Racism and Xenophobia in August 2015
The following is our review of racism and xenophobia in Russia during August 2015. The data we report are collected in the course of Sova Center’s daily monitoring activities.
No fewer than five people were targeted in racist or neo-Nazi violence this month, in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and the Moscow and Rostov regions. VDV Day, August 2, passed this year with less violence than usual: we are aware of only a single attack by paratroopers on a group of people “of non-Slavic appearance” in Rostov-on-Don. In Saint Petersburg, LGBT rights activists traditionally came on stage, attempting to march with rainbow flags in the center of the city. A group of the activists were immediately detained by police, though two individuals made it to Field of Mars with placards – which were promptly taken and destroyed by paratroopers. However, police broke up the altercation before it turned violent.
Since the beginning of the year, no fewer than five people have been killed, and 47 attacked, in incidents of racist violence across Russia. Four people have received serious threats to their lives. Sova Center has recorded these incidents in 12 regions of the country.
Some football-related incidents worth mentioning took place in Khimki (the Moscow region) on August 1, before, during and after the match between CSKA Moscow and Anzhi Makhachkala, a side representing the majority-Muslim Republic of Dagestan. During the match, CSKA fans chanted racist slogans at Anzhi players and hung a banner reading “Animal Planet.”
Additionally, ultra-right activists attempted to capitalize on the Samara murder of a Spartak Moscow fan. Anton “Shaggy” Feoktistov, an alleged member of the far-right “School” group, was killed the night of August 9 in a nightclub. A Kyrgyz national, Mansur Isnailzhanov (previously reported as T. Ishmanzhonov) was detained as a suspect. Spartak fans held a few rallies in memory of Feoktistov.
There was also a hockey-related incident of note, where ultra-right activists were involved: the murder of Traktor Chelyabinsk fan Vitaly Spiridonov in a brawl with migrants from the Caucasus in a bar on August 4. Kamil Dzhamilov, a suspect in the incident, is an ultimate fighter, reminding nationalists of the case of Rasul Mirzaev; nationalists in turn attempted to propagandize the incident.
There were practically no ultra-right public events in the month of August. There was one rally in Moscow on August 16, commemorating the 95th anniversary of a peasant uprising in the Tambov region. It drew no more than fifteen people. It was organized by the Moscow branch of RONA, with activists from the Irreconcilable League. Additionally, activists from the groups Unity of Equals, European Movement, and also independent activists participated.
On August 24, at the square in front of the Ulitsa 1905 Goda Metro stop in Moscow, a demonstration was held under the title “Freedom to the Russian People! Against Political Repression!” It was organized by the Russian National Front, a coalition of nationalist groups including Great Russia, IGPR ZOV, Party of Action, the Movement for Nationalization and Deprivatization. Additionally, activists from Other Russia, headed by Eduard Limonov, participated. A few dozen people came out for the rally.
Nationalists continued carrying out “raids” in the month of August. On August 5, members of the Saint Petersburg chapter of the “Russians” organization assaulted kiosks and other points of sale near Bolshevik Prospect and Prospect Prosvescheniya Metro stops, with the participation of police and members of Center E, the Interior Ministry’s notorious special task force on “extremism.” About ten people, including the leader of the “Russians” chapter, Dina Garina, conducted the “raid.”
On August 9 Dmitry Bobrov (of the National Socialist Initiative) and about five of his supporters conducted a “citizens’ raid” against similar illegal points of sale near the Lesnaya, Akademicheskaya, Baltiyskaya, and Narvskaya Metro stops.
We are aware of one act of vandalism in the month of August. On Lakhtinskaya Street in Saint Petersburg, a group of 26 vandals knocked down a figure of a demon in front of a building constructed in 1910-11, which was deemed an architectural monument. This happened two days after the installation of a cross at a newly constructed Orthodox church across the street. A group calling itself “Cossacks of Saint Petersburg” claimed responsibility.
Since the beginning of the year, we have recorded attacks on no fewer than 23 objects, in 16 regions of the country, by xenophobic vandals.
The month of August 2015 saw only one ruling in a case of xenophobic violence: 35-year-old Petersburger Aleksey Nesmachny was sentenced to 16 years in a penal colony for shooting two migrants in Krondstadt with a shotgun. Since the beginning of the year, then, we have recorded no fewer than 15 such rulings, against 29 people, in 13 regions of Russia.
There was one ruling regarding xenophobic vandalism in August 2015: a Krasnoyarsk Krai court sentenced three locals over the desecration of monuments to Russia’s military glory in Gvardeysky Park on January 9, 2015. They were charged under Part 3 of Article 354.1 of the Criminal Code (desecration of symbols of Russia’s military glory, committed publicly) and sentenced to 60 to 110 hours of compulsory labor. This is the first-ever verdict under Article 354.1 of which we are aware. Since the beginning of the year, we know of six rulings on xenophobic vandalism charges, against seven individuals in five regions of the country.
As for xenophobic propaganda, there were some 12 rulings against 14 people in nine regions of the country this month. For the year to date, we are aware of 111 such rulings in 48 regions of the country, with 118 individuals facing criminal sentences.
Over the course of August, the Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated 10 times, with the inclusion of entries 2929-3011. Various xenophobic materials were added, including neo-Nazi skinhead publications, the website of the Vladimir region chapter of the Russian All-National Union; various pagan materials (“the Council of the Grand Clans of Rus”); Jehovah’s Witnesses sites; Muslim materials ranging from militant videos to materials from the group Hizb ut-Tahrir; as well as articles by Boris Stomakhin.
It appears as though the authorities have begun to be confused by the complex system of censorship they created. For example, entry 2980 of the Federal List includes programs created to hack into bank accounts, while entry 2989 contains websites selling diplomas. While no one would dispute the illegality of either, there is no connection to extremism – these resources should instead be added to the Register of Banned Websites maintained by Roskomnadzor, and not included on an Interior Ministry list of extremist materials.
The Federal List of Extremist Organizations was not updated in August, but further additions are inevitable. This month a Krasnoyarsk court declared the interregional radical nationalist group Misanthropic Division to be extremist.
The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the Moscow City Court to declare the “Russians” movement an extremist group; the organization’s activities have been suspended pending a decision. Likewise, the activities of the National Socialist Initiative of D. Bobrov have been suspended due to an earlier demand for a ban of the group.