Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2012

Настоящий материал (информация) произведен и (или) распространен иностранным агентом РОО Центр «Сова» либо касается деятельности иностранного агента РОО Центр «Сова».
Edited by Alexander Verkhovsky


Creation of Regulatory Acts
MAJOR TRENDS : “Excessive Vigilance” : The Internet and Anti-Extremism : Incidental Victims of Inappropriate Anti-Extremism
PRINCIPAL TARGETS OF PERSECUTION : Religious Groups : Political and Civic Activists : Media Topics

Anti-extremist legislation is inherently politicized because it suggests penalties for ideologically-motivated actions. A priori, it seemed likely that the intensified political activity, which followed the State Duma elections, should have resulted in more active enforcement of anti-extremist laws. Since this legislation has often been abused for various reasons, and since certain aspects of current anti-extremist legislation do, in fact, excessively restrict civil rights and freedoms,[1] we expected to see a sharp increase in what we call “inappropriate anti-extremism.” Our assumptions proved to be partially accurate, but the actual dynamics was more complex than anticipated.

Pressure against the political opposition has taken various forms, but use of anti-extremist legislation in this context has not become more frequent since December 2011. In 2012, we did observe a significant increase in number of inappropriate verdicts under anti-extremist Criminal Code articles not directly related to violence, such as Articles 280, 282, 282,1 and so on (the number of convictions under Article. 2822 was about the same as in 2011). However, almost all of these convictions pertained to the court cases initiated prior to the Duma elections, so the number of actual post-election protest participants among the convicted offenders, or even among the suspects, was very small.

These statistics can be partially attributed to the inertia of the law enforcement mechanism. For example, the sanctions against the Other Russia (Drugaya Rossiya) party intensified in 2012, in comparison with 2011, despite the fact that Limonov’s followers actually played a more modest role than in previous years.

The use of anti-extremist legislation, whether justified or inappropriate, varied for different segments of the opposition. The groups, perceived as radical in some way by the authorities and/or by the majority of citizens - radical left, militant anti-fascists, nationalists of various stripes, LGBT activists –became the most frequent targets for inappropriate application of anti-extremist laws. The exceptions, such as the prosecution of a trade union leader or an environmental activist, were rare.

Not surprisingly, the positive tendencies in creation of regulatory acts, observed in 2011, could not be sustained in the face of the new political tension, and were replaced by new vague and oppressive laws. In 2012 (and even in the beginning of 2013), these new laws weren’t on the books for long enough time to make much impact on law enforcement practice. For example, the new version of the Criminal Code Article on treason, which has a significant abuse potential, has never been applied. Another set of legislative initiatives, such as bills on “protecting religious sentiment” and on the state’s right to intervene in the affairs of religious organizations, are still moving through the parliament.

At the same time, a growing concern has been focused on the very core of anti-extremist legislation - the definition of extremism. In addition to individual experts such as the SOVA Center, many other institutions insist on a revision of the law, including the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation.


For nearly 11 years since the law “On Combating Extremist Activity” had entered into force, and particularly in the recent years, most cases of its misuse pertained to religious and religio-political groups; political and social activists were less affected. A trend, observed in 2012, suggests that this peculiar imbalance is starting to disappear. Compared with the previous year, 2012 brought fewer sentences in the “religious” category, and more sentences handed down to “secular” activists. However, any announcement of the trend reversal would be premature - “inappropriate anti-extremism” still presents the greatest threat to freedom of conscience in the country.

“The main trial of the Year” - the Pussy Riot trial - happened to fall exactly on the border between religious issues and political activism, so the 2012 data could be indicative not of the trend reversal, but, instead, of the convergence of “religious” and “secular” persecution spheres, previously strictly separated.

“Inappropriate anti-extremism” still claims many random victims. Two main reasons for this phenomenon are quite obvious: the law enforcement desire to “beef up the numbers,” and a clearly expansive interpretation (and not just by law enforcement officers) of protecting ethnic and religious tolerance.

The combination of these two factors is particularly evident in anti-extremist law enforcement in relation to the statements, made on the Internet. Growing number of criminal sentences for xenophobic but non-dangerous statements made on social networks illustrates the point. Rapid proliferation of bans on online resources that are either inappropriate or overreaching (such as blocking access to the entire YouTube portal due to one banned video clip) provides another example. Pointless prosecutorial attacks of schools and libraries, related to insufficient Internet content filtration or presence of banned books, are also on the rise.

It has to be noted, that the fundamentally flawed idea of Federal List of Extremist Materials, keeps bearing increasingly strange fruit in ever-increasing quantity, from banning digital files with unspecified content to prohibiting medieval Sufi treatises.

Unfortunately, review of even the most odious elements of the anti-extremist legislation and law enforcement practice - the ones that are clearly of no benefit even to the authorities – is still not on the agenda.


Creation of Regulatory Acts

The Russian government undertook a number of actions in the area of rule-making aimed at widening the effort of “counteracting extremism.” These measures have been largely dictated by the political situation in the country, and they are designed to strengthen the state control over the information sphere and to expand the set of tools for suppressing the activity of opposition-minded citizens. In our opinion, if these new measures are utilized by the government, they may result, among other things, in a significant increase the anti-extremist legislation abuse.

For several months, a heated debate centered around the Federal Law No. 139-FZ “On Amending the Federal Law “On Protection of children from information harmful to their health and development,” and certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation”, aimed at blocking inappropriate online content. The corresponding bill was presented to the Duma in early June by deputies from all four factions: Elena Mizulina (Just Russia), Sergei Zheleznyak (United Russia), Sergei Reshulsky (CPRF), Yaroslav Nilov (LDPR) and others; it underwent some corrections in the second reading (partially due to public pressure), and entered into force on November 1. The changes were made to the federal law “On the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development,” “On Communications” and “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection.”

In accordance with the law, the “Uniform registry of domain names and (or) the universal locators to pages of sites on the Internet and network addresses of sites on the Internet that contain information prohibited to spread in the Russian Federation” was created in November 2012 (communication related to the blacklist takes place only via Web site).


The blacklist includes sites and individual pages that contain child pornography, drug use and suicide propaganda - numerous problems associated with implementing these categories of prohibitions fall outside the scope of our report. A Web site can also be blacklisted on the basis of “a court decision proclaiming some Internet-distributed information as prohibited to be spread in Russia.” At this time, such decisions specifically target extremist materials. The responsibility for maintaining the part of the registry that pertains to materials, banned by court decisions, falls to Roskomnadzor, despite the fact that the Federal List of Extremist Materials is maintained by the Ministry of Justice.

According to the rules of the Registry, hosting providers and operators only have several days to ensure removal of the illegal content or to block access to it. The Web site owner, the hosting provider, or the ISP can appeal the decision to include domain names and/or URLs and/or IP addresses on the Registry within three months from the date of the decision.

The law was intended to normalize inconsistent blocking practices that had existed at the time of its adoption (covered in our 2011 report[2] and our subsequent publications.[3] However, the chosen method of solving the problem does nothing to clarify the most important aspects of blocking extremist materials. First, the law never gives clear guidelines on determining whether the restrictions should pertain to an entire domain (subdomain), or to a specific page, and in what cases the blocking should be done by IP-address filtering. This mechanism depends on arbitrary decisions, and we can expect restrictions on access to many innocuous materials, located in proximity to problematic ones – this had been the case prior to enactment of this law, and still is the case now. In addition, the law does not stipulate whether blocking pertains only to the materials included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, specifically, as Web sites or Web pages, or whether it also pertains to online versions of the materials that have been banned in print, confiscated from local computers, and so on.

According to our sources, no online materials, banned as extremist, were added to the newly created registry during November-December 2012 (for more on this, see The Internet and Anti-Extremism chapter of this report; the first case took place only in March 2013). Apparently, in this case Roskomnadzor considered the existence of the Federal List of Extremist Materials to be sufficient.


In November, the law “On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and Article 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation” significantly changed the concept of espionage and treason in the relevant articles of the Criminal Code. In their previous versions, these articles understood high treason as assisting in hostile activity by foreign states or organizations that threatens the external security of the state. The new law excluded the “external” qualifier from this definition, so that the term “security” could have the widest possible interpretation. The authors’ attempt to clarify the wording of the law (for example, a note that “support in conducting hostile activity” actions” could take the form of “providing advice”) made it even murkier. Along with foreign organizations, the article now refers to international organizations; meanwhile, many organizations, registered in Russia, are international in their scope.

Assisting someone in changing the constitutional system has been now reclassified as treason, although the Constitution is not immutable, and even the fundamentals of the constitutional order can be changed in accordance with the order, established by the Constitution. The criterion of violence is missing, and inacceptable methods of changing the constitutional order are not specified. The above law does not belong to the “anti-extremist” legislation per se, but it definitely affects the scope of the existing legal definition of extremism, thereby making it even less precise.

Note that the law was passed on the second attempt; the bill was introduced by the Government to the State Duma in December 2008, but then-President Dmitry Medvedev returned it for revision (which never happened) in January 2009.


The law “On Amendments to Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code and Article 1 of the Federal Law “On Combating Extremist Activity”, signed in December 2012, increased penalties for extremist symbols and paraphernalia. The new version of the article established liability for propaganda and public demonstration not only of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols confusingly similar to Nazi ones, but also of attributes and symbols of extremist organizations. Accordingly, the definition of symbols of extremist organizations was added to the law “On Combating Extremist Activity”. We consider this definition - “officially registered attributes and symbolism of an organization, for which the court judgment on its liquidation or prohibition due to extremist activity is in force” – to be infelicitous, since organizations that have a real chance to be banned due to extremist activities, usually don’t register their symbols, and are unlikely to do so in the future.


We would like to remind at this point that we repeatedly mentioned the need for revision of the Administrative Code Article 20.3, since its current unfortunate wording often leads to unnecessary administrative punishment for the public display of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols in the context clearly not related to promoting Nazism. In June 2012, the Ministry of Communications issued a draft law amending certain provisions of the anti-extremist legislation. In particular, according to the draft, Article 20.3 was to be supplemented by a note, exempting from liability the “use of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols or paraphernalia or symbols confusingly similar to Nazi ones in works of scientific research and encyclopedia articles, as well as in audio-visual and printed materials that show no signs of propaganda and/or justification of Nazism and Fascism.” However, this bill has never been submitted to the Duma.

Meanwhile, the December law significantly increases the size of the current fines for offenses under Article 20.3 that now range from one to two thousand rubles for the citizens, from one to four thousand rubles for public officials, and from 10 to 50 thousand rubles for legal entities. Hypothetically, screening of any World War II movie could result in such a penalty.


