Radical Nationalism in Russia, 2008 Report

15.04.2009 13:56
Galina Kozhevnikova. Radical Nationalism in Russia in 2008, and Efforts to Counteract It

Edited by Alexander Verkhovsky


Manifestations of radical nationalism : Violence : Vandalism : The activity of right-wing radical organizations : The expansion of nationalism into public life

Counteracting radical nationalism : The international level : Legislation and structural changes in government bodies : Criminal proceedings : Federal lists of extremist organizations and materials : Other

Appendices. crime and punishment statistics (Word)


2008 was a very intensive year in terms of manifestations of radical nationalism and efforts by government and society to counteract it. [1]

Racist and neo-Nazi violence continues to escalate, although it is becoming more difficult to uncover information about this. However, Russian society is clearly losing interest in such crimes and media coverage of them has decreased, the political authorities remain uninterested in making this information available, and often the ultra-right activists themselves do everything they can to disguise their racist activities as ordinary crimes, thereby ensuring they go unnoticed by outside observers.

The nature of racist attacks is clearly changing: we are more often seeing the use of explosives and firearms. Religious and ideologically-motivated vandalism is becoming more aggressive – perpetrators are more often turning from the drawing of insulting graffiti to arson and explosions. We have also witnessed the increased use of diverse provocations to fan xenophobic hysteria in society and to provoke discriminatory actions from the authorities. The number of xenophobic attacks committed by ordinary people (as opposed to organized groups) has grown, as has the number of mass fights which have grown into (or which have threatened to grow into) ethnic pogroms.

It now seems certain that a wide network of neo-Nazi groups, able to coordinate actions, is operating at least in the major cities of Russia. The image of the ultra-right movement is changing in the eyes of those young people not involved in it: it has become not only aesthetically attractive, but is also perceived as a means of social realization.

A few newly-emerged radical-nationalist groups representing minorities uniting around a regional identity (‘Caucasus’) were more active than in 2007. And although already by midsummer their activities were less evident, this phenomenon is cause for serious concern, not only because of their violent crimes, but because the very existence of such groups encourages the justification of crimes committed by ultra-right groups in people’s minds.

Major changes took place within the ultra-right movement. A split in the Movement Against Illegal Migration (Dvizhenie protiv nelegalnoi immigratsii, DPNI), and a whole series of less significant conflicts, triggered a crisis within the ultra-right sector which has yet to be resolved.

We continue to document xenophobic remarks by government representatives. The number of such utterances is not growing, and this is especially reassuring given the background of the war in South Ossetia. However, in the second half of 2008 the pro-Kremlin youth movements became vastly more active, practically embarking on a straightforward competition with ultra-right groups in terms of fanning anti-migrant (and occasionally openly racist) hysteria.

We observe a significant qualitative and quantitative improvement in the legal prosecution of violent crimes and fast growth in the number of criminal proceedings against xenophobic propaganda. Analysis of law enforcement practice debunks a whole series of myths, in particular about the hypothetical racism of jurors and the absence of a legislative basis for the prosecution of hate propaganda on the internet.

However, in terms of the prosecution of propaganda, it is firstly evident that the focus has shifted onto less significant crimes, and secondly that the current increase in the number of criminal proceedings against racists (including against those committing violent crimes) nevertheless falls calamitously short of the levels necessary to impact upon the ultra-right’s illegal activity in any noticeable way.



In 2008 no less than 525 people were the victims of racist and xenophobic violence, 97 of whom died. This is the most conservative estimation of violence, as incidents originating in the republics of the north Caucasus, [2] mass brawls, attacks with mercenary motives and where firearms are used (except where a racist motive has been clearly recognized by law-enforcement agencies) and other disputable cases have been excluded completely from our reckoning. Additionally, we traditionally exclude homeless victims of neo-Nazi violence from the total number of victims, given that it is very hard to ascertain the motivation behind such attacks. However we know of at least seven murders and one case of assault in which a motive of hatred is suspected or imputed.

Altogether, racist and neo-Nazi motivated attacks were recorded by us in 44 regions of Russia. As before, the main centers of violence are the Moscow region (57 dead and 196 injured) and the Petersburg region (15 dead and 38 injured). After a two-year break, neo-Nazis re-emerged in Voronezh (2 dead and 18 injured), which once again took third place in this sad ratings competition. Traditionally, Nazi-skinheads have been active in Sverdlovsk and Nizhnii Novgorod regions. Penza became new hotbed of activity in the year just past (14 injured). Previously in this region either there were no attacks recorded, or such attacks were isolated events.

The main victims of xenophobic aggression are natives of Central Asia (49 dead, 108 injured) and of the Caucasus (23 dead, 72 injured). However, practically no one with non-Slavic features is immune to assault by racists, nor are representatives of leftist youth movements and alternative youth subcultures (punks, Goths, emos etc) whom neo-Nazis consider ‘traitors to the white race’.

For comparison, 85 people were killed and 605 people injured in 2007. However, we may hardly consider this a decrease in the extent of the violence: there is no doubt that this is the result of a dearth of information rather than a dearth of attacks. This lack of information is linked to the political motives of those in power, who deny the problem of xenophobia; with the ‘acquired tolerance’ of the mass media, which has become inured to this issue; with the increased difficulty monitors face in identifying such crimes.

In observing the ‘political’ difficulties we face in accessing information, it should be noted that, for example, a period of ‘absence’ of hate crimes often follows immediately after announcements by high-ranking bureaucrats about the absence of this very problem, or its appearance in the sphere of their responsibilities. The clearest example of just such an information blockade is the absence of news about racist incidents in Petersburg for more than three months after the public announcement by the governor V. Matvienko that ‘for the first six months of this year there was not a single incidence of a crime of extremist tendency’. The city prosecutor’s official figures on numbers of such incidents had been published shortly before her announcement.

There are also less transparent examples. In 2008 only one racist attack was recorded in the traditionally unfortunate Krasnodar region, [3] for example, and it is unlikely that this can be explained by anything other than the local authorities’ concerns about the region’s image given the prospect of hosting the Olympics.

Besides politics, one may observe another socio-psychological reason: there were so many racist killings in 2008, especially at the start of the year, that simple attacks are already no longer perceived as newsworthy. Society’s increasing immunity to routine violence of such type, in turn, provokes neo-Nazis to commit ‘showy’ actions, intended to outshine less demonstrative (although no less cruel) attacks.

We observe a substantial reduction in information about attacks on representatives of leftist youth movements and groups offering an alternative to the Nazi-skinhead subculture (previously this category of victims constituted from a quarter to a third of all victims, now it does not exceed 16%). However, it is difficult to imagine that neo-Nazis are attacking the ‘informals’ less often – more likely something else is happening. Antifascist youth, embroiled in these quarrels, are evidently disillusioned about the effectiveness of the anti-fascist actions of the state and have begun to perceive fights with Nazi-skinheads simply as episodes in a long-running street war, in which neither side wants to reveal the number of their casualties. Therefore the overwhelming majority of victims who are known about in this category are chance victims: not anti-fascists, but fans of music groups popular in the anti-fascist milieu. And they became victims precisely because they did not perceive attendance at a concert as an action for which it is necessary to take precautionary measures. Thus, for example, was Aleksei Krylov killed in Moscow, not for being an active anti-fascist but simply because he was going to a concert in a small party, at a time when – to those in anti-fascist circles at least – it was clear that neo-Nazi attacks were a possibility. A whole series of attacks were carried out in September and October in Izhevsk, Ekaterinburg, Vladivostok and other towns specifically on concert audiences, not on those conducting anti-fascist activities.

But the most important reason for the reduction in information about racist incidents, without doubt, is the transfiguration of these very incidents, now increasingly often and carefully disguised as common ‘fights while protecting girls from hooligans’ (and there is evidence to suggest that a number of these scenarios are played out quite deliberately), burglary, robbery, etc. Evidently neo-Nazis realize that they are less likely to be sought out for ‘ordinary’ assaults than for attacks which are initially deemed racist.

At the same time, the behavior of many neo-Nazis whilst under arrest has changed: they do not deny the motive of hate, do not attempt to reduce everything to ‘hooliganism’, more often openly declare the racist nature of their actions and even – in some cases – claim responsibility for more crimes than they have actually committed.

The change in behavior whilst under arrest, it seems to us, is a result of changes which have happened in the ultra-right sphere, as to its image, in the last few years. A long prison term is now, for some, an acceptable price to pay for increased status in this sphere. The ultra-right is perceived as an alternative and to a significant degree autonomous sphere with its own infrastructure (its own enterprises, financial and intellectual resources, the possibility of legal support to those suspected of crimes) and the ability to meet the needs of its members, and in part this is indeed the case. The needs met are the most diverse, from providing employment to providing legal support and contacts in the place of imprisonment in the case of prosecution. Precisely because of this sphere’s autonomy, one may suggest that external factors (such as the economic crisis which began in autumn 2008) are not able to influence the level of racist attacks perpetrated by core Nazi-skinheads.

Part of this sphere is an organized network of small groups, able to coordinate demonstrative actions. It became possible to talk about this with certainty from the end of 2007 - beginning of 2008, when Moscow was swamped by a whole series of murders and assaults, crimes which – as a rule – happened precisely in those regions where Nazi-skinheads had been arrested very recently.

However, both organized underground actions and ‘community defense’ carried out by ultra-right activists are possible only in cases where the perpetrators are ‘part of a system’ (really only someone with a particularly ‘heroic’ image can be considered an exception, which explains the efforts of several arrested neo-Nazis to claim responsibility for as many crimes as possible). It seems likely that the ‘system’ is one of the reasons for the increase in ‘crimes committed according to instructions’ – attacks which are committed, as a rule, by adolescents still not incorporated into the ultra-right sphere but sympathizing with it and trying to become part of it. They carry out demonstrative attacks, which emphasize their exact following of general instructions or descriptions of concrete assaults disseminated on right-wing radical websites. For example, on August 10 on a Moscow suburban train an attack on a person of non-Slavic appearance was clearly carried out ‘according to instructions’: under false pretences a few people were provoked into a fight, as a result of which everyone the attackers considered non-Slavic was beaten, and it was simultaneously explained to the rest of the passengers that this was being done ‘in the interests of the Russian people’. A whole series of crimes, which have not been included in our statistics of racist incidents, closely resemble those ‘initiations into the skinhead movement’ which were widespread five or six years ago, when a single individual, for no apparent reason, would attack a person of non-Slavic appearance while his potential ‘comrades in arms’ observed. According to the victim there is only one attacker, and if he is not seized by chance by the police and doesn’t openly declare his racism, such a crime is unlikely to be deemed a hate crime either by the police or by experts researching the problem of racism.

Besides the above-described new phenomena emerging in 2008, practically all tendencies observed in recent years have continued and been strengthened.

