Alexander Vinokourov is in the news again this week, first for his spectacular victories in Stages 13 (time trial) and 15 (Pyrenees) of the Tour de France, and again today because he was discovered to have benefited from an illegal blood transfusion. And once again the media, with the New York Times in the lead, refer to “Alexander Vinokourov, the Kazakh cyclist.”
When not dealing with Vinokourov, for the past few years media references to “Kazakh” have typically involved Borat. Now Borat Sagdiyev, the character invented and performed by Sacha Baron Cohen, is represented as a Kazakh, but in fact nothing about him has anything to do with the Kazakh people or Kazakhstan. His appearance, and that of the other supposedly Kazakh characters in the Borat film (most of whom are played by Romanians), is typically Southern European, and the supposedly Kazakh language that Borat speaks is in fact Hebrew. Real Kazakhs are Central Asians and their physical appearance is close to East Asian, or what in the United States is called simply Asian.
Vinokourov is blond and looks quite typically Russian. His name is Russian, as is his Russian Orthodox way of crossing himself. He is, in fact, a Kazakhstani Russian — that is, a citizen of Kazakhstan who is an ethnic Russian. Wikipedia gets it right by calling him “a Kazakhstani professional road bicycle racer.”
The fact that in Eastern and East Central Europe, and in most of Asia, nationality is defined by ethnicity and not by citizenship is something that the Western media seem to have a hard time with. I have written a number of essays on the subject. The issue affects me personally because I am a native of Poland, and my ancestors lived in Poland for hundreds of years, but my family and I are Polish Jews and we never regarded ourselves, nor were regarded by others (except ignorant Westerners), as Poles.
But there, again, goes the New York Times. In a recent article titled In Poland, a Jewish Revival Thrives — Minus Jews, the reporter, Craig S. Smith, tells us that “[b]efore Hitler’s horror… [o]ne in 10 Poles was Jewish.”
I sent Mr. Smith a message informing him of his error. Needless to say, there was no response. The high-and-mighty New York Times will publish misinformation, apologize for it if it is blatant enough, and keep on doing it. My nationality issue is minuscule when compared with Weapons of Mass Destruction.