The law “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation regulating activity of non-commercial organizations acting as foreign agents” entered into force in Russia in November. In particular, one of the sub-clauses in its Article 2 amended Article 32 of the Law “On Noncommercial Organizations” to include a provision stating that unscheduled inspections of non-profit organizations could happen for the reason of “incoming… information related to signs of extremism in activities of non-profit organizations.” This clause had been excluded from the law on non-profit organizations less than a year before that, in November 2011; it is now back, but only for “foreign agents.” [4] From our point of view, unscheduled inspections of non-profit organizations “for extremism” bring no tangible results, since inspections usually pertain to the paperwork, which is unlikely to manifest any “signs of extremism;” such an ordeal simply complicates the work of many organizations that have nothing to do with extremist activity.


In 2012, we saw some bills clearly aimed at illegal restriction of rights and freedoms in the context of the anti-extremist policy.

The notorious Pussy Riot case spurred to activity the champions of the superiority of the Russian Orthodox Church, who seek to use religion for ideological purposes. In September, several Duma factions issued a call to “tough response against destructive forces that praise anti-religious extremism, vandalism and hooliganism and incite public hatred of the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious organizations.

By the end of the month a bill “On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in order to counter the insults to personal faith and religious sentiments and convictions of the citizens, or the desecration of sacred objects and the sites of religious rites and pilgrimages,” prepared by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Associations and Religious Organizations, was introduced to the State Duma. The project involved a number of changes to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences. Article 2431 (“insults to personal faith and religious sentiments and convictions of the citizens and/or desecration of sacred objects and the sites of religious rites and pilgrimages”) was to be added to the Criminal Code and provide for fines of up to 300,000 rubles or a prison term of up to three years for insulting the feelings. Desecration was to be punished by fines of 100 to 500 thousand rubles, or by up to 400 hours of mandatory labor up or by imprisonment for up to five years. Thus, the liability for offending religious feelings and symbols was to be moved from the Administrative Code to the Criminal Code, and Part 2 of the Administrative Code Article 5.26 would have retained only “public desecration of religious and theological literature, signs and worldview symbols, and their damage,” with the fines increased to 30-50 thousand rubles vs. the present 500-1000 rubles. The fines under Part 1 of the Administrative Code Article 5.26 (“obstructing the exercise of the right to freedom of conscience or freedom of belief, including the adoption of religious or other beliefs or refusal thereof, as well as obstructing the entry into a religious association or the exit therefrom“), unrelated to subject of the bill, were supposed to increase as well.

The bill caused a strong reaction and was widely discussed in the media with numerous public figures and organizations speaking against it. In November, Vladimir Putin declared that the project should be postponed. The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation strongly demanded that the bill be withdrawn from further consideration in the Duma. Later, the Human Rights Council under the President of Russia called for its recall as well. The Russian government also gave its negative opinion on the bill by late January 2013.

The main criticisms against the bill were related to complete lack of legal definition for a concept of “insult to religious convictions and sentiments,” that could lead to a breach of the rights and freedoms of citizens, as well as to the discriminatory and unconstitutional nature of the new Criminal Code Article 2431, which provided protection only for objects and rituals of “religious associations, professing religions that constitute integral part of the peoples of Russia historical heritage.” Critics of the bill pointed out that the existing norms of the Administrative Code and the Criminal Code were sufficient for protecting the faithful, although they did suggest various additions and corrections to particular laws. The bill’s writers and critics proposed alternative sets of possible measures to ensure protection of religious sentiments in early 2013, so that the outcome of the discussion is difficult to predict at this time.[5]


Following the example of the legislation on non-commercial organizations, which contains restrictions for persons convicted of extremist crimes, the Ministry of Justice has drafted amendments to the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations” and to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation (“in the part that relates to granting religious organizations the right to establish requirements for ministers, religious personnel and employees of religious organizations”) in the summer of 2012. However, despite the fact that religious organizations are a subset of non-profit organizations, direct transfer of such policy proved to be problematic. The project, in particular, proposes to prohibit “persons, against whom there is evidence of their involvement in extremist activity or terrorism, as well as foreign citizens and stateless persons, in whose case the decision was made about undesirability of their stay or residence in Russia,” from being founders or members or participants of religious organizations. The fact that this clause may be directed against people unfairly convicted of extremism is not the only problem. Religious organizations usually have no formal membership and the scope of participation in its activities cannot be clearly defined. Thus, presence of one person “involved in extremist activity” would be sufficient to close an entire parish (or, more likely, a mosque).

In addition, the bill stipulates that “in order to counter extremism the laws of the federal subjects of Russia can establish requirements for religious education of ministers and religious personnel and requirements for labor contracts between religious organizations and their employees, while taking historical, religious and other traditions into account.” In our opinion, any state requirements relating to religious education of the clergy or other staff of religious organizations constitute gross state interference into their affairs.

This intervention is clearly directed against “alternative” Muslim imams. This fact is also evident from similarly unacceptable amendments to the regional law on freedom of conscience, which has already entered into force in Tatarstan. Religious organizations in Tatarstan are now required to appoint or elect the clergy only from among the candidates who have received a religious education in Russia and to develop criteria that provide the “canonical unity of doctrine indicated in the statute of a religious organization.” Such measures are not only unconstitutional, but clearly harmful - they can only radicalize Muslim groups that are not connected to pro-government muftis, and will inflict a terrible blow to many other religious communities, whose clergy studied outside of Russia, and who are not expecting any state assistance in establishing their “canonical unity. “


As we outlined above, the year of 2012 brought forth numerous legislative initiatives of doubtful expediency that are hardly compatible with the spirit of democratic legislation and cause concern about the consequences of their implementation. Russian civic and human rights institutions and then the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed their concerns about the existing situation. In October 2012, the Assembly adopted a resolution on legal situation in Russia with recommendations to the Russian authorities that they make significant changes to the laws passed in 2012, which, as most Assembly members believed, infringed on fundamental human rights and were potentially regressive in terms of democratic development. [6]

The Assembly also calls on the Russian authorities to pay immediate attention to the recommendations of the Venice Commission, which issued its opinion on the Federal Law “On Combating Extremist Activity” and proposals for its reform in June 2012. The Venice Commission recommended a number of amendments to the federal law in order to clarify and modify a number of procedures and the definition of extremism and related terms. According to the Commission, the fact that some activities, which do not involve violence or incitement to violence, are included on the list of extremist offenses constitutes the main source of arbitrariness and abuse of anti-extremist legislation. The overly expansive and vague definition and arbitrary application of the law trigger excessive restrictions of fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (in particular, Articles 6, 9, 10 and 11) and violate the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. In this regard, the Commission suggested that the Russian side bring the legislation in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and offered its assistance and support in this work. The Civic Chamber experts[7] and the RF Ombudsman[8] also called for clarification of the term “extremism” in the Russian legislation in late 2011 - early 2012. Nevertheless, serious revision of this legislation is not on the agenda.



“Excessive Vigilance”

In theory, anti-extremist legislation seeks to suppress socially dangerous acts of intolerance, but it is hard to draw the line between a real threat, a case of immoral behavior, and an expression of a non-standard worldview. While the first category requires law enforcement intervention, the second one is more appropriately dealt with by social pressure; in the third case the society itself could probably exhibit tolerance. The difference can be illustrated with the following examples, respectively: calls for aggressive action against members of an ethnic group or followers of any religion, insulting remarks against members of such a group, or a religious minority declaring its intentions on limiting contact with people of other religions.

However, as we had repeatedly pointed out, the existing legislation does not account for such differences, therefore, the amount of state intervention, related to intolerance, has been growing steadily, regardless of actual need for it. Law enforcement incidents morph into chronic abuses, and unfortunately, have not yet become an impetus for a legislative reform, despite the fact that many unappropriately initiated trials last for years, wasting public funds on ever-growing number of expert opinions.

The Criminal Code Article 282 remains problematic in its part dedicated to the abasement of human dignity as it relates to a person’s membership in a particular group. In our opinion, the extent of public danger of such actions is similar to that of the offenses covered by the article on insult, and, similarly, should be moved from the Criminal to the Administrative Code. An even better decision would be to deal with such incidents in the framework of civil litigation between the offender and those who feel victimized, that is, without any active state participation; however, our civil procedural law is not ready to handle such cases. In 2012, the courts dealt with several cases under Article 282, where administrative proceedings, if any, would have been more appropriate, since the statements of the defenders contradicted moral norms but contained no calls for illegal actions.

The case of Ivan Moseev, the president of the Association of Pomors of the Arkhangelsk Region, became widely known. It was opened in July 2012 under Part 1 of Article 282 (“incitement of hatred or enmity, or humiliation of human dignity”). According to the investigators, Moseev left a comment, insulting ethnic Russians, on the Web site of the online news agency Ekho Severa under the username “Pomor”. In our opinion, this comment, of which Moseev denies authorship, can be classified as hate speech, but provides no grounds for criminal prosecution.

Proceedings against Smolensk City Council Deputy Andrei Ershov were initiated under the same article in the December 2012 for committing public actions aimed at abasement of human dignity as it relates to a person’s group membership. The charges were related to the Deputy’s statement about former juvenile prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. Ershov’s words can definitely be considered degrading and offensive, but, we believe this to be yet another case where Administrative or Civil proceedings would have been more appropriate.

An element in the definition of extremist activity relating to “Propaganda regarding exclusiveness, superiority or inferiority of citizens in connection with their attitude to or belonging to a religion, their language or their social, racial or national origin” still causes significant problems. This ambiguous wording formed the basis for the majority of inappropriate bans on religious literature, which, in turn, entail unwarranted persecution of believers for “inciting hatred or enmity.” This category of persecution will be discussed in a separate section. Here we would like to mention just one case that illustrates just how far the path of such bans can lead.

In August 2012, the Ust-Koksinsky District Prosecutor’s Office of Altai Republic issued a warning about the impermissibility of violating the law on combating extremist activities to the organizer of the Children of the Sun - the ethno-festival traditionally held near the village of Chendek. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, festival leaflets contained extremist statements, such as the claim that “there are three kinds of people: the first kind is born of the Moon – these are evil people; the second kind is born of the Earth – ordinary people; the third ones are born of the Sun, and they make our world brighter ...The times are now changing, more children of the Sun are being born, and children of the Moon are on the wane… Based on the foregoing, it can be concluded that people, who gathered for the festival, categorize themselves as the “Children of the Sun” and, in fact, consider themselves to be members of an exclusive caste in relation to the other categories of people… In fact, we are witnessing propaganda of exclusivity, superiority of one type of people over other types.” Of course, this warning was inappropriate, because children of the Sun, Moon and Earth cannot be taken for social, ethnic or religious groups, no matter how hard we try, since there are no means for verification of one’s belonging to either group.