There is a clearly stable trend towards the emergence of aggressive groups of ‘potential victims’. Currently in Moscow these are groups of youth from the Caucasus. Experts predicted the emergence of such groups several years ago: in the absence of an adequate reaction to hate crimes, and the possibility of discrimination on the part of the law enforcement bodies, potential victims themselves begin to present as aggressive. Moreover, this will be the action of individuals, as well as organized groups. The appearance of such groups of youth from the Caucasus became evident back in 2007, when there were several mass brawls in Moscow. Thanks to the incompetence of the mass media such groups are now being called ‘skinheads from the Caucasus’, however this is fundamentally wrong. These groups only copy the behavior of Nazi-skinheads: attacking patently weaker opponents, provoking aggression, filming fights and assaults on video which are subsequently posted on the internet, conducting mini-marches with cries of ‘Caucasus! Caucasus!’. However, in contrast to Nazi-skinheads, they are united not only by racist ideas, but also by a ‘victim complex’ – together with some sort of nationalist ideology. The latter may be deduced from the fact that these groups are consolidated not by an ethnic or religious principle, but by a regional one – ‘people from the Caucasus’, ‘Caucasians’ – this is precisely how neo-Nazis identify their victims. The attacks themselves are motivated as ‘attacks on skinheads’. In reality, as a rule, the victims are random, they are just ‘taken for neo-Nazis’. The emergence of such groups undoubtedly only increases the real level of racist violence. Moreover, it leads to a further general growth of Caucasus-phobia and to the justification of Nazi-skinhead violence against ‘aliens’ by society.

The neo-Nazis are gaining increasing experience in terrorism. It is very difficult to evaluate the numerical growth of incidents involving explosives, especially because it is sometimes impossible to understand the logic of the ‘bomb technicians’, [4] but the number of such episodes is clearly growing. In particular, we are aware of no less than ten explosions or attempted explosions in which the involvement of neo-Nazis is suspected in Moscow and Moscow region alone in 2008. [5] We recorded only six such incidents in 2007 (in Moscow region and in Petersburg). For the first time we can, with certainty, report the participation of activists from the DPNI in at least the production of explosives. In April 2008 one of them set off an explosion in a flat on Koroleva street, as a result of which three people died, including the owner of the flat. The initial version of the tragedy was the careless handling of a gas appliance, but by the end of the year it was officially announced that a home-made bomb had detonated.

As before, flagrantly exhibitionist crimes were committed, aimed at overcoming the information blockade. If in 2007 these constituted the double murder filmed on video and disseminated over the internet, then in 2008 it was the murder of a Tajik worker and the subsequent mailing of threatening letters and photographs of the victim’s severed head to bureaucrats’ addresses. Other less resonant crimes also belong in this category. A video clip of the murder of a Chinese native by Nazi-skinheads, committed at the end of September 2008, was disseminated on the internet after the law enforcement bodies of Cheliabinsk region announced that they were sure the murder was an ‘ordinary’ one, thus refuting the official statement of the prosecutor.

The ‘Kondopoga scenario’

The number of major ethnically colored conflicts developing out of everyday incidents has grown. Every time, ultra-right groups attempt to use them to realize a ‘Kondopoga scenario’. In previous years we have become aware of three such conflicts annually. In 2008 there were no less than five such incidents in the regions of Krasnodar, Perm, Moscow, Rostov and Volgograd. We will focus on three of the biggest incidents, in which the participation of right-wing radicals was most noticeable.

In Belorechensk (Krasnodar region) a fight at a disco between groups of Russian and Armenian youths, which took place on 1 January and resulted in the death of a Russian youth, provided the means to inflame tensions. The local DPNI and even activists from Adygeia (North Caucasus) swiftly tapped into the conflict. Leaflets agitating against people from the Caucasus began to appear in the town, and the local newspaper failed to find a better way of describing the situation than reprinting material from the DPNI website. [6] However, it is worth noting that the Moscow DPNI activists joined the conflict far later – a month after the fight. At the same time it is worth observing that the main reaction of local and regional authorities to the conflict in Belorechensk, as in the majority of such cases, was to deny that it had taken place. The attempts by independent human rights groups to make sense of events must be acknowledged as unsuccessful – their observers were detained by the police. [7]

In the Moscow village of Lunevo an obviously ordinary fight between local inhabitants and builders from Central Asia in September 2008, as a result of which three Lunevo residents received knife wounds, served as the conduit for confrontation. One of those wounded died instantly, another died on the way to the hospital. Despite the fact that the murder suspects were almost immediately detained, the situation in the village deteriorated to such an extent that building firms had to evacuate their building sites during working hours for security reasons (however, according to some evidence several workers were nevertheless the victim of racist attacks). Although activists from the DPNI and Russian All-National Union (Russkii obshchenatsional’nyi soiuz, RONS) tapped into the conflict, escalation was avoided by the implementation of security measures (the strengthening of police patrols, the evacuation of building sites).

In Karagai (Perm region) the confrontation was started by a mass brawl in one of the village cafes in August 2008. The conflict fairly quickly grew into a mass battle between groups of Chechen and Russian local inhabitants. Moreover, having been stopped by police, the battle continued in the casualty department where the injured had been carried. According to the local media, the conflict was made worse by superfluous ‘victims’ resulting from an industrial incident which had happened several days previously. The local media further inflamed ethnic tensions by reporting that ethnic Chechens serving in the local police force failed to do their duty during the conflict. As in the first two cases, the DPNI swiftly sought to make use of the situation. However, in contrast to the standard blockade of official information, which leads to the ultra-right’s interpretations of events dominating the information sphere, we also know about Karagai from alternative sources. In Perm region there are strong independent NGOs which fairly swiftly joined in investigating the conflict, and published an analysis of the situation. We note also the operative intervention in the situation by Tatiana Margolina, the regional ombudswoman on Human Rights. [8] It should be emphasized that both the authorities and human rights organizations reacted very quickly to the plainly unreliable information disseminated by local media, some of which had adopted an openly anti-Chechen (or, more broadly, anti-Caucasus) position. [9] The behavior of the authorities, in refuting the open lies of unprincipled journalists, is fairly rare, and deserves public recognition.

Threats to civil society activists

The practice of publicly threatening civil society activists linked in some manner with the problem of xenophobia was resumed in 2008. Thus, in February-March, the latest list of ‘enemies of the Russian people’ was posted on the internet. This list included the personal details not only of those individuals the ultra-rightists consider participants in anti-fascist activity, but also members of the Public Chamber, journalists, high-ranking prosecutor’s officials and judges of the Supreme Court of Russia. Detailed lists have appeared on the internet more than once, but they very rarely contain personal details such as home addresses. The publication of the list was accompanied by unambiguous appeals for violence. From the summer of 2008 onwards, regular threats have been made against Alexander Bekhtol’d and Sofiia Ivanova, activists in a human rights organization in Ryazan, following the publication of their home addresses. [10] The Nizhnii Novgorod flat of a representative of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, Stanislav Dmitrievskii, was also attacked that summer; windows were broken and the walls of the building in which he lives were daubed with swastikas and threats. In November 2008 threatening letters were posted to several organizations, including Ashot Airapetian’s Centre of Inter-Ethnic Cooperation, in the name of the Petersburg neo-Nazi Dmitrii Borovikov – killed in 2006. And while the publication of the said list has led to the opening of a criminal case, the rest of these threats remain unnoticed by law enforcement bodies.

‘Everyday’ xenophobia and xenophobia in the army

As in previous years, we observed a whole series of attacks linked with manifestations of ‘everyday’ xenophobia. It is impossible to speak with any certainty about a growth in the number of such attacks, the more so because keeping track of such incidents is even more difficult than attacks by committed neo-Nazis. However, one can judge the growth of such incidents by indirect indictors. In particular, we first became aware of criminal convictions for ‘everyday’ xenophobic threats of murder (see below) in 2008, and we may therefore assume that the number of incidents has reached such a level that the law enforcement bodies are obliged to react. And the most famous example of ‘loner violence’ were the events that took place in August in Perm. There, over the course of several weeks, a mentally ill individual influenced by ideas of racial superiority shot passers-by of non-Slavic appearance from an improvised gun. At least one person was killed and three were seriously wounded, and it seems possible that the list of victims is far from complete. Yet another example of aggressive ‘everyday’ xenophobia is the series of robberies in one region of Moscow which took place in October. The young people detained on suspicion of the attacks themselves declared the racist motives behind their behavior.

The army is a particularly problematic zone. There is no doubt that racist conflicts occur there – conversations about army ‘communities of fellow-countrymen’ have already become routine. However, we have practically no detailed information about such incidents and this means that it is impossible to analyze the situation. We can only acknowledge the fact that even though the army is extremely closed to outside observers, cases of racist violence nevertheless become public knowledge, and we may assume that these are not rare incidents. In 2007 we managed to document only one such case (in Novosibirsk a conscript from Dagestan was convicted of a series of criminal episodes, including the incitement of hatred towards his Russian fellow-conscripts). In 2008 there were two noisy scandals, again in Novosibirsk and in Krasnodar region, about the suicides of army personnel, which resulted in the deaths of two people and the serious injury of another. It was established that the victims in these cases had been driven to such steps by racist bullying of their colleagues.

Violence motivated by religious hatred

Traditionally, violence based on religious intolerance has been marginal in terms of the proportion of incidents, and as a rule, has not displayed any systematic character. 2008 was not to prove an exception to this rule.

Two serious incidents were recorded in spring, linked with the attacks on a Protestant house of prayer: on March 21 a drunk fired pistol shots at parishioners during a service at an evangelical Christian prayer house in Chukotka; happily no one was hit. On April 2 in Kuznetsk, Penza region, several people led by one of the local criminal leaders, assaulted the pastor of the ‘Living Word’ church and threatened reprisals against parishioners. One can with a great degree of certainty suggest that in both cases the dramatic situation with the ‘Penza recluses’ was the stimulus to these assaults. As it happens, this situation became strained in the middle of March 2008, and triggered a torrent of ‘anti-sectarian’ speeches in the mass media – containing, amongst other things, direct calls to violence against the recluses. [11] It is, without doubt, always difficult to establish the degree to which such declarations provoke violence, but it should be pointed out that the overwhelming majority of attacks in 2008 of which we are aware, and which are clearly motivated by religious xenophobia, were recorded precisely in spring (besides Protestants, Orthodox Christians in Khabarovsk, representatives of the Society for Krishna Consciousness in Nizhnii Novgorod and a young Muslim woman in Moscow also suffered). [12]


The main manifestation of religious xenophobia remains the vandalism of cult objects and burial grounds. In 2008, out of a total of 86 acts of vandalism where the hate motive was clearly marked, 58 acts were committed against religious objects (in 2007 there were 88 incidents in total, 64 of which were religiously-colored). Incidents were recorded in 39 regions of Russia.

