the Yakut people" and assures that he did not want to show disrespect for the locals.

The scenes of lynching quickly found themselves in the Yakut media and split the society into two camps: some supported an "act of retribution," while others pointed to the illegality of such a method and the possible negative consequences of arbitrariness. The "national question" was often raised. Many commentators noted that if it were not for the "jokers" to belong to the Armenian people, but for the homeless man to go to Yakutia, then there would not be such a painful reaction among the citizens.

While disputes were going on, the government of the republic tried to quickly take control of the situation. The Ministry of Civil Society Institutions of Yakutia immediately contacted the Armenian diaspora, and the first deputy head of the department, Ivan Lutskan, gave a comment to the press calling not to succumb to provocations.

"This is an idiotic act, a normal person would not do so. If we had the power, we would have deported it ourselves. We unequivocally condemn his deed and believe that he got what he deserved, "Chairman of the Union of Armenians of Yakutia Andranik Navoyan told journalists who asked for comments. At the same time he dismissed the option with a national background in the actions of shoemakers - in his opinion, they would at the same time mock in the same way over homeless people of any other nationality.

However, the figure of one of the participants of the “act of retaliation” - the leader of the sport and patriotic organization “Uraanhay” Turgun Popov, also hinted at the shade of the national dislike of this whole story. It turned out that it was he who sprayed the paint in the face of the shoemaker. In a recent interview with one of the local news sites, he called himself a supporter of “healthy nationalism,” but press representatives who contacted him were asked not to inflate the topic and not to provoke the public with a national issue.

In the meantime, the police held detentions. At first, the same employee of the shoe shop Karen Martirosyan was detained, and then Turgun Popov was summoned to the department. The public mostly welcomed the imprisonment of the Armenian, and the arrest of "Urahanhai" in social networks, there were many outraged statements. At the moment, under the hashtag # HandsOfTargun from Instagram, there are more than 600 publications.

The Yakut City Court on Monday considered the Martirosyan case and, having found him guilty under the article "Petty hooliganism", ordered to be deprived of liberty for five days as punishment. At the same time, the defendant stated that he had no claims to Turgun Popov. The leader of the "Urahanhai" appeared before the judge on a similar article on Tuesday. During the trial he stated that he was ready to apologize to society if he had caused moral damage to his members by his act. At the same time, the reason for his actions was the feeling of deep social injustice towards the homeless.

One of his associates in the organization “Uraanhay”, Oleg Maklashov, with the permission of the judge, expressed the point of view according to which Popov, by his actions, could have prevented a much more severe mob abuse of Martirosyan. “Who knows, maybe he, by his act, prevented much greater harm that Martirosyan could have caused, or, God forbid, the elderly shop owner? There after all the crowd of the indignant citizens was already gathered. Popov is respected by wide circles of the population, and after this “act of retaliation” the conflict was settled, ”the public man said.

The judge apparently heeded the arguments - convicting Turgun Popov of an administrative offense, made a decision according to which he would have to get off with a fine of just 1000 rubles.

Meanwhile, the journalists, who played an important role in this whole case, were able to find the already infamous homeless man. According to Evgeny Rumyantsev, cited by, he and Karen Martirosyan are longtime acquaintances, and the unfortunate joke was carried out with his own consent. “I asked him myself. Everything was fine. There are no complaints about Karen. The video was filmed by Karen's friend. I didn’t know that they would put the video on the Internet. Fools, ”a homeless man told the portal.

Thus, the conflict, in fact, by the evening of Tuesday was exhausted.

Now the society faces the task of discussing the reasons that caused such a sharp reaction of citizens to a silly joke. The authorities and the public forces need to find out whether the level of social and ethnic tension in Yakutia is not underestimated. The region before that was considered almost a model of universal consent and friendship of peoples. Even the "Urahanhai" movement, which sometimes tries to cite as an example of a nationalist organization, has not previously been seen in active actions directed against visitors.

Meanwhile, the whole story of spraying looks like a warning. For the authorities, this warning about a more attentive attitude to the issue of interethnic relations, for migrants - a warning about more correct behavior in the chosen place of residence.

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