The law “On Combating Extremist Activity” does not mention incitement of hatred or enmity on ideological or political grounds as a sign of extremism, and the Criminal Code Article 282 does not stipulate punishment for such acts (although, the motive of ideological or political hatred is used as aggravating in ordinary criminal cases). However, law enforcement agencies often find ways to circumvent the lack of relevant clauses in the legislation, replacing them with others. Thus, verbal forms of ideological confrontation have been conveniently classified as “inciting hatred or enmity towards a social group.” Presumably, this component of the article was initially intended to protect certain vulnerable population groups that present a potential target for aggressors (e.g. the homeless). However, a concept of “social group” has never been clarified by the legislators and has become a fertile source of abuse.

Quite naturally, from the law enforcement point of view, the social groups such as government representatives and law enforcement officers have the greatest need for such protection. Ideological confrontation between anti-fascists and neo-Nazis has also been regularly stated in terms of incitement of social hatred. Civic and political activists frequently suffer from unwarranted prosecution on charges of inciting hatred (see the appropriate section for more details). However, the problem is not limited to politically motivated cases. In 2012, the government combated hatred directed at many kinds of social groups – in addition to those mentioned above, they included for example, “rock musicians” and “psychiatrists”.


The Internet and Anti-Extremism

In regard to controlling the spread of extremist information on the Internet the difference between 2012 and the previous year was purely numeric. We noticed a dramatic increase in prosecutions under Article 282 for inciting hatred through display of extremist materials and/or symbols or with provocative online comments (mostly on social networks). We know of more than 70 convictions for extremist propaganda on the Internet in 2012. We are often unable to assess the validity of these verdicts, since, for example, the offending comments are generally promptly removed from the network. Only one online propaganda sentence of 2012 can be confidently classified as inappropriate - a sentence to five authors of an oppositional Web site Ufa Gubernskaia in Bashkiria.

However, we often have doubts regarding the extent of social danger of the offenses that led to online propaganda convictions, particularly, since prosecutors and courts still fail to take into account their degree of publicity.[9]


The mechanism of removing materials from the Internet is still far from perfect.[10] The pre-November legal procedure (that is, before the law that established the register of blocked sites entered into force) included two separate court decisions - a decision to ban the material itself and a decision requesting that the host or the site owner remove the material from its online location. However, law enforcement agencies found this method to be excessively time- and resource-consuming.

In 2012, as in the past, the courts generally ruled against ISPs and in favor of blocking access to prohibited items. On occasions, the information (including prohibited materials and statements, as well as simply suspicious ones, or the ones merely perceived as dangerous) was removed by site owners or hosting providers or blocked by the Internet providers merely on the basis of a request from the law enforcement.

We would like to note that both schemes can lead to abuses and violations of the users’ rights. When ordering the Internet providers to block banned materials, the court does not specify the method and does not care whether access restrictions pertain only to a single item, or, for instance, to the entire Web site, where it happened to be posted. Moreover, sometimes court decision directly indicates the latter option. However, the absence of court proceedings increases the likelihood of errors and often leads to arbitrariness.

Thus, in June 2012, the Nadym District Prosecutor's Office of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District demanded that three local service providers block access to 120 sites for “allowing placement of extremist materials on their pages.” The fact that these sites could also feature materials that have nothing to do with extremism did not stop the Prosecutor's Office. Indeed, in September, upon request of the same Prosecutor's Office, one of Nadym providers blocked the IP-address of massive hosting and online library due to some extremist materials found there.

Throughout the year, other similar attempts to block major Internet resources were recorded in individual regions. For example, Altai prosecutors forced ISPs to restrict access to the popular Internet library and prosecutors in the Stavropol Region filed a lawsuit in order to block the Internet library A court in Yaroslavl issued a decision demanding that restrictions on access to the entire blog platform due to one banned account. In the Krasnoyarsk Region, the registrar, without waiting for a court decision, blocked the site - a collection of different Islamic materials. On several occasions, Muslim literature Web sites were blocked for containing Said Nursi’s books recognized as extremist. Jehovah's Witnesses Web sites were blocked in many cases because they feature banned (inappropriately, in our opinion) materials of this religious organization. Some of the above restrictions proved to be temporary, and we have no information on the length of time they were in place.

The most popular video hosting YouTube experienced more restrictions than any other resource in 2012. The greatest number of blocking incidents was observed in the late summer and the fall, when the controversial Innocence of Muslims video appeared on the Internet. Rather than waiting until an official court decision, recognizing the video as extremist, entered into force, the Prosecutor's Office had launched a large-scale attack on the film across the country before the court decision was even issued. Dozens of warnings went to providers in the Russian regions with orders to block access to Internet pages that featured the video. The prosecutorial demands varied from one region to the next; some sought to block a specific address, while in other places the entire resource became off-limits. As a result, in a number of regions, including the Omsk Region and the republics of the North Caucasus, the users lost their ability to use YouTube, at least for a period of time. Regardless of whether removal of the video from the network was fighting for, we believe that removal of the video and restrictions on Web pages before the ban officially went into effect were inappropriate.

In some cases, upon request from prosecutors, providers also blocked the social network VKontakte due to the presence of Innocence of Muslims. The VKontakte administration decided to delete all pages that contain links to the seditious movie without waiting for the court decision. It should be noted that we view the right of Web site administration to delete content that contradicts their established rules as quite useful; consistent implementation of this right could effectively replace state censorship. However, in this particular case, direct pressure from law enforcement agencies should be taken into account.


The practice of blocking Web sites not specifically banned but associated with banned organizations continued in 2012. As in the previous year, these measures targeted Web sites of national-Bolsheviks, the Army of People’s Will (Armiia Voli Naroda, AVN) and the Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI). The appropriateness of access restrictions for these and other similar sites can vary, but we don’t view blocking them without a court ban as appropriate.

At least in one known case in 2012, the provider managed to uphold its right not to restrict access to the site. The Internet provider Informsvyazstroy of Dzerzhinsk in the Nizhny Novgorod Region won the court case against the Dzerzhinsk City Prosecutor’s Office in May. The prosecutor demanded that the ISP block access to the Web site, on the grounds that several of its pages contained links to the materials included on the Federal List. Later, the Prosecutor's Office has changed its demands and asked the court to demand that the ISP block only the links pointing to illegal materials. The defendant's representative stated that providers had no such legal duty, and that restricting access to links was impossible. The court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the claim. However, such court victories by providers can be regarded as a vanishing phenomenon.


The prosecutorial campaign for content filtering in organizations that provide citizens with access to the Internet - educational institutions, libraries, Internet cafes, post offices - gained a greater momentum in 2012. Similarly to Internet providers, these organizations are required to block illegal content.

Public institutions, such as schools and libraries have the greatest difficulty complying with the prosecutors’ requests. Their computers have to be equipped with filters that block access to restricted information, including extremist materials. It is not clear why educators are held accountable for the quality of their content filters. Nevertheless, whenever the system of user protection malfunctions or doesn’t perform as expected (and perfect filters simply don’t exist) prosecutors issue warnings to the administration, and then “responsible parties” face disciplinary charges.

The number of audits in schools and libraries, and various acts of prosecutorial response based on their results has been growing steadily. According to our very conservative estimates,[11] the sanctions were imposed in 192 cases in 2011 and in 378 cases in 2012.


Incidental Victims of Inappropriate Anti-Extremism

People and organizations that are clearly not related to any radical activity but simply happened to attract attention of law enforcement agencies can still be found among victims of inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremist legislation.


The problems of public libraries continued to worsen in 2012, due to the contradiction between the law “On Librarianship,” requiring them to provide unfettered reader access to collections, and anti-extremist legislation forbidding mass distribution of prohibited materials.

Prosecutors charge libraries with various offences starting with presence of banned materials (usually books) in their collections – despite the fact that libraries have no legal ground for de-accessioning these materials. [12]

The campaign has been gaining momentum with each passing year. According to our definitely incomplete data, in the period from mid-2008 through the end of 2010 at least 170 cases of inappropriate sanctions against library administrators were recorded (including school libraries); there were at least 138 such cases in 2011 and at least 300 in 2012. [13]

The penalties are not always limited to disciplinary actions. Four librarians were fined in 2012 under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 for possession of extremist materials with intent of mass distribution. They were, de facto, punished for performing their official duties.


As we have repeatedly pointed out, in 2009, the Ministry of Culture and the General Prosecutor's Office developed quite practical and non-burdensome procedures for accessing extremist materials, based on the set of instructions previously introduced in major metropolitan libraries.[14] However, through the fault of the Ministry of Justice, the relevant normative act has never been adopted, and, as we now see, libraries can no longer rely on the existence of established procedures for protection.


In November 2012, it was reported that a court in Smolensk sentenced Olga Maltseva, director of A.T. Tvardovskii Smolensk Regional Universal Library, to a fine under the Administrative Code Article 20.29. Five books included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials were found and seized in the reading room of the library; they were provided to users upon written request on the basis of a special director's order. As a result of the prosecutorial activities, the director was punished, and the relevant paragraph of the order was “brought in line with the current legislation” (it is not entirely clear what this means).


Often citizens become target of anti-extremist law enforcement due to the tendency of some law enforcement officers to imitate combating extremism in order to improve their report statistics.

The prosecution has not been limited to “soft” measures such as warnings about impermissibility of violating the law; these warnings were issued indiscriminately to practically all the organizers of various mass and not-too-mass events, including the ones obviously unrelated to extremism. The above-mentioned “Children of the Sun” from Altai can be considered lucky, since the warning they received was worded not too differently from possible charges under the Criminal Code Article 282.

In 2012, we once again recorded several instances of punishment for displaying Nazi symbols when the purpose of neo-Nazi or nationalistic propaganda was absent. On the contrary, these symbols are most often used as visual representation of criticism against their opponents. The verdict delivered to anti-fascist Alexander Samiev in Saratov was, perhaps, the most absurd – in February 2012, he was fined 1,000 rubles under Part 2 of the Administrative Code Article 20.3 (“the manufacture, sale or purchase of Nazi symbols or paraphernalia or symbols or attributes, similar to Nazi paraphernalia or symbols or paraphernalia or symbols confusingly similar to Nazi, with the intent of propaganda”). The court did not bother to take into account the fact that the materials in question were anti-fascist leaflets with crossed out swastika, which Samiev had distributed during the Russian March.