Traditionally, Jewish objects are top of the list (24 incidents, compared to 30 in 2007), followed by Orthodox Christian (19, compared to six in 2007) and six incidents apiece against Protestant (of various denominations) and Muslim objects (16 and seven respectively in 2007). 26 incidents are counted as ‘ideological’ acts of vandalism: the desecration of collective graves and memorials dedicated to the Great Patriotic War, attacks on Lenin monuments, or major coordinated acts of neo-Nazi graffiti daubed on the walls of buildings. In 2007 there were six such incidents.

For the second year in a row we see a reduction in the number of antisemitic acts of vandalism, and a stabilization in the number of anti-Islamic acts. On the other hand we see sharp fluctuations in the number of acts of vandalism against Orthodox Christian and Protestant targets. There were 12 acts of vandalism against Orthodox targets in 2006, six in 2007 and 19 in 2008. Against Protestant targets of various denominations we recorded fluctuations in the opposite direction – eight in 2006, 16 in 2007 and six in 2008. It is therefore difficult to identify any sort of trend in these cases.

Often the vandals’ degree of activity, as with the activeness of Nazi-skinhead groups, depends on subjective factors which are very difficult to understand or to predict. Thus, over several weeks at the end of May – beginning of June, graves in the Jewish sector of one of Nizhnii Novgorod’s cemeteries were smashed three times. And, as a whole, the vandals of Nizhnii Novgorod region were particularly active in the first half of 2008: from January until July we recorded 12 acts of vandalism in relation to Muslims, Jews and ‘ideological’ targets in this region. This wave of vandalism subsided only after the capture of one of the vandals, after which only one act of vandalism was recorded in the region for the remaining six months of the year.

It is interesting to note that in winter 2008 the activities of vandals were registered only in those regions where regional or local election campaigns ran side by side with federal campaigns (in Ul’ianovsk even a candidate standing for deputy in the regional parliament, the leader of the local department of RONS, was suspected in the organization of an assault on the local Jewish community centre).

Acts of vandalism, on average, are becoming more dangerous. Earlier the vast majority of actions amounted to the drawing of insulting inscriptions or the destruction of graves, while arson and the smashing of windows were one-off events, but in 2008 we recorded no fewer than 19 cases of arson, attempted arson or explosions at places of worship (in 2007 we recorded four such incidents). Notably, of the six anti-Protestant acts recorded, five relate to arson and the sixth to the smashing of windows in Protestant premises. [13]

Ideological acts of vandalism are also acquiring a more organized and aggressive character. The number of such incidents also rocketed in the last year (in 2006 there were six such incidents, in 2007 eight, and in 2008 there were 26) Thus, for example, we observed an increase in such activity on the eve of the annual celebrations of Victory Day – over several days war memorials in Petersburg, Moscow region and Nizhnii Novgorod were desecrated, and in a few towns the ultra-right even attempted to carry placards and banners with neo-Nazi symbols and slogans. Explosives were used in two out of 26 cases of ‘ideological’ vandalism.

The more widespread and lengthy actions of vandals are coordinated over the internet. In such cases, the action is presented and built up like a computer game: the activities become more complicated from step to step: from the simple drawing of graffiti via stencils to physical threats of reprisals against particular individuals, the publication of recipes for explosives and the dissemination of video footage of imitation (one hopes) killings of people of non-Slavic appearance.

The activity of right-wing radical organizations

The activity of right-wing radical groups was fairly marked in 2008, but was clearly less aggressive than in the previous two years. From all appearances, disillusion at the results of the parliamentary campaign lingered in the first half of the year, and the second half of last year was marred by a serious crisis within the movement, the resulting traces of the split in the most notable ultra-right organization, the DPNI.

Right-wing radicals and the elections

In the elections to the State Duma on 2 December 2007, the ultra-right not only could not get their prospective candidates into the new parliament, but also lost the parliamentary lobby they already had almost entirely. A few signatories to the ‘Letter of the Five Hundred’ – who, by all appearances, do not maintain a relationship with Nazi-skinheads – and two LDPR representatives, Ivan Musatov (who was part of the organizing committee of the ‘Russian march 2006’) and Sergei Ivanov, who collaborates with the National-Socialist Society (Natsional-sotsialisticheskoe obshchestvo, NSO, itself in deep crisis at the end of 2007), were the only well-known xenophobes who made it back into the Duma. As a result, the ultra-right groups found themselves faced with the necessity of a search for new connections in the Russian parliament, which was initiated in an extremely limited way only towards the end of the year (see below). Furthermore, due to the lack of acting deputies, the status of events organized by the radical nationalist was drastically lowered, not to mention the fact that they lost the opportunity to organize unsanctioned meetings under the guise of ‘meeting the electorate’, a strategy they had devised only in 2007.

The attitude of the ultra-right sector to the presidential elections was, for the most part, extremely negative. Their negativity related to the nature of the elections as ‘without choice’, and to discussions of Dmitrii Medvedev’s alleged Jewish origins. Concurrently with the presidential elections, however, a whole series of regional and local election campaigns were conducted, in which right radical activism has been traditionally high. In the regional municipal assemblies of Moscow, no less than 15 radical nationalists ran for election, mainly backed by the KPRF, of whom four were elected. That said, it should also be noted that the ultra-right campaigning we managed to track involved almost no xenophobic sloganeering. The People’s Union (Narodnyi soiuz), led by Nikolai Kur’ianovich, failed to muster even one percent of votes in the elections to the legislative assembly in Yaroslavl region. The right-wing radicals also fared badly in local elections in Orel and Volgograd.

Moreover the elections evidently diverted all the available resources of radical nationalist organizations, as can been seen from Moscow DPNI’s delayed response to the disorders in Belorechensk. Their involvement would appear to be specifically linked with local elections: the conflict at the disco happened on 1 January 2008, but the Moscow DPNI got involved only in February – a few weeks, that is, before the municipal elections in Belorechensk region.

Mass actions and the provocation of conflicts

Right-wing radical activity that was not related to elections began to be manifest only towards the middle of April.

On April 19, the eve of Hitler’s birthday, the DPNI and its traditional partners, the Slavic Union (Slavianskii soiuz), the National Imperial Party of Russia (Natsional’no-derzhavnaia partiia Rossii, NDPR), the St Sergius Union of the Russian People (Sviato-Sergievskii soiuz russkogo naroda) of N. Kur’ianovich and Vladimir Osipov, the Russian National Bolshevik Front (Russkii natsional-bol’shevistskii front, RNBF) of Ivan Strukov and a number of different organizations made an attempt to organize a Russia-wide action ‘in support of political prisoners’. This was intended to replicate the successful Russia-wide action of 27 January 2007. However, this time they managed to conduct meetings only in three Russian towns, and the numbers of supporters they gathered was fewer than in the previous year. For the second year in a row the May 1 coalition led by the DPNI organized a May 1 march from VDNKh to the Ostankino television centre, however the DPNI subsequently split and neither the DPNI nor its partners conducted any large-scale events until October, restricting themselves in the main to local picketing, pasting stickers and internet propaganda. Their attention was primarily focused on attempting to minimize the split’s repercussions.

The splash of activity in October was linked to a tragedy in the Mozhaisk region of Moscow, where in September that year 15-year-old Anna Beshneva was raped and murdered. A native of Central Asia was initially suspected of committing the offence, which gave the DPNI an opportunity to return to a massive anti-immigrant campaign in Moscow which was practically supported by the mass media and anticipated the semi-official anti-immigrant propaganda of November. Persistent rumors about a whole series of similar crimes committed in the same region circulated on the internet . On October 12 a ‘popular gathering’ (which does not require official permission, unlike a meeting or a rally) was conducted, which ended with a march by the ultra-right to the headquarters of the district council. The action really became a peculiar prelude to the ‘Russian march’ because of its broad media resonance. And, without a doubt, a whole series of cruel hate crimes are directly connected to precisely this campaign. Thus, on November 4 two Uzbek yard-sweepers were killed not far from Mozhaisk district council headquarters, and at the beginning of December the severed head of a person killed by neo-Nazis in Moscow region was dumped near the same council building.

Provocation as a propaganda method

It became evident that ultra-right groups have begun to use imitation aggression from Caucasian and Muslim groups as a means of provoking xenophobic moods and actions in 2008. These provocations are clearly calculated on the high level of xenophobia in society, on the discriminatory practice rooted in government bodies, above all in law enforcement bodies, and on the unprofessional nature of the mass media.

We can clearly identify a minimum of three such provocations in the last year.

In September 2008, the Avenue of Glory in Achinsk (Krasnoiarsk region), dedicated to veterans of World War II, was desecrated. Insulting graffiti, including anti-Russian inscriptions, were drawn over portraits of veterans and war machinery on display there. A week later, similar inscriptions were daubed on several of the town’s public buildings. However, the nature of the graffiti left no doubt that this was a provocation by Russian nationalists (evidently, very young ones). Since the incident had wide public resonance, we note the active position of the town authorities, who moved very swiftly to announce that this was not Russophobia but an attempt to incite xenophobic moods.

Another example was less obvious. An individual who sent around 400 anti-Russian texts to mobile telephones was convicted of inciting hatred in Rostov region in July. Since no details were released to the media, the incident was interpreted as a clear episode of Russophobia. However, when the details of the criminal proceedings became known towards the end of the year, it became clear that this was in fact a case of skilful provocation of anti-Caucasus feeling: the author of these messages calculated that these texts would provoke an aggressive response towards people from the Caucasus, who could have been suspected of sending the texts. [14] It is entirely possible to imagine what such aggression might have been, in a region bordering with the North Caucasus where two years ago, by some miracle, pogroms against people from the Caucasus were narrowly avoided.

A ‘formula’ for provoking anti-Caucasian and anti-Muslim feeling was already circulating on the radical right-wing segment of the Russian-speaking internet by January 2009. These instructions suggested that hoax bombs be planted in the name of Caucasian and Muslim groups, and literally within a few days we learned that such an action had been implemented by the ultra-right at least once in 2008 – in Nevinnomyssk (Stavropol region), where a hoax bomb was left in the building of the local department of the FSB.

Coalitions, splits and conflicts

The sole serious attempt to create a coalition of Russian nationalist organizations of varying degrees of radicalism was the creation of the Russian National Movement (Russkoe natsional’noe dvizhenie RND), a coalition of the DPNI (A. Belov), the Great Russia party, NAROD (Natsional’noe Russkoe Osvoboditel’noe Dvizhenie, the National Russian Liberation Movement – the acronym of which means ‘the People’) and the Russian Social Movement (Russkoe obshchestvennoe dvizhenie, ROD). The unifying conference was conducted in Moscow on June 8 and a series of collective documents were passed. [15] On the one hand the conference simply formalized a de facto coalition which had already been in existence for a few months. On the other, in the opinion of many observers, from the start the RND didn’t pretend to be any kind of new, single movement, and nor did it become so. It simply proclaimed the readiness of concrete organizations for collaborative political acts on a fairly narrow circle of issues (the most important of which was identified as the joint struggle with ‘Russophobia in all its forms’, specifically ‘to stand against unfair use of article 282 of the C[riminal] C[ode] of the R[ussian] F[ederation] against activists of the Russian National Movement. ’ By the end of 2008, there were few who remembered the RND.