We should also mention in this chapter the criminal case, which we covered last year, but the defendants were only sentenced in 2012. They were convicted of violent crimes, but we believe that few of them were inappropriately charged with the “extremist motive.” We are talking about the notorious gang attack on Tornado Rock Festival in Miass in 2010, when the assailants severely beat up and injured dozens of people. In mid-July 2012, all 13 attackers were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment under Parts 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code article 212 (“organization of mass riots”); three ringleaders were additionally convicted under the paragraphs “a” and “c” of Article 282, Part 2 (“Actions aimed at inciting hatred or enmity by a violent, organized group”) and sentenced a 6, 5 and 4.5 years in a penal colony (1.5-2 years longer, on average, than their accomplices). The court found that the offense was directed not simply against the audience, but against the “informal social group having such common values and interests as passion for rock music.” We consider such a surprising qualification to be unnecessary - the actions of criminals were not dictated by strong feelings against rock music or its fans but instead, stemmed from a private conflict between the gang members and some of the festival’s attendees, unrelated to any values, and the attack was directed at anyone present at the concert.



Religious Groups

As in the preceding year, the extent of inappropriate prosecution of members of various religious and religio-political groups was comparable with that of political and civic activists. Meanwhile, the society’s reaction to freedom of conscience restrictions still tends to be muted. Despite the fact that the Pussy Riot case brought this subject to the foreground to a certain extent, only discussions related to the Russian Orthodox Church generate appreciable levels of interest.

Anti-extremist legislation was applied, first and foremost, to the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami party, which had been banned as terrorist in 2003. We believe this ban to be inappropriate, since Hizb ut-Tahrir does not practice violence and does not view it as a method of political struggle in Russia. In any case, the court decision never discussed the motives, and mentioned no instances of illegal activity by the party members. Some isolated propaganda elements and party materials can be considered extremist in the context of Russian legislation, but these particular issues have never been brought up in the Russian cases related to Hizb ut-Tahrir. From the standpoint of Russian constitutional law foundations, the Hizb ut-Tahrir program, aimed at establishing totalitarian caliphate, is problematic and bound to attract attention of law enforcement agencies. However, an intention to change constitutional foundations is not a crime in this country unless criminal methods are suggested or utilized. We believe that investigation of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s activity should be started “from scratch” by acknowledging the inappropriateness of the initial Supreme Court decision that served as the basis for prosecution of actual and suspected party members.

Several Hizb ut-Tahrir materials were banned in 2012, but their content was of little interest to the courts; they were recognized as extremist simply due to their association with the prohibited organization. However, the Russian legislation never states that all materials of organizations that were banned as extremist should also be considered extremist; thus, such automatic bans (applied to other organizations as well) were inappropriate

Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters are most frequently prosecuted only under the Criminal Code Article 2822, for participation in the extremist group. Two verdicts for affiliation with Hizb ut-Tahrir were issued in 2012, both in the Republic of Bashkortostan. 10 people (compared to 19 in 2011) were found guilty of participation in a banned organization under the Criminal Code Article 2822; four of them received real, albeit small, prison terms ranging from 13 to 16 months. At least two charges under various Criminal Code articles, initiated in 2011, were still being considered in Moscow (3 defendants and 1 defendant, respectively), one in Ufa (3 defendants), and one in Chelyabinsk (5 defendants). New criminal cases were opened in Moscow (9 defendants), Kazan (defendant, Rustem Safin, was the imam of Al-Ikhlas mosque, which is now on the verge of closing), and Nizhny Novgorod (4 defendants).

The Chelyabinsk case, transferred to the court in late 2012, deserves special attention. In addition to the Criminal Code Article 2822 the defendants are charged with incitement to terrorism (the Criminal Code Article 2051) and attempted rebellion (Article 30 and Article 278 of the Criminal Code), despite the fact that nothing is used to substantiate these allegations except regular party activities (meetings, literature distribution, etc.). One defendant out of five is accused of inciting extremist activity only on the basis of a video that calls for boycotting the elections. Such obviously flimsy charges should never be used, regardless of one’s opinion of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s objectives and activities.

In June 2012, the Murmansk Regional Court decided to extradite Yusuf Kasymakhunov - the first person convicted in Russia on charges of his involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir (in 2004) - to Uzbekistan. The day before his prison term was supposed to end he was transferred to a pretrial detention facility to consider his extradition. Despite the claims of his lawyers that their client can be subjected to torture in Uzbekistan, the Supreme Court confirmed the extradition verdict. The European Court of Human Rights banned his extradition based on the petition of the defense. However, when his term of detention ended on December 14, Kasymakhunov simply disappeared. According to human rights activists (the Memorial Human Rights Center and the Human Rights Institute) Kasymakhunov was kidnapped in order to hand him over to the Uzbek authorities.


One verdict under the Criminal Code Article 2822 was issued in 2012 against the members of inappropriately banned Tablighi Jamaat religious movement - in Astrakhan, one person was sentenced to 1.5 years in a penal colony, four people were fined 150,000 rubles each, and one more was put on the international wanted list. A new case under Article 2822 for “creating “Tablighi Jamaat cells” was opened in the Orenburg Region in 2012, and brought to trial as two separate cases: 4 defendants in Sol-Iletsk and one in Orenburg. Investigations of two imams in Altai Republic and one person in the Krasnoyarsk Region were launched under the same Criminal Code article.

In December, Federal Security Service of the Altai Region reported that ten citizens of Uzbekistan were expelled from the Altai Region in 2012 on charges of their involvement in Tablighi Jamaat and recruitment of new members.


Muslims who study the legacy of Turkish theologian Said Nursi, some of whose works were inappropriately recognized as extremist in Russia, faced less harsh treatment in 2012 than in 2011. As you may remember, in the preceding year, nine people were convicted under Article 2822 for membership in the non-existent, but, nevertheless, banned Nurcular organization[15] - de facto, for spreading the Nursi teachings. No guilty verdicts for any criminal cases related to studying the works of Nursi were issued in 2012. Moreover, two such cases - 4 defendants in Krasnoyarsk and 1 defendant in Orenburg - were closed. On the other hand, we also know of a new case against a believer that was opened in 2012 in Kaliningrad, as well as of two pending cases: the charge of organizing Nurcular cells, filed against three women who studied Nursi’s writings, was referred to court in Chelyabinsk and the sensational case of two imams was being prepared for submission in Novosibirsk.

The case of the Novosibirsk imams Ilkhom Merazhov and Camil Odilov, charged under Part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 2822, was submitted before the court in early 2013. Merazhov and Odilov are accused of having organized Nurcular cell in Novosibirsk. A home madrasa, organized by the imams, had been allegedly financed from Turkey with intent to “change the government structure of the Russian Federation.” In fact, the only reason for the prosecution of Merazhov and Odilov is the fact that they studied Nursi's books with other Muslims.


We want to highlight two verdicts, aggravated by more serious charges, but raising serious doubts in terms of their evidence base and even credibility. The first was delivered in April in the Chelyabinsk Region. Vildar Yakupov from the village of Ayazgulovo was sentenced under Part 1 of article 282 for allegedly giving two soldiers three items, all of them recognized as extremist but hardly compatible with each other: The Book of Monotheism, a work by Said Nursi, and a DVD with a banned video by the North Caucasus terrorism ideologue Said Buriatskii. The evidence against the defendant was later withdrawn. Yakupov was, nevertheless, sentenced to a fine of 150,000 rubles, but the court freed him from the penalty because the statute of limitation has expired.

The verdict in the case of Aydar Khabibullin, director of the Garden (Sad) publishing group and Edward Gabdrakhmanov, who had previously served a term under Article 282, was issued in January 2012. The court sentenced Khabibullin and Gabdrakhmanov to four years of incarceration in a penal colony, finding them guilty under Part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 222 (illegal possession of ammunition) and under Part 1 of Article. 282. The Moscow Regional Court upheld the sentence in July; however, the defendants deny the charges, and defense intends to bring the matter to the European Court. Khabibullin and Gabdrakhmanov were accused of spreading leaflets that incited hatred and of possession of ammunition. Khabibullin was also charged for publication of two books, that were later recognized as extremist, in our opinion, inappropriately It is difficult to evaluate the charge on the merits, since we know neither the contents of the leaflets, nor whether one or both defendants were involved in distribution. We also cannot assess the credibility of the allegations by the defense that the ammunition had been planted. We can only say that well-established publishing activity of A. Khabibullin, known to Muslims all over the country, does not seem very compatible with storing grenades in his house. This case against a publisher of Islamic works was perceived as an attempt to pressure the Muslim community as a whole.


The expanding practice of wholesale bans against religious literature constitutes another form of such pressure.

In March, the Leninsky District Court of Orenburg banned 68 different Islamic writings at once, that is, almost the entire library, seized during the search of the Orenburg residence of Asylzhan Kelmukhambetov, who was convicted in June 2011 for organizing the Nurcular cell. The court based its ban on an argument that this literature was, allegedly, typical of the “representatives of the Nurcular movement,” and that the content of the texts was aimed at “changing subjective reality of individuals, their values and beliefs, social relationships; while an attempt is taking place to influence the subconscious mind and the mechanisms of faith, that is, the formation of conscious values and beliefs on an irrational basis.” In fact, all these texts were banned automatically by association with a banned organization, they all received identical characteristics in the expert opinion and were never considered on the case by case basis (not surprisingly, since such an examination would have required many months of hard work). These 68 items include books of the largest Russian publishing houses specializing in Islamic literature, such important Muslim texts as 40 Hadith (the hadith collection of Muhammad), and medieval treatises: Gardens of the Righteous by imam al-Nawawi and Mizan al-'amal (Criterion of Action) by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. The trial took place without representatives of authors and publishers, under the so-called special protocol,[16] and the court decision, issued in March 2012, became publicly known only in the second half of June.

Lawyers of the Council of Muftis of Russia, who represent the interests of the authors and the publishers, managed to get their appeal period renewed, and, subsequently, the Orenburg Regional Court accepted 14 complaints against the decision of the Leninsky District Court. The hearing of complaints began in September, but it is likely to drag on for a long time due to the quantity of banned books.

Meanwhile, the ban has taken effect, and all 68 items were added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The consequences were not long in coming and affected many Muslims, who had no idea that they were breaking the law.

Thus, Mufti Gabdunnur Kamaluddin of the Kirov Region was almost charged under Article 282 and became a defendant under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 for being so careless as to distribute copies of the book Introduction to Islam (Mukhtasar ilmihal) banned in Orenburg to the new military recruits in May. The books were later seized from the soldiers by the law enforcement agencies. Only the fact that the books were included on the Federal List later than he had distributed them saved Mufti from the fine.