Despite the fact that the creation of the RND wasn’t anything extraordinary, it specifically became one of the events which aggravated an already existing serious crisis in the DPNI, and indeed in the right-wing radical sector as a whole, effectively becoming only a link in the chain of a whole procession of splits and conflicts.

The split in the DPNI, in its turn, triggered a serious change in a whole series of unions. The split was marked in May 2008, when the leaders of the Potkin brothers’ organization (Alexander Belov and Vladimir Basmanov) took steps to transform the DPNI from a network structure into a party-type organization with a code and strict hierarchy. This initiative was not supported by a section of the activists, which came to be called DPNI-Mossovet, guided by the leader of the Moscow organization Aleksei Mikhailov. A third centre of the split soon emerged, the DPNI-Russian Civil Society (DPNI-Russkoe grazhdanskoe obshchestvo DPNI-RGO), headed by the ultra radical Dmitrii Zubov, leader of the Briansk DPNI. This group, arguing for the preservation of the network structure, declared their intention to radicalize the movement to the maximum. Furthermore, the union of the DPNI with the NAROD movement within the framework of the RND was acceptable to neither the DPNI-Mossovet, nor to the DPNI-RGO: NAROD activists, coming from the National-Bolshevik party (NBP), the Communist party (KPRF) and Yabloko (‘Apple’), are considered too liberal by the majority of nationalists.

Declarations about desires to resolve the conflict within the DPNI remained simply declarations, and both ‘unifying’ congresses simply strengthened the schism. Ideological and organizational differences were compounded by personal conflicts. The first congress – prepared by A. Belov and V. Basmanov – was held on June 12, and besides the formal acceptance of regulations and the election of a new leadership for the movement, it was marked by a walk-out from the hall by split supporters. [16] The second congress, led by supporters of A. Mikhailov on September 13, was ignored by both Belov’s and Zubov’s supporters. Its sole result, apart from the final strengthening of the schism, was the renaming of DPNI-Mossovet ‘Russian DPNI (Russkoe DPNI)’.

The initiator of the schism, Aleksei Mikhailov, left the Russian DPNI shortly after the September congress, announcing the creation of his own project ‘Russian Civil Society’ (Russkoe grazhdanskoe obshchestvo – in no way connected with the RGO of D. Zubov).

The DPNI schism forced the movement’s traditional allies to develop their own relations with the centers of the split. This task was made more complicated by the fact that autumn is the period of preparation for the ‘Russian march’, and a fierce struggle for the brand ensued (see below).

By November it was obvious that the Belov-Basmanov group – whose allies remained the SS, the National-Patriotic Front ‘Memory’ (Natsional’no-patrioticheskii front ‘Pamiat’’), ROD, Russian Order (Russkii poriadok), NAROD and RNBF – had won the struggle for the ‘DPNI’ brand.

The Russian DPNI were supported by the NDPR and the Party for Defense of the Russian Constitution ‘Rus’ (Partiia zashchity rossiiskoi konstitutsii ‘Rus’’, PZPK Rus). Furthermore, they were also joined by several unidentified ultra-right groups. As a result, on November 1, 2008, within the framework of preparations for one of the ‘Russian marches’, the creation of Russovet – a coalition of ‘Russian’[17] organizations – was declared, as a new form of self-organized society (in fact an ethnic variant of pre-revolutionary Soviets). The march organized by Russovet basically fell apart, and this engendered disillusion in the project in the most prominent member of the coalition, the leader of the NDPR Alexander Sevast’ianov, who announced that the NDPR were leaving Russovet. Later the position was corrected: it was announced that Sevast’ianov, disillusioned with political activity, was personally leaving Russovet and the NDPR, but the NDPR would remain a member of the coalition.

RONS could not find any way to resolve their relations with the splintered DPNI. Its symbols were not at any of the Moscow ‘Russian marches’, although RONS activists allegedly took part in three Moscow marches. And Zubov’s small group failed to find supporters, and already by November had practically ceased to be active.

Against a background of such a major schism, other changes in the ultra-right sector attracted little attention, although they also seriously influenced both the configuration of small groups, and their public activity. Thus, in spring 2008 Iurii Beliaev’s Party of Freedom (Partiia svobody) survived the latest in a series of splits. The NSO practically ceased to exist in the public sphere after its leader, Dmitrii Rumiantsev, announced in April 2008 that he was leaving the organization, a few days before he was sentenced. Before long he was heading a certain League 301 (Liga 301) which, by all accounts, had also ceased to exist by the end of the year. And before the New Year festivities themselves, a Lilliputian but extremely aggressive group, the Northern Brotherhood (Severnoe bratstvo), underwent a schism and parted from its ideologist Petr Khomiakov.

The end of the year was also marked by the disappearance of Sergei Baburin’s People’s Union (Narodnyi soiuz, NS) – the only officially registered political party of Russian nationalists (not counting the almost apolitical LDPR) – from the Russian political scene. The NS, which had successfully reregistered at the beginning of 2007, announced its renunciation of political party status at the abruptly convened extraordinary tenth party congress on December 13. While maintaining all the same leaders, it was decided to continue the activity of the organization within the framework of the Russian All-People’s Union (Rossiiskii obshchenarodnyi soiuz, ROS, from which the party had in fact grown) which had evidently maintained its registration. The reasons officially given for this transformation were disillusion about participating in elections under the existing regime and the intention to create a wider coalition of forces for ‘the return of society to the conciliar resolution of any questions’. [18] This decision was not supported by the whole series of regional organizations, in the name of which an announcement appeared on the internet about the illegality of the congress’ decision. The leadership of the NS, however, called this announcement a provocation, saying that the majority of the regional sections who had allegedly signed the document had long ago ceased to exist.

The ‘Russian march’ against the background of the schism

Against the background of the schism, the ‘Russian march’ in Moscow had a somewhat humorous character. Several ultra-right coalitions simultaneously and immediately claimed the brand. Prudently, several groups which had traditionally maintained relationships with the main participants in the 2008 conflict did not withdraw their support from a single event, announcing afterwards that their activists participated simultaneously in most of the actions of those groups ‘allied’ to them (as, for example, RONS did).

As a result, three events were planned for November 4 in Moscow under the name the ‘Russian march’: the officially permitted march along the Taras Shevchenko embankment, organized by Sergei Baburin’s People’s Union; the ‘Russian march to the Kremlin’ organized by Belov and Basmanov’s DPNI and their allies; and the Russian DPNI’s ‘Russian march on the metro’– neither of which were granted permission. Besides these, a religious procession of Orthodox monarchist organizations was planned along the Moscow boulevard ring road under the aegis of Oleg Kassin’s People’s Council (Narodnyi sobor).

The action planned on the metro openly fell apart as a result of bad organization: even the place it would be conducted had not been agreed, as a result of which even the leaders of the Russian DPNI, Iurii Gorskii and Aleksei Kanurin, went to different stations. The whole thing boiled down to the unfolding of a few posters, fairly incomprehensible to metro passengers, and slogans yelled by Gorskii.

The march along the Shevchenko embankment gathered no more than 800 people from no less than 12 organizations. [19] The main body consisted of Nazi-skinheads, doubtless attracted by the participation of Russian Image and the personal connections of the ex-leader of DPNI-Mossovet, A. Mikhailov. Open calls to violence were heard at the meeting, however because of the difference in age and outlook between the main mass of participants and the orators (the overwhelming majority of whom were veterans of the national-patriotic movement from the Yeltsin – and even Soviet – era), the meeting didn’t generate a great deal of enthusiasm.

The ‘march to the Kremlin’ gathered no less than 500 people. At least the DPNI, ROD, NAROD, NPF ‘Memory’, RNBF participated, and – judging by appearances – an array of less than publically prominent Nazi-skinhead groups. As a result, the march turned into a march of neo-Nazis along the Old Arbat, which ended in an unduly harsh crackdown and the detaining of the majority of participants by OMON. In so far as the event had a provocative character from the start, a whole gamut of ultra-right activists expressed doubt about the wisdom of participating. But the reasoning of the organizers, who were able to compare the emotional reaction to the (forbidden) march of 2006 and the (permitted) march of 2007, was understandable. The prohibition and demonstrative insubordination to the authorities (up to the rejection of their original declarations) [20] should have not only justified considerably fewer participants than in the previous march; they should have imparted new emotional momentum to the action, after the clear disappointment of the 2007 march. However, judging by the subsequent reaction on the right-wing radical internet, the leaders didn’t succeed in overcoming apathy and disillusion in the very idea of the march.

Some participants in both the march on the embankment and the march along the Arbat managed to unite with participants in the religious procession along the Moscow boulevards, which as a result gathered around 300-350 people. However this march also didn’t happen: it was stopped by OMON in the middle of Tverskoi bulvar, [21] and after a stand-off of more than an hour (OMON cordoned off the road with a chain, the believers prayed on their knees and sang psalms), most people dispersed. Of the few dozen people who continued the march, some were detained around the Kremlin embankment and some dispersed by the police.

All in all, the ‘Russian march’ and accompanying actions once again illustrated the crisis in the ultra-right movement, but despite the subterfuges of the organizers, by all appearances they could not overcome the disenchantment with the event that set in during 2007.

Impressions of a crisis were strengthened by the effective collapse of the march in Petersburg, where firstly a coalition of 75 (!) organizations could not conduct a single march, and secondly two alternative marches were extremely poorly attended and failed to gather even 200 people all told. To this may be added the conflict in Perm, where (evidently as a result of bureaucratic incompetence) of all the applications for conducting the ‘Russian march’, permission was granted to Evdokim Kniazev (D. Zubov’s DPNI), the most radical applicant with almost no influence. As a result, the march in Perm almost collapsed.

On the other hand, the march did indeed go ahead in 16 towns across the country, and preserved the same geographic spread as the year before.

The expansion of nationalism into public life

Xenophobia in the name of the state

In contrast to previous years, there was no openly discriminatory campaign such as the anti-Georgian one (2006) and the anti-Estonian campaign (2007). Media coverage of the war in South Ossetia in August and September made clear that the conflict was political rather than ethnic. This does not mean that there were no manifestations of ethnic hatred against Georgians during this period, however. As in 2006, mainstream media coverage of attacks on ethnic Georgians and other anti-Georgian incidents was absent, although such incidents certainly occurred. [22] Moreover, SOVA’s hate speech research has more than once highlighted the fact that the level of xenophobia in today’s Russia is such that even expressly political rhetoric is often interpreted as relating to ethnicity. Given that the repercussions of the anti-Georgian campaign in 2006 have not yet been surmounted, this is especially true of the coverage of the conflict in South Ossetia.

From October, part of the Russian mass media gave up on pure political rhetoric and returned again to the topics of ‘Georgian criminality’, ‘Georgian terrorism’ and ‘Russian money’ earned by Russian citizens of Georgian origin and sent to relatives in Georgia. It is telling that one of the most aggressive articles was published in the governmental Russian Newspaper (Rossiiskaia gazeta). [23]

However, soon the anti-Georgian rhetoric of the mass media was completely swallowed up in anti-migrant rhetoric. Its message boiled down to the proposition that migrants who have lost work as a result of the economic crisis, instead of leaving or searching for new work, swell the criminal ranks almost en bloc. This campaign, which began in the middle of October 2008 and has not yet come to an end, is being conducted not only by the mass media. [24] It was supported by government bureaucrats at very different levels. Probably the most notable was the announcement by the State Duma deputy Andrei Isaev (United Russia), the sense of which was that in inviting migrant workers we must be prepared for the fact that when they are chucked out on the street either we ourselves, or our relatives, will receive a brick to the head). [25]

The mood of panic was aggravated by the death of Anna Beshneva and related events, and also by traditional announcements by law enforcement agencies that ‘for the given period of time migrants committed more crimes than were committed against them’. The announcements linked to the note of protest by the government of Tajikistan after the bestial murder and beheading of a Tajik workers in December 2008 were especially inappropriate. A few changes in the rhetoric of police representatives took shape only at the beginning of 2009, however even a complete refusal by law enforcement officers to discuss the theme of ‘ethnic’ crime (which we have thus far not observed) is unlikely to swiftly neutralize the negative consequences of the autumn and winter anti-migrant hysteria which the police themselves supported.

Against the backdrop of the anti-migrant campaign the ultra-right at last managed to establish a firm connection with one of the United Russia deputies in the State Duma, Maksim Mishchenko, the leader of Young Russia (Rossiia molodaia, sometimes shortened to Rumola). Namely he is perceived by a whole array of ultra-right groups allied to Russian Image (Russkii obraz) as the main lobbyist of their interests, in place of the lost deputy mandate of N. Kur’ianovich. At least, it is specifically through Mishchenko that they are attempting to advance their legislative proposals, which are of an openly discriminatory nature (even down to the introduction of ‘a special crime subject: the migrant’). But on December 27, 2008, an open letter to the Moscow authorities and the Russian secret services began to circulate on the internet, signed by ultra-right activists A. Mikhailov (ex-DPNI), Ilya Goriachev (Russian Image) and… the very same M. Mishchenko. The letter contained a demand ‘to restrict the access of immigrants to Red Square and the surrounding territory on New Year’s Eve night. ’

As well as actions of Federation-wide scope, an initiative by the Krasnodar region Education Department, which recommended a census of children ‘from the Caucasus’ (censuses must be carried out by phenotype and/or surname of those studying) as an ‘anti-extremism’ measure, provoked substantial public debate. Similar initiatives are not new in Russian discriminatory practice, however earlier they were the initiative of the secret service. Afterwards however, as the scandal erupted, the Krasnodar authorities denied the existence of any such instructions.

The activities of pro-government youth organizations

The xenophobic activity of pro-government youth organizations became more marked.

Few people paid attention to the ‘Easter Serbian march’, which took place on the Shevchenko embankment on April 27, 2008, [26] probably because the official march organizer was the Eurasian Youth Union (Evraziiskii soiuz molodezhi, ESM), an ultra-right organization loyal to Putin, whose express aim is to ‘fight against the Orange revolution’. Meanwhile this march was the first, although not the only, mass event in 2008 in which the ESM, Nazi-skinheads and activists from the pro-government Young Russia (heading up the march with their leader, the above-mentioned Maksim Mishchenko) took part together.

The ‘Locals’ movement (Mestnye) held another racist campaign in the summer, in effect repeating the summer 2007 action under slight different slogans. Formally the activists were protesting against ‘illegal’ private taxis, however the entire advertising campaign which accompanied the action underlined the fact that Locals are calling for the services of non-Slavic drivers to be rejected. Like the year before, there was no reaction from the law enforcement agencies to the activities of these young activists, who were protected by the patronage of the governor of Moscow region Boris Gromov.

The situation escalated after the anti-migrant campaign was joined by the most official of the pro-Kremlin youth movements, the Young Guard of United Russia (Molodaia gvardiia ‘Edinoi Rossii’, MGER). At the end of October the MGER began a Russia-wide campaign ‘Our money to our people’, which formally amounted to the requirement that vacancies be offered to Russian citizens in preference to economic migrants from abroad. In practice, the campaign’s main slogan was ‘Moscow – home!’.

If the MGER had initially attempted to stick to strictly social protectionist rhetoric, then already within a few days they had signed an agreement about joint anti-immigrant actions with the Locals (the latter simultaneously expressed their readiness to collaborate with those splinters of the DPNI which are no longer controlled by A. Belov). In December an article about the action, in which ‘gastarbeiter’ were contrasted with ‘Russians’, appeared on the MGER website. [27]

As can be seen from the above, the pro-Kremlin movements are de facto engaging in straightforward competition with ultra-right groups in the public sphere, legitimizing ethnically-colored anti-migrant moods and discriminatory practice.

Counteracting radical nationalism

The international level

In July-August 2008 Russia presented the periodic report to the United Nations committee on its fulfillment of the Convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. An alternative NGO report, supported by 33 Russian organizations, was simultaneously put before the committee. The committee reacted very critically to the document presented by Russia, which was reflected in the recommendations published on August 20. In these the committee suggested, amongst other things, that an independent investigation of the anti-Georgian campaign of 2006 be conducted, that bureaucrats and other individuals directly participating in discrimination be systematically punished, that the recording of racist crimes be improved, etc.

The first measure we know of on the international level acknowledged the racism of Russian football fans: in June 2008 the UEFA disciplinary committee fined the Zenit football club 60,000 Swiss francs for the racist behavior of their fans during a UEFA Cup match with the French side Olympique Marseille on March 12, 2008. [28]

Legislation and structural changes in government bodies

In contrast to the pre-election year 2007, anti-extremist legislative activity was less significant, and the majority of draft legislation was recalled or dismissed. [29]

It is worth noting only one law, in fact. It was accepted in spring 2008 and on May 6 was brought into force. The law has a technical character, linked with the functions of the Federal Registration Service (Rosregistratisiia, FRS). Changes were introduced into several existing laws, which allowed a number of functions to be performed not by the ‘agency of justice’ (the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, Miniust), as was previously established in law, but by ‘the federal agency of government registration’ (the FRS). Only as a result of the implementation of this law did the FRS receive, in part, the functions envisaged by the law ‘On combating extremist activity’, that is the responsibility for maintaining a list of extremist organizations, and the responsibility for monitoring organizations for any activity which might be deemed extremist, including the right of the FRS to issue warnings and to serve lawsuits about their liquidation or banning. In this manner, a technical error in existence since 2004 – about which we have written several times – was finally eliminated. To remind the reader, the conflict consisted of the fact that under the reorganization of the system of federal agencies of executive government, the Ministry of Justice lost the function of maintaining the federal lists of extremist materials and organizations. The FRS, however, did not acquire this function. The function of maintaining a register of extremist material was given to the FRS by order of the president in May 2006, but once again the register of extremist organizations was forgotten about. The law implemented in May filled this lacuna. What is curious, however, is that in fact this situation existed for only one week. Already on May 12, Dmitrii Medvedev signed an order which supported the final changes in the structure of the federal agencies of executive government. By this, amongst other things, the function connected with the registration of political, public and other non-commercial organizations (and by the current logic of the law – also the function of maintaining the register of extremist organizations and materials) was returned to the Ministry of Justice.

It should be observed that, contrary to expectations, the hiatus in activities connected to maintenance of the lists (when the FRS had ceased to do so, but the Ministry of Justice had not yet started), was relatively short – from the middle of May to the beginning of July).

On the other hand there is no doubting the importance of the structural changes which were implemented in the Ministry of the Interior system in autumn 2008.

The Presidential Order ‘On several matters of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation’ was signed and implemented on September 2. Amongst other things, a number of functions linked with crimes of an extremist tendency were specified. The structures relating to the fight against organized crime were disbanded throughout the Ministry of the Interior, and in their place subdivisions were created for the counteraction of extremism (a department for the counteraction of extremism in the Ministry and centers of the same name in the regions) and for the safeguarding of persons subject to government protection. [30]

If one sets aside the imprecise understanding of ‘extremism’ in Russian legislation, this reorganization may be evaluated as an exclusively positive functional transformation. It not only strengthens established practice (to remind the reader, the departments for combating organized crime often investigated neo-Nazi crimes previously), but develops it by separating ‘extremist’ crimes off as a particular type of crime which requires a specialized approach and specialized skills for its investigation. One may expect the mediocre quality of investigations of crimes motivated by hatred to improve. After only a few months since the reorganization began, it is, however, too early to judge.

The function to protect participants in legal proceedings is not considered as an ‘anti-extremist’ activity in the context of the Order. However, firstly the very fact of separating off such a specialized type of activity is important. Secondly, this function is very important for racist, neo-Nazi crimes, as given the current scale of right-wing radical and neo-Nazi activity, the security of participants in legal processes against the ultra-right is under threat (suffice to recall the murder of Nikolai Girenko and the attacks on expert witnesses Dmitrii Dubrovskii and Valentina Uzunova in Petersburg).

Criminal proceedings

Prosecutions for violence

In 2008 there no fewer than 33 successful prosecutions for crimes related to racist violence, in which hate was recognized as an aggravating circumstance (in 2007 there were 23). 114 persons were convicted in proceedings across 19 regions of the country. [31]

The following punishments were allocated:

28 people received probationary sentences;

Two of those convicted were sentenced to correctional labor;

13 people received a custodial sentence of up to two years;

22 people – up to five years;

33 people – up to ten years; [32]

Six people – up to 15 years;

Six people – up to 20 years;

Four people received life sentences.

A further three were relieved of criminal responsibility, because at the time the crime was committed they were younger than 14.

33 successful prosecutions for racist violence represents the highest number since the legislation taking the hate motive into account was implemented (the same number were passed in 2006). Concurrent to an evident increase in the prosecution of racists, we are seeing a clear improvement in the way in which charges are brought.

Firstly, charges brought against perpetrators of violent crimes have stopped focusing on the notorious article 282, which is intended rather for the prosecution of propagandists. Thus, only in seven of the 33 trials (that is 22%) was article 282 used to denote the racist motive of the attack, and the remaining cases used other articles of the Criminal Code. In former years the number of successful prosecutions for violent crime where article 282 was used wavered between 30% and 50%. The specific penalty enhancement of hatred was used in 2008 in sentences connected with murder (article 105); the inflicting of grievous (article 111), medium (article 112) and minor bodily harm (article 115); battery (article 116); torture (article 117); hooliganism (article 213) and threats to murder (article 119).