Approximately ten individuals and organizations in various regions of Russia, fined under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 for the distribution of books from the Orenburg list, were less fortunate.

There is not much hope for a review of the decision to ban the 68 materials, at least at the regional court level. In December, the Orenburg Regional Court confirmed the July decision of the Sol-Iletsky District Court, recognizing as extremist eight Muslim religious books seized from the man, accused of organizing the Tablighi Jamaat cell. It also happened to include a medieval treatise by al-Ghazali, Council for Kings. The experts in the ban hearing focused on the fact that the examined texts stated an opposition between Muslims and adherents of other religions, and condemned the latter. Similar ideas are inherent in any religious doctrine. However, the judge found the expert arguments to be persuasive.


Now we can move on to other persecuted religious groups. Not a single conviction under criminal anti-extremist articles was issued against Jehovah's Witnesses in 2012; moreover, the defendants in two previously opened cases were acquitted. These defendants include Andrei and Lucia Raitin of Chita and Maksim Kalinin of Mari El, who had been charged for inciting hatred under the Criminal Code Article 282.

However, new criminal cases were opened as well. An unspecified group of people was charged under the Criminal Code Article 282 in the Orenburg Region for suspected incitement to hatred in the course of Jehovah's Witnesses meetings and for suspected distribution of banned literature; over a dozen searches were conducted in the course of this investigation. As many as five cases were initiated in July in the Chuvash Republic under Part 2 paragraph “c” of Article 282 (“incitement to hatred and hostility and humiliation of human dignity committed by an organized group”) and under Parts 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code Article 2821 (“Organization of an extremist community and participation in it”) against ten people, including two women, from various districts of the Republic. Four of the suspects had been arrested, and two of them spent six weeks in custody. In December, the cases against all ten Jehovah's Witnesses have been closed.

At least two additional court cases were at various stages of consideration in 2012: the case of Elena Grigorieva in Akhtubinsk of the Astrakhan Region and the case against 16 Jehovah's Witnesses in Taganrog. The Taganrog organization of Jehovah's Witnesses was banned as extremist in 2009. In 2011, 17 people faced criminal charges under Parts 1 and 2, of Article 2822 on suspicion of violating the ban on the activities of the organization. In December 2012, the Rostov Regional Court invalidated the indictment of 14 (out of 17) defendants in this case due to a number of serious violations committed by the investigator. However, charges against 16 people were immediately re-submitted under same article.

Three individuals and one community of Jehovah's Witnesses as a legal entity were fined in 2012 for distribution of banned literature under the Administrative Code Article 20.29.

In Yurga, in the Kemerovo Region, the Prosecutor's Office sought a ban on the activities of a local Jehovah's Witnesses religious group. The believers were accused of spreading extremist literature, violating the rights and freedoms of local residents, undermining the “state security” and inciting every possible kind of discord. None of these allegations were substantiated during the trial. In particular, it was found that members of the group possessed a number of Jehovah's Witnesses materials included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, but didn’t distribute them or called for their distribution. This fact and the intervention of the Human Rights Ombudsman led to rejection of the prosecutorial claim. The Yurga Municipal Court decision is an important precedent in the judicial practice related to freedom of conscience, since it utilized the entire system of Russian and international legislation in this sphere.

Attempts to ban Jehovah's Witness literature, including even brochures about Jesus Christ for children, took place in various regions of Russia in 2012. However, none of these attempts succeeded. Even in the cases, where the court bans were issued, they were later revoked.

On the other hand, in May, the Federal Arbitration Court of the Moscow District upheld the Roskomnadzor’s ban on the distribution of the magazines Awake! and Watchtower in Russia. The Jehovah's Witnesses failed in their two-year effort to challenge the ban.

In addition, multiple Jehovah's Witnesses Web sites were subject to inappropriate blocking, despite the fact that they were not prohibited by the court.


Adepts of two new religious movements had to take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights in 2012.

The Church of Scientology Moscow, the Dianetics and Scientology Dissemination Center, the New Era publishing group and several individuals filed a complaint with the ECHR, regarding violations of Article 6 (“The right to a fair trial”), Article 9 (“Freedom of conscience, thought and religion”), Article 10 (“Freedom of expression”) and Article 14 (“Prohibition of discrimination”) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Scientologists resorted to this measure after the Moscow Regional Court, in March, upheld the refusal of the previous instances to overturn the decision, made in the summer of 2011, which initiated criminal proceedings under Article 282 Part 1 for dissemination of books by L. Ron Hubbard.

Meanwhile, the Federal List of Extremist Materials added seven Scientology materials only after the relevant decision of Schelkovo City Court of the Moscow Region, issued on June 29, 2011, was confirmed by the Moscow Regional Court’s definition of March 2012. At the same time, the decision to ban 13 Scientology items, issued by the City Court of Naberezhnye Chelny in August 2011, was overturned in Tatarstan.

Followers of Chinese Falun Dafa religious practices also turned to Strasbourg for help after the Supreme Court’s dismissal, in July 2012, of their appeal against the October 2011 decision of the Pervomaiski District Court of Krasnodar to recognize their materials as extremist. We would like to remind that the decision to ban the fundamental religious treatise Zhuan Falun, along with three informational and human rights-related materials, was delivered with numerous violations and demonstrated that in this case not just preaching the superiority of one’s faith but also criticism of the Chinese government was viewed as a sign of extremism.


We should also mention two additional criminal cases and the ban on a number of materials related to incitement of religious hatred.

In addition to the world-famous Pussy Riot case (see the chapter on the persecution of political and civic activists below for more details), a criminal case under Part 1 of Article 282 on suspicion of inciting religious hatred was brought in 2012 against the chairman of the Karelia Youth Human Rights Group Maksim Efimov for publishing an article “Karelia is Tired of Priests” (Karelia ustala ot popov) on the Youth Human Rights Group Web site. Aggressive criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church in this small text gave no grounds for legal action, since it contained no calls to illegal activity. Efimov left for Estonia in May, was put on the federal wanted list, and then applied for political asylum. In the course of the year, five (!) expert examinations of the two paragraphs were conducted, but none of them gave any reasons for identifying Efimov’s actions as criminal. However, the case is still open.

We would also like to mention the ban on the leaflet Russia in the Hands of Traitors (Rossiia v rukakh predatelei) in Tyumen (and later in Barnaul). According to law enforcement officials, the leaflet contained, among other things, “calls for incitement of social discord against the authorities and the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church,” and “statements expressing negative characterization of groups of people united by religious affiliation.” Another notable development is the recognition of issue 1073-1074 of The Easter in the Third Rome – a newspaper directed against Catholics and ecumenism - as extremist in Khakassia. The warning to the Region 46. Svezhie Izvestiia newspaper for its publication about the visit of Patriarch Kirill to Ukraine and related protest action of FEMEN is also worth remembering in this context.

These materials contained no calls for illegal activities, and the actions of law enforcement agencies and the courts seem inappropriate due to their misinterpretation of the concept of incitement to religious hatred. According to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation “Concerning Judicial Practice in Criminal Cases Regarding Crimes of Extremism”, adopted in June 2011, the statements justifying and/or asserting the need to commit unlawful acts, including the use of violence against adherents of a particular religion, can be regarded as the acts aimed at inciting hatred or enmity, while criticism of religious associations, attitudes and practices per se should not be regarded as an act aimed at inciting hatred or enmity.


Finally, we should mention a positive development - in April 2012, the Tomsk Regional Court put an end to the high-profile case that attempted to ban Bhagavad-Gita as It Is, the founding treatise of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The court dismissed the appeal of the Regional Prosecutor's Office and confirmed the refusal to recognize the book as extremist.


Political and Civic Activists

Against the background of intensified public activity in Russia that started in December 2011 and the government’s response to it, this report will cover the persecution of activists conducted using the anti-extremist legislation.

The most notorious criminal case in 2012, which received world-wide attention, was the case of artists from the punk collective Pussy Riot, who staged a performance “Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. We consider this case in the political persecution category because their action was unambiguously directed against the alliance between the Russian Orthodox Church, personified by Patriarch Kirill and the Russian state authorities and not against the Orthodox Christianity and its adepts.

Without going into the details of the case, which we extensively covered throughout the year, we would like only to remind that the action – performance of the protest song on the soleas of the Cathedral in a manner characteristic of the group - was held on February 21, 2012. Later the footage of this action was combined with the studio recording of the song “Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” and the resulting video was posted online and extensively shared. The corresponding criminal case was quickly opened on February 26. In March, three members of the band - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich - were arrested.


On August 17, the Khamovniki District Court in Moscow found all three guilty under Part 2 of the Criminal Code Article 213 of premeditated hooliganism committed by a group of persons motivated by religious hatred and hatred of the social group of Orthodox believers. All three were sentenced to two years' imprisonment in a penal colony. On October 10, the Moscow City Court commuted the sentence of Yekaterina Samutsevich to a suspended sentence of two years with two years probation, admitting that she never took part in the action, since security guards had swiftly removed her from the Cathedral. Numerous protests by human rights activists at all levels, public and cultural leaders and the general public in Russia and abroad have failed to influence the outcome. Later, the complaint against the Pussy Riot case was filed with the ECHR. In November, the Zamoskvoretsky Court in Moscow has banned the “Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” video along with three other videos of the group, without proper justification.

We believe that prosecution of the Pussy Riot members and their verdicts are inappropriate. First, as we mentioned before, the defendants’ actions did not contain the motive of religious hatred and hatred for Orthodox Christians, and the court failed to present evidence of this motive. Furthermore, the qualification of this action as hooliganism in criminal rather than administrative sense is problematic - the act they committed presented little public hazard; it strongly violated the rules of conduct appropriate to believers inside the church, but not the social order in general.

Profusion of religious arguments and terminology in the text of the indictment and the verdict is also striking. Such arguments are outside of the legal field and appear to legitimize the prosecution of religious dissidence (of which blasphemy or sacrilege is a particular instance). In conjunction with exceptional resonance of this trial, the verdict, based on religious provisions, creates a much more dangerous precedent of de-secularization and distortion of the law than similar but little-known cases, such as the case of Maksim Efimov, described above, or the 2011 cases of Gatchina blogger Dmitry Lebedev and Kaliningrad publisher Boris Obraztsov.[17] Note also the unprecedentedly harsh sentence; imprisonment was imposed for the offense, which is essentially speech, and not an ordinary crime with ideological motives. The severity of the sentence emphasizes the high priority that the government is granting to the cause of protecting religious traditions.