Several of the above-cited articles of the Criminal Code are the result of changes in the code, brought into force only in the summer of 2007. If earlier we observed that new norms – especially linked with proof of racist motives – begin to work extremely slowly, because of the investigators’ inertness and a lack of skill in proving this motive, then the new norms began to work very quickly. The first verdicts were already being passed under an array of renewed articles in 2007, and in 2008, it seems, almost the whole spectrum of articles of the Criminal Code began to be used, incorporating the specific penalty enhancement of hatred. Thus, for example, the new version of article 119 (threats to murder), as far as we know, was first used in law enforcement practice in 2008. It is also worth noting that in cases of the application of article 119 (and in 2008 there were two such cases) the motive of hatred was used to denote a manifestation of ‘everyday’ xenophobia, which is very rarely reflected in the legal treatment of the crime. In Samara region a woman was convicted of threatening her fellow villager, an ethnic Bashkir, and in Arkhangelsk region a young man threatened a Dagestani driver with an axe.

Secondly, the presence of a mercenary motive is no longer an insurmountable obstacle to a crime being qualified as racist. There were accusations of robbery (article 161) and robbery with violence (article 162) amongst the charges in nine of the 33 cases. It is too early, however, to speak about a stable positive tendency: the 2008 data tallies with the data from 2006, but in 2007 there was a significant fall – mercenary motives were included in only three sentences out of 23.

Thirdly, an analysis of the sentences further supports the thesis that perceptions of the hypothetical racism of the jurors who acquit skinheads are grossly exaggerated and are being used for propaganda to ensure the removal of this category of cases (together with a whole array of other crimes) from the jurisdiction of courts where there is a right to trial by jury. Thus, out of seven jury trials relating to racist crime examined in 2008, in only one case was a ‘not guilty’ verdict reached – in the case of the murder of an Armenian youth in the summer of 2007. The main reason, as usual, was an inadequate investigation: only one of the two attackers was apprehended, and judging by the description of the process in the mass media, the witness testimony gave grounds for doubt that the attacker apprehended was indeed the one who actually delivered the fatal blow.

Positive changes are especially noticeable in the prosecution of those involved in racist violence, in Moscow, for example. Here we noticed an improvement in the situation even in 2007. In 2008 we can confirm that this is a stable tendency.

Quantitative indicators for prosecutions of racist violence have almost doubled (although the figures remain extremely negligible): in 2008 there were seven prosecutions, compared to four in 2007. The qualitative improvement, however, is even more important. If in 2007 not only significant cases were investigated, now the next step has been taken. Earlier, cases relating to racist attacks amounted to one or two criminal incidents for which, as a rule, one or two defendants were tried, and the rest remained ‘unidentified persons’. In 2008, cases linked with large neo-Nazi groups which had committed serious crimes resulted in guilty verdicts: the Kalinichenko and Ryno-Skachevskii gangs and the ‘Cherkizovo bombers’.

The verdict on Nikolai Korolev’s group was passed on May 15. Eight group members were charged with a whole series of explosions in Moscow, the most tragic of which was the explosion in Cherkizovo market, in which 14 people died and 60 were wounded. All group participants were found guilty by the jury and received prison sentences from two years to life.

Sentences were passed next on the ‘Kalinichenko group’ (in September) and the ‘Ryno-Skachevskii group’ (in December), accused of 21 murders and more than 30 assaults in total. And although public opinion remained dissatisfied with the verdict in both cases, [33] the exposure of these crimes and the liquidation of such groups is in itself significant. Since then, as far as we know, only in Petersburg has something similar happened, in connection with the prosecutions of ‘Shultz-88’ and ‘Mad Crowd’. However, the number of charges brought against these groups was considerably lower.

Among the negative tendencies related to the prosecution of racist violence, it is worth noting the main one, which has been an issue for many years – as before, the proportion of probationary sentences imposed for violent crimes remains significant (no less than a quarter of the total number of those convicted). Doubtless, not every racist crimes should result in the loss of freedom, and major anti-racist processes would be impossible without the plea bargains which necessarily lighten the sentence, however such a high percentage of probationary sentences cannot but make one uneasy.

Yet another persistent problem is linked rather with access to information. As before (although far more rarely than in recent years) a proportion of the successful proceedings against racists escapes the attention of the media and remains practically unknown. And neither the prosecutor nor the court demonstrates any interest in disseminating information about further successful anti-racist experience. Thus, for example, practically nothing is known about a sentence passed in October 2006 in Moscow region for hate-motivated murder, apart from the fact that it was passed. And there were only two successful criminal proceedings of this type in the entire Moscow region, for the whole of 2008.

Also, of course, in observing such clear progress in the criminal prosecution of racist violence, we must remember that the number of sentences nevertheless, in our estimation, falls short of the number of crimes 20-fold or more. [34] And this is in many respects explains the fact that similar trials, be they conducted even at the highest level of quality, are not a factor in suppressing racist violence precisely by virtue of their sparse numbers.

Law enforcement practice as regards hate-motivated vandalism has barely developed, however. As far as we know, there were only two convictions for cemetery vandalism motivated by hatred in 2008 – in Izhevsk and in Nizhnii Novgorod (both of those convicted in these cases were given probationary sentences without any sort of supplementary sanctions). We do not observe any particular dynamic in the application of these articles of the Criminal Code in comparison with earlier years: in 2007 there were also two convictions, in 2006 – none, and in 2005 – one.

Prosecutions for propaganda

Xenophobic propaganda is being prosecuted even more actively than violence. In 2008 there were no less than 49 successful prosecutions across 30 regions of Russia: 42 – for inciting hatred (article 282) and seven – for calls to extremist activity (article 280), excluding sentences which we consider unlawful. As far as we know, this is the highest number of successful prosecutions of racists ever in Russia (the previous record was 28 in 2007).

The punishments awarded for racist propaganda are as follows. Of 66 defendants convicted in these 49 trials:

25 received either a probationary sentence without supplementary sanctions or were released without punishment because the statute of limitations had expired;

Two were forbidden to pursue journalistic activities;

Ten people were sentenced to correctional labor;

Seven people were fined;

Nine people received a custodial sentence of up to one year;

Eight people received a custodial sentence of up to three years;

Five people received a custodial sentence of from three and half to seven years.

We note that of the 15 successful prosecutions in which defendants (22 in total) received custodial sentences, we consider the harshness of the punishment to be unwarranted in only in six cases. [35] The sentencing was gratuitously harsh in five out of nine successful prosecutions in 2007, so the proportion of such punishments has got smaller.

On the whole, however, in contrast to violent crime, we are unable to so categorically declare that along with the growth in the quantity of sentences there has been a corresponding rise in quality.

As before, the proportion of probationary sentences or release from punishment remains high – in 20 cases out of the 49 (that is, 41%) – and this is the largest number for the last three years (in 2007 the proportion of such sentences was 29%, and in 2006 it was 35%).

As before, it is extremely rare for a prohibition on activities to be imposed as a punishment, and this is a far more effective punishment for propagandists in our view. A prohibition on practicing a profession was used only in three cases out of the 49: in two as the main punishment, and in another as supplementary to a custodial sentence.

It is absolutely clear that in prosecuting racist propaganda the focus of attention of the law-enforcement bodies is increasingly deflected onto insignificant crimes (the drawing of swastikas on buildings, the distribution of leaflets etc.). In contrast to 2007, when increased pressure on the leaders of nationalist organizations – albeit regional – was observed, the ideologists of the ultra-right movement (with a few notable exceptions) are not really attracting the attention of the law-enforcement agencies. We know of four guilty verdicts against leaders of regional national-patriotic organizations (in contrast to 11 in 2007): two in Blagoveshchensk (Amur Union of Russian People, Soiuz russkogo naroda, and DPNI), one in Akhtubinsk (‘For the Empire of God’, ‘K Bogoderzhaviiu’) and one – the most significant – in Ekaterinburg (People’s National Party, Narodnaia natsional’naia partiia).

Guilty verdicts were reached in four trials against figures of Russia-wide repute, but two of them – the leader of the NSO Dmitrii Rumiantsev and the well-known aggressive antisemite Boris Mironov – managed to escape punishment: the first was awarded a probationary sentence, and the second was released without punishment because the statute of limitations had expired (the case against Mironov was clearly drawn out by artifice, and the statute of limitations was very doubtful, especially given that Mironov hid from investigators for a long period).

Iurii Beliaev, already in possession of a probationary sentence for inciting hatred, was given only a six month custodial sentence. In fact there was only one serious sentence handed down to a leader of a neo-Nazi organization: in February one of the most well-known Russian Nazi-skinheads Maksim (Tesak) Martsinkevich was given a custodial sentence of three years for a neo-Nazi outburst at the Bilingua club in 2007. By this sentence the court demonstrated that one may approach a Russian neo-Nazi icon not only from the point of view of the severity of the crime committed (it is clear that Martsinkevich’s cries could have been punished more lightly). The court, it seems, calculated that it was Martsinkevich in particular, on his website Format-18, who had introduced the fashion of creating video clips of racist attacks (genuine or mocked-up) and disseminating them on the internet. The prosecution of this activity had, however, not been initiated. [36] The arrest and judgment of Tesak, meanwhile, triggered serious consequences for the neo-Nazis – the Format-18 studio he headed ceased to exist; the NSO, in which he held a leading position, fell apart and also ceased to exist as a public actor. However, Martsinkevich’s sentence clearly stands apart from the general tendency of prosecutions of ultra-right activists of nationwide reach.

Regarding the attention of law-enforcement officers being deflected onto the prosecution of insignificant crimes, it is impossible not to note a clear tendency to prosecute for declarations, albeit racist, on internet forums. In 2008 no less than 5 people in 4 regions were convicted for this. There is no doubt that hate propaganda is present in vast quantities on the internet, including also on the Russian-language internet. It is all the more present on internet forums, not least because, in contrast to the mass media, this is an uncensored environment in which it is possible for anyone, including xenophobes, to speak out. However, the logic behind the prosecution of those who speak out in forums is impossible to grasp; it seems most likely that the choice of the suspects/defendants is arbitrary. How much these people influence their audience is not clear; mostly likely the danger posed to society by their rejoinders is not great. If the racist declarations are left on an extremely aggressive racist site, as in the case of one of the Samara neo-Nazis, such a prosecution is nonsensical: in this case it would have been more logical to punish the organizers and ideologists of the site, or the whole community rather than just one supporter. Overall, against a background of the active and practically unimpeded functioning of the resources of ultra-right groups, the leaders of which remain at large and freely pursue their activities, the prosecution of forum participants looks ineffective, and is perceived more as unreasonable repression ‘for reporting purposes’ than as a real struggle with hate propaganda.

However, there is no doubt that there were also positive examples of the prosecution of internet propagandists: in Lipetsk it was precisely the creator of a neo-Nazi site who was held responsible for the incitement of hatred, and in Novosibirsk it was the ideologist of one of the local neo-pagan groups conducting propaganda on the internet.

Altogether, out of 49 successful prosecutions there were no less than 11 convictions specifically for internet propaganda, and this yet again contests the repeated assertion that there isn’t a sufficient legislative framework in Russia today for the prosecution of ‘Cyberhate’.

The sentences for incitement of hatred handed down to employees of the law-enforcement agencies were especially important events in 2008. Moreover, these sentences were connected with ultra-right activity (a police officer from Leningrad region, who maintained a neo-Nazi blog and internet site) as well as manifestations of ‘everyday’ xenophobia (a Stavropol police officer, who not only did not interrupt the racist battery of an Azerbaijani waiter by colleagues, but provided an insulting commentary).

The ultra-right’s connections with law enforcement agency employees and the prevalence of xenophobic sentiments amongst police have long ago been discussed. Until now, however, as far as we know, acting employees of the law enforcement agencies have not been called to account for aggressive xenophobia. [37]

Federal lists of extremist organizations and materials

In April 2008, six years after the principle of the creation of a federal list of extremist organizations was added to the anti-extremist legislation, this list was first published. Initially, it included six organizations banned in 2004-2007 (the list is not ordered in any fashion – it begins with the NBP). In 2008 it was updated twice: on April 10, the religious association Nurdzhular were declared extremist, and on July 17 so was the Akhtubinsk people’s movement ‘For God’s Empire’. At the beginning of 2009 there were eight organizations on the list. In reality there are a few more banned extremist organizations (we know of a further three at least, banned only in 2003-2008).

Moreover, nowhere on the Ministry of Justice website, unfortunately, does it explain that besides the organizations enumerated above, all organizations banned as terrorist are also considered extremist, since in accordance with the law ‘On combating extremist activity’ terrorism is a type of extremism (which is also confirmed by the way in which article 282 of the Criminal Code is enforced). The list of terrorist organizations is not even published on the Ministry of Justice website. There were 18 organizations on this list at the beginning of 2009, the majority of which do not operate on Russian territory. [38]

The federal list of extremist materials began to be published in 2007. During 2008 it grew almost fourfold: from 79 to 301 items (and in the first three months of 2009, to 361 items). The list grew so swiftly that the Russian newspaper (Rossiiskaia gazeta), authorized to publish list updates, often didn’t manage to do this.

Of the 222 items which were added to the list in 2008, [39] 82 are Islamic materials, by all appearances, removed from members of Hizb ut Tahrir and other Islamist groups. Yet another 100 are the materials of ultra-right (mostly neo-pagan) groups, and the remainder is historical writings, political pamphlets, materials produced by minority national and separatist groups (Chechens, Altai, Tatars) and by new religious movements, etc.

Setting aside the legitimacy of the ban on a great number of these materials – which we have serious doubts about[40] we will focus only on the general negative and positive tendencies of the banning of material and the creation of the list which appeared in 2008.

It is positive that the courts are beginning to ban video clips with scenes of racist assault as extremist. One may hope that this curtails the fashion of distributing such material on the internet, or at least limits access to it. And already, without doubt, the recognition of such video material as extremist helps to prevent its distribution by widely-accessed mass media, above all by Russian television channels. [41]

However, there are far more problems with the list than there are reasons to praise it. The swift growth of the list and the widening of sanctions connected with its existence (see below), elicited a whole series of legislative lacunae. While these gaps remain unaddressed, the list will primarily be a repressive instrument which facilitates the amassing of anti-extremist statistics but offers no obstacle to the dissemination of materials presenting a real danger to society.

Firstly, the quality of the list itself evokes the largest amount of censure. Besides the fact that duplications (currently no fewer than nine), and sometimes evident mistakes, [42] make it on to the list, the majority of items included in the list simply can’t be indentified. For example, the lists of Buguruslan, Magnitogorsk and Tuimazy court decisions comprising 42 items in total, do not contain any kind of publication details. The materials (at least the printed ones) are described by external appearance: by covers; by first and last phrase; by format – in a word, by any outward feature. They are, however, not described by the bibliographic standards which would really help to identify a text.

Meanwhile this problem has already generated at least one criminal case. On 16 May in Moscow the prosecutor instigated legal proceedings under article 282 part 1 of the Criminal Code in relation to Aslambek Ezhaev, head of the publishing department of Moscow Islamic University, under the auspices of the Council of Muftis of Russia. Ezhaev reprinted Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi’s The Ideal Muslim: The True Islamic Personality as Defined in the Qur'an and Sunnah (often shorted to The Personality of a Muslim in Russian), banned in 2007. [43] Charges under article 282 were dropped only at the beginning of 2009, as the defense proved that the banned text and the text published by Ezhaev are not identical. This at least means that these texts were checked. The practice of removing books of this name from shops, mosques and private individuals clearly does not allow for the checking of texts.

Secondly, serious doubts are raised by the fact that leaflets – albeit with clearly illegal contents – are being deemed extremist. A leaflet is a leaflet, often without any publication details and available only within a local distribution area. Given that their texts are unknown, and they are identified at best only by the first and last phrase, there nothing to prevent the activists concerned from circumventing this ban. In practice the banning of leaflets (and there are no less than 50 on the official list – a sixth of the total!) [44] appears to be an obvious simulation of anti-extremist activity. And this is to say nothing about certain absurdities in the practice of deeming materials which de facto exist only in criminal case files to be extremist. Here we refer to Alexander Vtulkin’s text which make threats against the governor Valentin Matvienko, deleted from the internet back in 2006; and to Oleg Kitter’s internet resource ‘Aleks-Inform’, which has also not existed for three years.

Thirdly, as before, the moment at which someone may be held responsible for disseminating material deemed extremist remains unexplained – is it from the time of the court’s decision or from the moment that the material is included in the federal list? The above-mentioned A. Ezhaev completed the dissemination of the book after it had been banned by one of the town courts of Orenburg region, but before it had appeared on the federal list, and argued accordingly that he didn’t know about the ban. This in itself did not halt the criminal proceedings, however.

Fourthly, for all the absurdities of a whole series of extremist bans, not only does the mechanism for withdrawing material from the list (as indeed the possibility of revising the list as such – for example, correcting it according to bibliographical standards) not yet exist, but as far as we know, the creation of such a mechanism has not yet even been discussed. [45]

And finally, as before, the question of the method of preserving and distributing of prohibited material to libraries remains unresolved. Here anti-extremist legislation would appear to contradict library legislation: the former forbids the mass dissemination of extremist material while the latter forbids libraries from refusing readers access to any material. Meanwhile, the practice of issuing anti-extremist warnings to libraries is rocketing. And this means that the libraries are being held responsible for the law and the implementing authorities’ lack of care in the development of a mechanism to ensure the fulfillment of the law. That said, like the banning of leaflets, the attack on libraries looks like simply a simulation of anti-extremist activity, since mass dissemination through libraries isn’t really happening.


Besides the criminal prosecution of xenophobic violence and propaganda, and the banning of materials and organizations, the practice of anti-extremist prosecution under administrative law is actively developing. It is impossible to understand the dynamic of those punishments issued by the administrative court, since information about this appears very haphazardly, but evidently it is happening. Thus, several cases are known of administrative punishment for the distribution of materials deemed extremist, for the display of Nazi symbols, for the sale of Wehrmacht troop memorabilia by antique dealers (in this last case it is worth noting that this question is unresolved, as is the question of the libraries, indeed, historical re-enactors and collectors of war memorabilia without any ideological predilections suffer from such bans, for example).

The number of ‘acts of procuracy reaction’ about the results of checks on adherence to anti-extremist legislation is rocketing. On January 12, 2009 the Prosecutor General of Russia, Iurii Chaika announced that if in 2007 ‘a little over 12 thousand acts of procuracy reactions were introduced in connection with the violation of legislation on inter-ethnic relations and the counteraction of extremism, then in nine months of the following year, it was almost 29 thousand.’ [46] And this number doesn’t seem fantastic to us, as any official reaction by the prosecutor counts as an ‘act of procuracy reaction’. This means warnings, cautions, recommendations to organizations and government bureaucrats, relating to the fulfillment of any nuance of legislation, moreover not only anti-extremist legislation but also, for example, migration law. [47] The majority of ‘acts of reaction’, without doubt, cannot be called illegitimate. However, this degree of activity looks more like the artificial inflation of anti-extremist reporting, a masquerade of anti-extremist activity, rather than real preventative action against real crime and infringement of the law. An example of this is ‘acts of reaction’ as a result of legislative lacunae – how this arose in relation to the warnings to libraries is described above.

However, one should note also the positive aspects of such activity. In 2008 we saw the first cases in which the prosecutor obliged municipal authorities to paint over neo-Nazi symbols on the territory within their jurisdiction.

The opaque nature of the prosecutor’s ‘anti-extremist’ activity as a whole remains a great problem: it is impossible to understand what the prosecutor’s focus of attention is, when, why and how sensible and legitimate that attention is. In other words, it is impossible to analyze whether the quality of preventative supervision has improved.

Against this background, the activity of the Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (Rossviaz’komnadzor) in 2008 looks more reasonable, although no less active, than a year earlier, apart from the fact that this year the proportion of illegitimate warnings also rose. 28 ‘anti-extremist’ warnings were issued to the Russian media by the department (including six illegitimate ones) in 2008, while in 2007 there were 43 (including seven illegitimate ones).

On the basis of two warnings issued by the department in 2008, a legal judgment was made (in contrast to the decision of 2007 – entirely legitimate) on November 26 to shut the newspaper Duel, which incidentally was not implemented.

Unfortunately, one must note that the activity of other government bodies in the sphere of combating aggressive xenophobia has little effect. Often it amounts to the task of ‘promoting tolerance’, which is by no means the same thing. The ‘promotion of tolerance’, as a rule, is handled within the framework of the Soviet paradigm of ‘promoting the friendship of peoples’, by means of organizing mass cultural events with ethnic elements. Without calling into question the necessity of conducting such festivals and concerts, it seems to us that this is extremely ineffective as a measure for combating xenophobia. [48] However, we do not yet observe any signs of a change in the approach of government bureaucrats to the problem.


[1] Information about almost all incidents mentioned in this collection has been published on the SOVA Center website (http://sova-center.ru) and for brevity’s sake, links to SOVA pages are not included here. Citations for all other sources are provided. In the preparation of this report, in addition to the monitoring conducted by the SOVA Center, we used regional papers on the problem of radical nationalism and its counteraction prepared as part of the Moscow Helsinki Group’s monitoring project. These materials are available from the author.

[2] The situation in the North Caucuses is closely monitored by the Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’, and the site Kavkazskii uzel. We do not include events in this region in our monitoring because we believe that our methods of selecting information would be ineffective for this region.