Supporters of Eduard Limonov that had previously formed the National Bolshevik Party, and in recent years - the Other Russia party, have remained an ongoing target of anti-extremist law enforcement. Most often, they are accused of continuing their activity in the banned National Bolshevik Party, but proving this fact becomes increasingly more problematic.

In January 2012, the ECHR began its consideration of the first complaint, filed by a person, convicted under the Criminal Code Article 2822 for her participation in the NBP. Daria Isayeva received a suspended sentence in 2009 under Part 2 of the Criminal Code Article 2822 and Part 2 of the Criminal Code Article 165 (“Infliction of property damage on its owner or on any other property holder by deceit or breach of trust, in the absence of the elements of stealing”) for her participation in the NBP action “Eat for free!”, when two activists had a meal in a chain restaurant Elki-Palki and paid for their food with leaflets that protested against rising food prices. In accordance with its procedure, the ECHR, in the course of deliberations, raised the most important questions that the Russian Federation needed to answer…Was there an interference with her freedom of expression … If so, was that interference justified …? In particular, what level of involvement in the activities of a prohibited organisation was required to amount to “participation” within the meaning of Article 282-2 § 2 of the Criminal Code? The court also raised the question “Was the law applied in the applicant’s case sufficiently clear, foreseeable and specific? Was the sanction, applied to the applicant, proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued, and what was that aim?”

We believe the NBP ban to be a miscarriage of justice; we second the Strasbourg Court in expressing our confusion regarding specific actions that can be considered a continuation of the banned organization, since the law have never defined them. In its very useful anti-extremist criminal enforcement clarifications of 2011, the Supreme Court failed to address the problems related to the application of the Criminal Code Article 2822. Meanwhile, 14 activists of the Other Russia were convicted under this article in 2012.

The case related to the “capture” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs waiting area in 2008 was unexpectedly reactivated in 2012. In the course of this action, 13 NBP members handcuffed themselves to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs waiting area to protest against Russia's policy towards the Russian-speaking population of the Baltic republics; they scattered leaflets in the waiting room and displayed the slogan, “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia is a Den of Traitors” in the window. All of them were convicted under Articles 20.1 and 19.3 of the Administrative Code for disorderly conduct and failure to obey the order of a police officer, and only four of them - for taking part in the activities of the banned National Bolshevik Party under Part 2 of Article 2822. Now the court found four additional people – Tatiana Kharlamova, Olga Komarova, Yevgeniy Donets and Mikhail Kliuzhev - guilty under the same article; however, unlike the previous four defendants, who received suspended sentences, these four were sentenced to a fine of 30 to 45 thousand rubles.

The verdict in the so-called “Case of the Twelve” (the case of the Other Russia activists in St. Petersburg) was handed down in the very end of 2012. Seven defendants were found guilty. Three of them - Andrei Dmitriev, Alexei Marochkin and Andrei Pesotskii - were accused of organizing activities of the banned National Bolshevik Party and sentenced to a fine of 200,000 rubles. Alexander Yashin, Ravil Bashirov, Roman Khrenov and Andrei Miliuk were sentenced to a fine of 150,000 rubles for their participation in the NBP activities. All defendants were released from liability due to the statute of limitations, but, nevertheless, chose to appeal the verdict. Earlier, the court stopped the proceedings against five other defendants in the case due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Inna Marinina, a Murmansk activist of the Other Russia, was found guilty of participating in the NBP in May and sentenced to a fine of 15,000 rubles.

Activists Igor Popov and Alexander Kurov from Vladivostok were found guilty in June 2012 not only under Part 2 of Article 2822, but also under two other anti-extremist articles of the Criminal Code: Article 280 and Part 1 of Article 282. The court sentenced them to a fine of 150 thousand rubles (Popov) and 350 thousand rubles (Kurov). The charges against the activists included not only their NBP membership but also inciting hatred toward the authorities and law enforcement agencies. (Kurov also was charged with demonstrating the slogan “the duty of every real man today is to join the holy war against this state and this gangster government” during a rally, but this episode didn’t affect the verdict due to the statute of limitations.) The appellate court reversed the verdict in October and sent the case for a new trial because of procedural violations committed by the district court. In December, Kurov petitioned to have the case dismissed due to the statute of limitations, and the court granted his petition. Popov was not satisfied with the dismissal on non-exonerating grounds, so his case continued in 2013.

The investigation and the court proceedings on several earlier cases against activists of the Other Russia continued in 2012. A number of searches were conducted in Moscow in connection with a criminal case under Article 2822 against at least three defendants: Nikolai Avdiushenkov, Andrei Gorin and Alexei Sochnev. The trial of Anton Lukin and Svetlana Kuznetsova in Komsomolsk-on-Amur has not been completed; they were charged under Part 2 paragraph “a” of Article 282 (“actions aimed at inciting hatred and enmity, committed using violence or the threat of force”), Part 1 of Article 280 (“public calls to extremist activity”), and Part 3 of Article 212 (“calls to mass riots”). Lukin and Kuznetsova were charged with distribution of Victory will be ours! leaflets and the Vysshaia Mera newspaper during a 2011 rally. We can not assess the validity of charges against them, because we don’t know the content of these texts.

At least one new criminal case was initiated under Part 2 of Article 2822. Two officers of the Northern Fleet in the Murmansk Region are suspected of having attended the meetings of the Other Russia Murmansk branch since 2011. The investigation reported that propaganda materials and several issues of the banned Limonka newspaper were seized from them.

Throughout the year, we have also recorded numerous instances of blocking the Web sites of Limonov's supporters; we consider these actions to be inappropriate, since they were undertaken not due to specific illegal content, but simply by association with the banned National Bolshevik Party, which does not constitute a legitimate reason.


In 2012, the proceedings continued in two criminal cases against activists of the anti-fascist movement. In both cases they were accused of violence against nationalists and of participation in activities of an extremist community.

The sensational case of Antifa-RASH – the Nizhny Novgorod anti-fascists Pavel Krivonosov, Oleg Gembaruk and Dmitry Kolesov – practically fell apart in the district court and was returned to the Prosecutor's Office, but the regional court insisted on a retrial in the district court. In early 2013, the district court dismissed their charges under Part 2 of Article 2821 (“participation in an extremist community”), Part 2 paragraph “b” of Article 115, and Part 2 paragraph “b” of Article 116 (“intentional infliction of bodily harm” and “beatings motivated by hatred and hostility towards a social group” respectively) due to the statute of limitations. Thus, the three defendants are now accused only under Part 2 of Article 213 (“hooliganism, committed by a group of persons or connected with resistance to a representative of authority”); the charges of extremism have been dropped.

In June, Igor Kharchenko, an anti-fascist from Moscow, was charged for the 2010 attack on two far-right activists under Part 2 of Article 213 (“hooliganism committed with objects used as arms committed by a group of persons, motivated by social hatred”), Article 111 (“intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm”) and Article 115 (“intentional infliction of bodily harm”), as well as Part 2 of Article 2821 (“participation in an extremist community”). Upon request of the defense, the charges against Kharchenko under Article 115 were dropped . The charges under Part 2 of Article 2821 were dropped as well, since the court was unable to find any evidence of his participation in any extremist community.

An attempt to ban a political poem, recited at the Amur conference of the CPRF has failed. A court in Blagoveschensk of the Amur Region banned Nikolai Degtiarev’s poem “Anti-People’s Front” in January 2012, in agreement with the expert opinion in the case, which found that the poem incited hatred of a particular social group, “the United Russia political party.” The court's decision contradicted the Resolution of the plenary meeting of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation “Concerning Judicial Practice in Criminal Cases Regarding Crimes of Extremism,” which clarified that criticism of political, ideological and religious associations, in and of itself, could not be considered hate speech, and that the limits of permissible criticism of officials and professional politicians were wider then for ordinary citizens. In the same resolution the Supreme Court also reiterated that experts could not be asked any questions related to legal evaluation of the offense. The Amur Regional Court lifted the ban on Degtiarev’s poem in April.


Various anti-police texts were also banned on many occasions for inciting hatred toward a social group of law enforcement officers, despite the fact that anti-extremist legislation has never been intended for protection of police, which is protected by other norms. For example, the Tyumen Regional Court upheld the ban on the Volya party leaflet To Everyone Who Works in the Security Agencies (Vsem, kto rabotaet v silovykh strukturakh) in February 2013. The leaflet’s text contained criticism of Russia's domestic and foreign policy, listed the instances of police brutality, and urged police personnel to “side with the people” and not to obey “criminal orders.”

The fact that protecting police via anti-extremism legislation is, at the very least, a questionable practice was, once again, confirmed in the course of the investigation of the highly publicized “palace overturn” action by Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev, the activists of the Voina art group. On the fourth attempt in May 2012, the case of overturning a police car motivated by hatred toward the police as a social group was finally closed, because the investigation concluded that “at present there is no consensus whether the police comprise a particular social group.” Property damage from the action was so small that re-classifying the case under part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 167 (“deliberate destruction or damage to property, if these acts have caused significant damage”) would have been meaningless.


The practice of ordering Russian activists who do not have Russian citizenship out of the country on charges of extremism was used more actively in 2012.

The story of Andrei Margulev, a resident of Moscow and a defender of Khimki Forest and Tsaritsyno Park, whose request for citizenship of the Russian Federation had been denied, was widely discussed in March. The refusal was backed up by an unsubstantiated assertion that Margulev allegedly stands for “violent change of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation or otherwise creates a threat to the security of the Russian Federation.” At the end of the same month, the Federal Migration Service of Russia on the same grounds ordered Finnish citizen Antti Rautiainen, an activist of the anarchist movement, to leave the territory of the Russian Federation within 15 days, canceling his permit for temporary residence in Russia.

We need to remind here that trade union activist Dmitriy Dubonos, a citizen of Ukraine, was the first one to encounter similar problems back in 2011. On the basis of similar unsubstantiated accusations he lost his temporary residence permit in Arkhangelsk, the city of his birth, where he and his family had lived for many years. Regaining the temporary residence permit via Russian courts proved to be impossible, and Dubonos appealed to Strasbourg. Curiously, in early 2013, a year after he had been denied a temporary residence permit, Dubonos easily received it once again from the Federal Migration Service Office. In the meantime, the migrants’ trade union of the Arkhangelsk Region, organized by Dubonos, had been eliminated. As it turned out, the Russian judges believed that migrant workers may not share common interests, and the existence of trade union for migrants violates the rights of Russian citizens since the law “prohibits any restriction of the rights of citizens based on social, racial, national, linguistic or religious identity.”