[3]11 in 2007. The attack on two Chechen youths on 27 May 2008, which resulted in the death of one victim, was not officially recognised as racist. However, both eyewitnesses and neo-Nazis declare that Nazi-skinheads were involved in this crime. [From MHG monitoring in Krasnodar region.]

[4] The bombing of a sex shop at the end of 2007 for example, which neo-Nazis are now charged with, was motivated by the belief that such products ‘pervert the nation’.

[5] At least one of the terrorist attacks (the explosion at the Evrokafe on Izmailovskaia street) has already been investigated, and the case against two Nazi-skinheads went to court. At the end of December 2008, neo-Nazis issued statements claiming that the ‘comrades-in-arms’ of the Cherkizovo bomber Nikolai Korolev had participated in almost all the explosions in Moscow markets in 2008 (we know of at least four). In January 2009 a group of radical neo-pagans was arrested on suspicion of participation in five incidents involving the use of explosives in 2008–2009.

[6] For this publication the newspaper received an 'anti-extremism' warning, completely – in our opinion – lawfully.

[7] Material from MHG’s monitoring in Krasnodar region.

[8] For further detail about the conflict in Karagai see ‘Karagai: bytovye konflikty, mekhanizmy solidarnosti i bezotvetstvennye SMI’, Natsionalizm i ksenofobiia v Rossii, 5 September 2008. Available from the SOVA Center website (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/45A29F2/BA8D13A); Ombudsman Permskogo kraia: ‘Liudi ne gotovy priniat’ “inakovost’”’, ibid., ( http://xeno.sova-center.ru/45A2A39/BA8DFC0).

[9]‘Karagai i SMI: provokatsiia i neprofessionalizm’, Natsionalizm i ksenofobiia v Rossii, 5 September 2008. Available from the SOVA Center website (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/213716E/213988B/BA8D2C6); ‘“Napridumyvali” do vozbuzhdeniia nenavisti?’, ibid., (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/45A2A1E/BA8D7E0).

[10] Bekhtol’d Alexander, Ivanova Sofiia, Preodolenie etnicheskoi diskriminatsii, rasizma, ksenofobii, neterpimosti i ekstremizma v Rossii: Situatsiia v Riazanskoi oblasti v 2008 g. (Ryazan, 2009)

[11] For further detail explaining the situation with the ‘recluses’ in the mass media, see Galina Kozhevnikova, Iazyk vrazhdy i vybory: federal’nyi i regional’nyi urovni. Po materialam monitoringa oseni-zimy 2007-2008 godov. (Moscow: SOVA Centre, 2008), pp. 102-107. Here we also note, for example, that in one of the television reports about the situation in Poganovka, a village inhabitant declared ‘poison them all with gas, like in “Nord-Ost”’.

[12] Two individuals are exceptions (an Orthodox parishioner of a Moscow church and a Muscovite who was taken for an Orthodox priest). They suffered at the hands of radical neo-pagans who became active in Moscow in the second half of 2008.

[13] There is serious doubt that we have traced the full extent of all such incidents, however, given that 100% of the incidents of anti-Protestant vandalism known to us are of such an aggressive nature. It is possible that the Protestants do not consider it necessary to report less serious incidents.

[14] Baranov, Konstantin, Monitoring proiavlenii ksenofobii, religioznoi neterpimosti, sotsial’noi nenavisti I diskriminatsii v Rostovskoi oblasti (2008-2009 gg.) (Rostov, 2009).

[15] Pakt 8 iiunia and Memorandum (political statements by the organisers of the conference).

[16] But Belov and Basmanov remain the leaders of the DPNI, as before.

[17] By ‘Russian’ here is understood organisations with an ethnically Russian leadership.

[18] Sostoialsia X (vneocherednoi) s’ezd partii ‘Narodnyi Soiuz’, Narodnoi Soiuz official website, 16 December 2008 (http://www.partia-nv.ru/news/2008/n161208.html).

[19] According to our observations, activist with symbols from the following organisations were present on the Shevchenko embankment: the People’s Union, the Nationwide Movement ‘Russian Union’ (Obshchenatsional’noe dvizhenie ‘Russkii soiuz’ – a group formed back in the middle of the 90s, which had not showed signs of life for a long time), Russian Image, A. Mikhailov’s Russian Civil Society, Union of Orthodox Banner-bearers, N. Kur’ianovich’s Union of Russian People, the Union of Orthodox Citizens (represented by Valentin Lebedev), the Union of Officers, the Union of Christian Revival, the National Unity Front ‘Imperial Union’ (Front natsional’nogo edinstva ‘Imperskii Soiuz’), Hardline Straight Edge (also called Black Block, chernyi blok), the Black Hundred (Chernaia sotnia).

[20] On October 9 and 20, 2008, the DPNI declared that it delivered a request to hold the march along the Shevchenko embankment, but on November 1 the movement disseminated the announcement that the DPNI had never agreed to march along this route. See: ‘Podana zaiavka na provedenie Russkogo marsha v Moskve’ on the original site of the DPNI, 20 October 2008; ‘Obrashchenie Orgkomiteta Russkogo Marsha-2008’, ibid, 1 November 2008.

[21] A year earlier, the same organizers did not submit a request to the town hall for a comparable religious procession, and that procession went ahead without any problems. This time, although once again there was not a single political slogan, but only icons and religious banners, the organizers nevertheless recalled the necessity of submitting a request and the procession was repressed.

[22] If the mass media wrote about any manifestations of everyday xenophobia towards Georgians which didn’t result in human injury (for example, the false information about the mining of a Georgian restaurant), information about attacks on ethnic Georgians or those who are taken for Georgians was exclusively on the internet.

[23] Vasil’kov, Anton ‘Lezginka s vykhodom na rubl’’, Rossiiskaia gazeta, 1 October 2008 (http://rg.ru/2008/10/01/dengi.html).

[24] Mikhail Deliagin made one of the first such declarations, after which his opinion began to be cited as the only view of economists.

[25]‘V tsentre sobytii’, TVTs, 19 October 2008.

[26] We note that the meeting ended with several racist attacks.

[27] Tomilin, Nikita ‘Rossii ne nuzhny raby!’ Available on the official site of the MGER. February 18, 2008. The author of the article is not only an MGER activist but a well-known ultra-right blogger (tomilin88), who has openly declared his nationalist views (see for example: Tomilin, N. ‘Park putinskogo period’, NaZlobu, 3 October 2007 (http://www.nazlobu.ru/publications/article2239.htm).

[28] Andrushkevich, Georgii ‘“Zenit” nakazali slishkom miagko’, Novye novosti, 20 November 2008 (http://www.infox.ru/sport/football/2008/11/20/zenith_shtraf.phtml).

[29] This is discussed in more detail in the related SOVA Center annual report.

[30] According to current Russian legislation, this is participants in the legal process: victims, witnesses, expert witnesses, judges, prosecutors, investigators etc.

[31] We note that the motive of hatred was not present in all the verdicts handed down to these 114 individuals.

[32] In the case of the ‘Kalinichenko group’ we know that seven people were given custodial sentences of ‘from three to nine years’, however the exact length of punishment is unknown.

[33] In both groups the majority of individuals were underage, and the maximum sentence for juveniles is ten years deprivation of freedom. For two murders and more than ten attempted murders, the members of the Kalinichenko group therefore received from three to ten years, and members of the Ryno-Skachesvkii group from six to 20 years, moreover the leaders, Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachesvkii – as juveniles – received custodial sentences of ten years each.

[34] Statistical evaluations have, of course, only a tentative character, but we will attempt such an evaluation. In 2007 the SOVA Center knew of around 700 victims of racist and neo-Nazi attacks in total and in 2006 of around 600, and there were 33 successful prosecutions in 2008. Given the length of the investigation, we should in fact compare with the year before or even earlier years. Thus we end up with a proportion of convictions to victims at around 1 to 20. Of course, many were convicted for more than one attack, but it should be remembered that while we know of almost all the verdicts, we know far from all of the crimes.

[35] Nine custodial sentences we consider appropriate, as in these cases either the accused had prior convictions for racist crimes, or the propaganda entailed real threats of violence or provocation of violence, or article 282 was imposed as only one component of wider charges.

[36] On 16 January 2009, M. Martsinkevich was found guilty of faking the execution of a person in the name of the ‘Russian Ku-Klux-Klan’, but this clip was not advertised as a ‘Format 18’ clip but was specially filmed in response to a request of an ATV journalist.

[37] At the beginning of the 1990s in Petersburg, there was an attempt to invoke Iurii Beliaev – who was then working for the police – for incitement of hatred, but he was saved by the immunity given to Duma deputies, and he subsequently left the police.

[38] See the list of organisations found to be extremist by the Russian courts [as of the beginning of 2009] on the SOVA Center website, Nationalizm i ksenofobia v Rossii (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/4DF39C9/A12DD8E).

[39] In fact we are talking about 213 items, as nine items are included in the list twice.

[40] The question of materials which, in our opinion, have been forbidden illegitimately, is explored in Verkhovsky A., Kozhevnikova G. ‘Nepravomernoe primenenie antiekstremistskogo zakonodatel'stva v Rossii v 2008 godu’ [The misuse of anti-extremism legislation in Russia in 2008], SOVA Center, Natsionalizm i ksenofobiia v Rossii, 28 March 2009 (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/29481C8/CB5956B).

[41] On the problem of distribution, see Kozhevnikova, Galina ‘Skinkhed televizionnyi’, SOVA Center, Natsionalizm i ksenofobiia v Rossii, 15 May 2006 (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/213716E/21728E3/7502623).

[42] Swiftly corrected, however.

[43] This ban provoked a stormy reaction from the Muslim community and even from the muftis in 2007, and was, to all appearances, illegal.

[44] Not counting a whole array of right-wing radical newsletters, included in the list as ‘leaflets’.

[45] However, the unofficial correction of the list, placed on the site of the Ministry of Justice, does happen: they have corrected the date of court decisions passed, added information about court cases which ban materials.

[46] Besides this, Iurii Chaika announced that currently 4.6 thousand lawsuits have been brought before the courts to decide whether or not organisations and materials are extremist. However, this declaration raises serious doubts. He is probably mistaken.

[47] For example, in the prosecutor’s official reports one may find that improperly executed checks of the correctness of completed announcements about the arrival of foreign citizens by recipients etc. is a violation of anti-extremist legislation. See Prokuraturoi Slavskogo raiona vyiavleny mnogochislennye narusheniia… Official site of the Prosecutor of Kaliningrad region, 20 June 2008 (http://www.prokuratura39.ru/00news/20080620-03.html).

[48] The annual autumn fights between Armenian and Azeri students of the People’s Friendship University of Russia (Rossiiskii Universitet Druzhby Narodov), which occur during such festivals, already demonstrate the ineffectiveness of this approach.

English translation by S. Rock

Source: SOVA