Sharon Barrow, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, sent a letter to the President of Russia in the fall of 2012. Her letter was based on a report drawn up by the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organization regarding the complaint filed by the All-Russian Confederation of Labour and the Confederation of Labour of Russia. The complaint contained information about physical attacks, threats and pressure faced by union leaders, as well as government intervention in the affairs of trade unions in Russia. Barrow’s letter contained, among other issues, a request to “create appropriate mechanisms in order to investigate, halt and prevent violations of trade union rights and interference in their internal affairs.” It also mentioned the need to take action “to remove trade union leaflets from the list of extremist literature and prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future.” We would like to remind, that the leaflets of the Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (Mezhregionalnyi soiuz rabotnikov avtoproma, MPRA), which show no signs of extremism, have been included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials as Nos. 439-446 since 2009.


Gay rights activists also had to appeal to the ECHR. In August, the founders of the civic organization Pride House in Sochi sent a complaint to Strasbourg for being refused registration. An organization, created “to fight homophobia in sport and promote ideas of tolerance towards the LGBT community during the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Sochi,” has not been registered by the Ministry of Justice under formal pretexts. The representatives of Pride House went to the First District Court of Krasnodar, but got a new denial of registration, this time on different grounds. In particular, the Court explained its decision by stating that “the activities of the movement entail propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation that can undermine the security of the Russian state and society and cause social and religious hatred and enmity, that is also a sign of extremist activity; it can also undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation due to reduction in population size.” The Regional Court refused to consider an appeal against the decision, citing a missed deadline for appeal. The founders of the organization argue that by refusing registration for Pride House the Russian authorities violated three articles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: Article 11 (“right to freedom of association”), Article 14 (“prohibition of discrimination”) and Article 13 (“right to judicial protection”). Note that the Rainbow House (Raduzhnyi dom) LGBT organization in Tyumen, which had been denied registration in 2006 under the pretext that its activities could “undermine the security of the Russian state and society,” filed a similar complaint with the ECHR.


Next, we would like to discuss several cases relating to the activities of oppositional Internet resources, in which the “anti-extremist” mechanism was chosen as the means of suppression.

We believe that bans of three oppositional Web sites in Ingushetia can be characterized as politically motivated, since they never committed violations of the law on combating extremism serious enough to merit such a harsh response.

In October, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan upheld the verdict to the authors of the oppositional Web site Ufa Gubernskaia. In July, the Leninsky District Court of Ufa found Nikolai Shvetsov, Sergey Orlov, Igor Kuchumov, Ildar Gabdrafikov and Konstantin Nesterov guilty of offenses under Part 3 of Article 2821 (“organizing an extremist community, by a person using his official position”), Part 2 of Article 280 (“public calls to extremist activity conducted with the use of the mass media”), Part 3 of Article 212 (“incitement to violence”), Part 2 paragraphs “b” and “c” of Article 282 (“incitement of hatred, by a person using his official position, by an organized group”). All five men were given suspended sentences from one to two years. The Court established that the defendants left comments of “extremist content” on the Web site despite their categorical denial of guilt. We are not aware of any texts, authored by the defendants, which would fall under the article that is being incriminated to them. Indeed, comments on the site were often offensive and nationalistic, but we do not believe that the site’s editors should be held criminally liable for the statements of their readers. No convincing evidence was offered to substantiate the charge of creating an extremist community.

A popular Orel Web site was nearly banned in October. The court merely declared extremist the material that had been posted on the site and triggered the lawsuit. positions itself as a free online encyclopedia that provides everyone with an opportunity to anonymously post their “ironic” opinion on various subjects of city life, including the city authorities and their policies. A criminal case under part 1 of Article 282 was opened in July, in relation to three publications, which, according to the experts, contained “signs of inciting hatred between groups of people connected by nationality and religion” and “inciting to violence.” As was demonstrated during the court session, the administration of removed xenophobic material within 5-7 minutes, but during that time period the law enforcement representatives managed to take their screenshots. The materials were submitted through an anonymous proxy server, and the source could not be identified. The defense argued that materials were placed on the site by the law enforcement as a provocation, since the case materials contained discrepancies in dates, and the screenshots contained indications of having been altered in Photoshop. In our opinion, the Web site administration cannot be held responsible for the material that it promptly removed.


We need to point out that not all 2012 bans on nationalist materials and penalties for them looked appropriate. We already covered some of these cases in other sections. Here it is necessary to mention the most famous case of this year related to charge of making an extremist nationalist statement - the case of the National Democratic Party leader Konstantin Krylov. Krylov made it in 2011 in his speech during “Stop feeding the Caucasus!” rally. Krylov made some extremely offensive statements about the “Caucasians”, but refrained from direct incitement. In early 2013, the Zamoskvoretsky Court of Moscow sentenced him under Part 1 of Article 282 to 120 hours of mandatory labor. We believe the sentence was inappropriate. Formally, Krylov’s actions qualify under Article 282 as the abasement of the dignity of people based on their national affiliation, but we are convinced that this part of the article should be moved from to the Administrative Penal Code, since it’s a petty offence, similar to already decriminalized insult.


Media Topics

In 2012, Roskomnadzor issued 17 “anti-extremist” warnings to editorial boards regarding extremist activities. We believe that seven of them lacked proper justification. You may remember that, according to established practice, two warnings received in the course of one year constitute the basis for filing a lawsuit to close the newspaper, so warnings should be imposed in a judicial and well-considered manner.

Some of the materials published in the media, and even entire issues of publications were banned by courts as extremist in 2012. We know of at least three cases of inappropriate bans. In one instance, after an article was banned, the criminal case was initiated for the fact of its publication. On the other hand, another similar case was closed in 2012.

As in the preceding year, the “warned” publications included a Cossack newspaper - this time it was Vtoraia Kazachia Zastava (the Second Cossack Outpost). We have not seen one of the three materials that triggered the warning, but the other two, albeit written by supporters of Cossack autonomy and, in theory, advocating separatism, contain no calls for illegal actions.

Several publications were punished for xenophobic rhetoric, which posed no significant danger to society.

Thus, the Chas Pik v Verkhnei Pyshme (Rush Hour in Upper Pyshma) newspaper received a warning for its article about tense relations between a Roma camp on the outskirts of town and residents of the nearby streets, because it contained some statements that were unfriendly to the Roma.

In Chuvashia, the Vziatka (Bribe) newspaper received a warning for an article by Alexei Kudrin, “Show me your tongue, and I tell you, who you are” (pokazhi mne svoi iazyk, i ia skazhu – kto ty). The article, written from the Chuvash nationalist perspective, told the story of the persecution of the Chuvash language and criticized Russian imperial policies that oppress the Chuvash people. The text contains some untoward statements about the Russians, but they definitely don’t rise to the level of incitement to hatred. However, in this case a warning was deemed insufficient. The Supreme Court of the Chuvash Republic recognized the article as extremist in July, and, in August, a criminal case under part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 282 was initiated for the fact of its publication. In the course of the investigation, the homes of the newspaper's staff, including its editor Edward Mochalov, were searched.

The banned materials of 2012 included one more article on the issues of learning the national language - this time Erzya. We are referring to Vasily Bokin’s article “To Stop the Genocide” (Ostanovit’ genotsid) banned in August in the Ulyanovsk Region. The article was published in 2009 in the Nash Golos (Our Voice) newspaper; the author writes about the loss of national Mordovian identity as a result of government-imposed Russification. As we see it, Bokin’s value judgments about everyone he blames for this situation do not constitute a sufficient reason for prohibiting the text. However, it should be noted that the author, while observing that the situation is fraught with the emergence of the national liberation movement and subsequent violence and even warning readers about the dangers of such a development, nevertheless expresses certain sympathy for such a scenario. Therefore, some sanctions in this case would be appropriate, but a warning would have been sufficient. Bokin made several unsuccessful attempts to challenge the district court’s verdict, and now awaits the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

In two cases, the authorities responded to the publication of humorous materials, mistaking them for a serious attempt to incite hatred toward the Russian people.

The publication Moia Informatsionnaia Gazeta v Petrovske (My Informational Newspaper in Petrovsk) in the Saratov Region received a warning for publishing the popular poem “Final wishes to Ivans, the Parasitic Party program,” banned in Sterlitamak (Bashkortostan) in the summer of 2012. The prohibition of this satirical poem seems to us, in and of itself, a misunderstanding. It is written in the form of the statement by oligarchs and government officials, who enriched themselves by mining and selling natural resources, addressed to the uncultivated people (“Ivans”, “Papuans”) and asking them to keep pursuing their course of social and cultural degradation. Obviously, the unknown author intended to denounce oligarchs, not to denigrate the people, but the court failed to understand it, and this misunderstanding now gives rise to new sanctions against distributors of this biting text.

A parody video on YouTube nearly led to court proceedings under Part 2 of Article 280 and Part 1 of Article 282 against journalist Andrei Kolomoiskii, who posted a link to it in a blog on the Web site of the Vyborgskie Vedomosti newspaper. The video contained the footage of Putin's address to the voters with a superimposed satirical text, in which the president was expressing regret over not finishing the people off. The Vyborg Prosecutor’s Office demanded that the link be removed from the site, and then submitted the materials to initiate criminal proceedings against Kolomoiskii to the Leningrad Regional Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation, despite the fact that the video was not banned and continued to exist on YouTube, where it was viewed by hundreds of thousands of users. The Investigation Committee returned the materials to the Prosecutor's Office, indicating that the latter had failed to conduct the appropriate verification. The decision to initiate the case has been cancelled.

The editorial board of the online newspaper Stoletiie (Century), the publication of the Foundation for Historical Perspective, received a warning in November. In the article “The Russians Stand in Russia’s Way”: Selected statements of our liberals” (“Rossii meshaiut russkiie…otbornye vyskazyvaniia nashikh liberalov”) the newspaper reproduced verbatim several fragments of a prohibited article “Death to Russia!” (Smert’ Rossii!) by Boris Stomakhin. From our point of view, despite the fact that some statements of public figures (not just Stomakhin), cited in the article, were, indeed, aggressive and provocative, the editorial board should not be held liable, since the context needs to be taken into account - the authors of the published article critically evaluated these statements and obviously intended to discredit these “prominent opposition figures.”

The editorial board of AmurMedia Information Agency was targeted for formal reasons - for publishing the article “National Bolshevik in the Khabarovsk Region was arrested for Vysshaia Mera” (Natsbola v Khabarovskom krae arestovali za “Vysshuiu meru”), that mentioned the NBP, but failed to mention the fact that it was a banned party, as required by the law on mass media. We believe that the requirement to always mention the ban is ridiculous, so we categorized the warning, received by the newspaper, as inappropriate.


Finally, as a positive development of 2012, we should note that the criminal case under paragraph “b” of Part 2 of the Criminal Code Article 282 (“incitement of hatred by a person using his official position”) against Vladimir Efimov, the editor of the newspaper Vecherniaia Tyumen was closed. Efimov was accused of inciting hatred toward the social group, “law enforcement personnel.” The case, brought in connection with the articles published in two 2008 issues of the newspaper, is, in our opinion, unfounded. Law enforcement officers do not need additional protection in the form of legislation on extremism, and, in addition, Vecherniaia Tyumen articles discussed interactions between Tyumen social activists and the police and contained no signs of incitement to hostility or hatred.



According to our data, 28 verdicts were delivered for violent hate-motivated crimes to 65 people in 2012; 89 verdicts were delivered for real hate propaganda to 104 people (although in some cases we don’t have enough information to evaluate the appropriateness of the verdict, and in a number of cases we can conclude that the statements in question were xenophobic, but the extent of their public danger was clearly insignificant); another 5 verdicts to 7 people were issued for ideologically-motivated vandalism.[18] The number of people, whose verdicts were definitely inappropriate, is smaller, but comparable to the above numbers.[19].

16 people received 7 verdicts under the Criminal Code Article 282 in the cases that we consider at least partially inappropriate for various reasons. These verdicts include the sentence to 5 authors of the oppositional Web site Ufa Gubernskaia in Bashkiria, the sentence to Aydar Khabibullin, director of the Garden (Sad) publishing group and Edward Gabdrakhmanov in Moscow, the sentence to Vildar Yakupov for distributing forbidden books in the Chelyabinsk Region, the sentence of three participants of the attack on the Tornado festival in Chelyabinsk. The sentence to the Other Russia activists Igor Popov and Alexander Kurov from Vladivostok was later revoked. In two cases of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Andrei and Lucia Raitin of Chita and Maksim Kalinin of Mari El, the defendants were acquitted. Jehovah’s Witnesses were charged under Article 282 only, while others were convicted under the aggregation of Article 282 with other articles of the Criminal Code.


Seven people were wrongfully convicted under the Criminal Code Article 280: the aforementioned five Ufa Gubernskaia bloggers, and Popov and Kurov from the Other Russia, whose sentence was revoked.

The courts issued two convictions under the Criminal Code Article 2821. 8 people were inappropriately convicted of organizing an extremist community: five creators of Ufa Gubernskaia and three extortionists from Tatarstan.

Seven sentences were delivered under Article 2822 for organizing activities of organizations recognized as extremist. The largest number of victims of inappropriate anti-extremism in the past year (29 people) has been convicted under this article. Fourteen of them were activists of the Other Russia in various cities, including the rescinded sentence to Popov and Kurov. Ten people were convicted in Bashkortostan for participation in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Finally, 5 people were convicted in the Tablighi Jamaat case in Astrakhan.

Four additional inappropriate verdicts against 14 people were issued under Article 213 for disorderly conduct motivated by hatred. Three members of the Pussy Riot punk collective were sentenced in Moscow; an anti-fascist was sentenced for a fight with a Nazi skinhead in Ivanovo; two teenagers in Nizhny Novgorod were sentenced for setting fire to the building that housed the office of a regional legislative assembly member; eight members of the far-right group Orel Guerillas (Orlovskie partizany) received their verdict in Orel. In the latter cases the sentences were inappropriate to the extent that they related to the inadequate definition of protected “social group.”

So, the total of 18 verdicts against 60 people were issued under the anti-extremist articles of the Criminal Code. The verdict for two of them was revoked, and three people were acquitted in 2 separate verdicts.

In general, all people convicted under the anti-extremist articles of the Criminal Code were sentenced to suspended sentences or fines; the actual incarceration terms (to 25 people) were usually issued under the aggregation of articles and mostly for violent crimes.

We can also note the tendency of the courts to delay complex cases, so they end up delivering a guilty verdict, but releasing the defendants from punishment due to the statute of limitations. Such are the cases of Vildar Yakupov, the Other Russia members in St. Petersburg and also (as of 2013) Popov and Kurov.

Five sentences, in which ten people received actual prison terms for activities not associated with violence, deserve our attention. This category includes the sentence to Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who received two years in a penal colony, two Hizb ut-Tahrir convictions in Bashkiria, where six people received over a year each in a penal colony under Article 2822 (some of them may have been released in the courtroom due to the length of time already spent in custody), the verdict to Yuri Avdonin, who was sentenced to one and a half years in a penal colony in the Tablighi Jamaat case and the sentence to Khabibullin and Gabdrakhmanov, who received four years in a colony under the aggregation of Articles 282 and 222 (“illegal possession of ammunition,” see above for additional details).


We can now turn to our data on the use of the Administrative Code to combat extremism, keeping in mind that our records here are much less complete than in criminal prosecution cases.

Eight businesses and 12 individuals received 17 wrongful convictions and were fined for mass distribution of extremist materials or for storage with intent to distribute, i.e. under the Administrative Code Article 20.29. Seven of these organizations were bookstores, and one was the Jehovah's Witness community of Karachay-Cherkessia. Twelve fined individuals included four librarians, three Jehovah's Witnesses, four Muslims (one of them was the store owner) and one activist of the Other Russia. As a rule, these people never engaged in actual mass distribution of prohibited materials

Seven people were inappropriately fined for public demonstration of Nazi or similar symbols, i.e., under the Administrative Code Article 20.3.


The Federal List of Extremist Materials increased by 522 points in 2012. At this rate of growth, we are not always able to familiarize ourselves with prohibited materials; in addition, they are often not available (for example, online comments are usually promptly removed upon request of the law enforcement). Therefore, we can not always evaluate the extent of the ban’s appropriateness.

Unfortunately, the tendency to prohibit materials en masse by association with any organization recognized as extremist (or simply because they were seized from disloyal citizens) still persists. Courts have no intentions of actually analyzing the materials. Hence the curious cases, such as the ban on medieval religious treatises, found in the materials seized from a suspected Nurcular activist in Orenburg, and the ban on investigative publications on the subject of right-wing radicalism, seized from the right-wing radicals.

We consider the following 109 items to be inappropriately included on the List: 80 different Muslim materials, ranging from works by Said Nursi and Fethullah Gülen to the Koran study manuals, 8 materials of Elle Ayat religious organization (banned in early 2013), seven Scientology materials, seven materials of Ukrainian nationalists, two works of investigative journalism, pertaining to right-wing movements, the translated memoirs of Waffen-SS officer Kurt Mayer, Book of Veles, the leaflet Final Wishes to Ivans, painting “Sermon on the Mount” by Alexander Savko from the series The Journey of Mickey Mouse through the History of Art, and one anticlerical video.

In addition, we consider the ban on the following 11 items to be questionable: the Hizb ut-Tahrir materials, two articles by revisionist historian Mark Weber, one issue of the Kazachia Rus' newspaper, the book I Feel Bad for the State (Za derzhavu obidno!) by Yuri Mukhin, the article ““Balkaria for Balkars… and Moscow for them, darlings, as well” (Balkaria dlya balkartsev…i Moskva dlia nikh zhe, rodimykh) from the Web site, Irina Dediukhova’s text “On the new “Kondopoga” in a children's camp” (Po povodu novoi “Kondopogi” v detskom lagere), published on her blog under the pseudonym ogurcova, publications by a notorious Internet-compilator Sergei Melnikoff, and a number of diverse Muslim materials, entered a single list item. Once again, we would like to emphasize that we are not familiar with every single material on the list and cannot rule out that the prohibition of these unexamined materials could also be unjustified.


[1] Our interpretation of “inappropriate anti-extremism” is introduced in detail in: Verkhovsky, A., Preface to: Inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremist legislation in Russia in 2009 // SOVA Center 2010. 22 March (

[2] A. Verkhovsky. Inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremist legislation in Russia in 2011 // SOVA Center, 2012. 29 March (

[3] Sanctions against the Internet Service Providers // SOVA Center, 2013 (

[4] In April 2013 the Ministry of Justice called for full return to unscheduled “anti-extremist” inspections. See: The Ministry of Justice called for full return to unscheduled anti-extremist inspections of non-profit organizations // RIA Novosti. 2013. 9 April (

[5] On April 9, 2013 the draft bill passed the first reading. Dramatic changes were promised to be introduced in the second reading; however they are not yet in place, and we can’t be sure that the resulting legislation will completely avoid criminalizing religious dissent.

[6] Resolution 1896 (2012). The honouring of obligations and commitments by the Russian Federation // PACE. 2012. 2 October (

[7] See: The Civic Chamber seeks a more specific definition of the term “extremist activity” // SOVA Center 2011. 6 December (; The Civic Chamber on the draft law against anti-extremism on the Internet and in finance. // SOVA Center 2012. 3 February (

[8] Report of the Russian Federation Human Rights Ombudsman for 2011 // Web site of the Russian Federation Human Rights Ombudsman. 2012. 5 March (

[9] For additional details see: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina, Alexander Verkhovsky, Between Manezhnaya and Bolotnaya: Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Russia, and Efforts to Counteract Them in 2011 // SOVA Center 2012. 24 February (

[10] See: A. Verkhovsky. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2011 // SOVA Center 2012. 29 March (

[11] We, most probably, receive no information regarding most audits. Sometimes we know of a series of inspections, but have no data on the number of warnings or other acts of prosecutorial response. In such cases we count an entire series as one item.

[12] A detailed list of possible charges can be found in our previous report. See A. Verkhovsky. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2011.

[13] We used the same conservative counting method as was described above with respect to the Internet filtering inspections.

[14] For relevant document formats, see “Libraries working with the Federal List of Extremist Materials” / Eds. E. Strukova, A. Verkhovsky, M. Rozalskaya. Gosudarstvennaia Publichnaia Istoricheskaia Biblioteka, Moscow, 2011.

[15] See: The Supreme Court of the RF banned Nurcular as extremist // SOVA Center 2008. 10 April (

[16] On ill-conceived practice of applying this procedure in cases relating to extremist materials see: Sultanov, Aidar, Special procedure for cases of extremism? // SOVA Center 2013. 13 February (

[17] See A. Verkhovsky. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2011.

[18] For additional details see: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina, The Ultra-Right on the Streets with a Pro-Democracy Poster in Their Hands or a Knife in Their Pocket: Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Russia, and Efforts to Counteract Them in 2012. // SOVA Center 2013. 15 March (

Please note that when we evaluate approprateness or inappropriateness of court verdicts, we consider only their content, not possible procedural violations.

[19]We do not elaborate here on our objections to these verdicts - most of them were already covered in the preceding chapters.