Nationalism and Xenophobia in February 2020
The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for February 2020.
We are aware of one attack motivated by nationalist hatred in February 2020, where a migrant worker from Uzbekistan in St. Petersburg fell victim. Additionally, we note insults and threats from activists associated with "Male State," an online "men's rights" movement, as well as other Internet users, targeting Russian women who starred in pornographic videos with Till Lindemann, frontman of the German industrial band Rammstein. (Supporters of the Male State group describe their ideology as a national patriarchy, advocate for "racial purity" and insist on regulation of women's behavior in accordance with ultraconservative values.) Since the beginning of 2020, according to our data, four people have fallen victim to ideologically motivated attack, while another two received credible death threats.
February saw multiple instances of raids by Cossack patrols at Tagansky Ryad, the main market in Yekaterinburg, which is located in a district of the city where many emigrants from China reside. The patrols conducted a "coronavirus check" exclusively of Asian people. According to Gennady Kovalyov, the head of “Ural Cossaks” non-commercial partnership, analogous patrols took place on the streets of Ryazan and Tula.
We are aware of only one attempt to desecrate a religious object this month. On February 1, an individual attempted to set fire to the Peter and Paul Church in Vesyolyi, a village in the Krasnogvardeisky district of St. Petersburg. Since the beginning of 2020, we have recorded two instances of ideologically motivated vandalism.
Nationalists participated in campaigns related to upcoming amendments to the Russian Constitution. In Moscow on February 15, on Suvorovskaya Square, a coalition of groups including the Left Front, the Party of Action, the "Novorossiya" movement and Other Russia held a rally "For holding a referendum on amendments to the Constitution and changing the course of development of the country, against usurpation of power." Among others, ex-Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, Igor Strelkov (Novorossiya), Maxim Kalashnikov (Party of Action), Mikhail Axel (Other Russia), Mikhail Butrimov (the Russian All-People's Union, ROS) spoke. In total, the rally gathered, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, no more than 300 people.
In St. Petersburg, the Identitarians of Russia actively advocated against the creation of a museum and institute of Islamic culture in the Bryullov House, and in this connection began collecting signatures in support of restoration of the building and creation of a state museum of "Old Petersburg," or any other institution "connected with its history and the European cultural roots of Petersburgers." The appeal emphasizes the requirement that the institution be one "without Islam."
February 29 saw this year's annual march in memory of Boris Nemtsov, which traditionally draws a few nationalist groups. The nationalist column comprised supporters of the Nation and Freedom Committee (KNS) and the Association of National Resistance (ANS), in total about 40-45 people. Separately, the competing ultra-right association Third Alternative (the Right Bloc) led about 35 people. Further, a small group of activists from Permanent Council of National-Patriotic Forces of Russia (PDS NPSR) also participated.
We are not aware of any hate crimes convictions in February, and we know of only one conviction on the basis of public statements. In Voronezh, a supporter of the banned organization Union of Slavic Forces of Rus (in Russian, “CCCP” – the same initials as the Soviet Union) was convicted under Part 2 of Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremism) and got a suspended sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment, with a ban on acting as a website administrator, as a result of his post to YouTube in 2017 of a clip featuring "calls for violence against members of the armed forces, law enforcement officials and public servants" and, additionally, recruiting new members to CCCP from his clients as a taxi driver.
Also in February, a verdict against Igor Pirozhok, leader of the neo-Nazi group Werwolf Legion well-known in 1990s, entered into force. According to investigators, Pirozhok, while in Ukraine in 2014, acted under the pseudonym Roman Chirka as a member of the Ukrainian ultra-right group Right Sector, which is banned in Russia; he is alleged to have created the "Horthy" squad of Right Sector. Returning to Moscow in January 2018, he lived in various safe houses and "distributed ideological propaganda materials of Right Sector with the goal of involving Russian citizens in the organization's activities." It is additionally known that Pirozhok fled Ukraine to Russia following an arms trafficking conviction. Right Sector later confirmed that Pirozhok had been among its ranks in 2014. On December 25, 2019, Pirozhok was convicted of recruiting for, and participating in, an extremist organization (Part 1.1 and Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code) as well as for public justification of terrorism (Part 2 of Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code). He was sentenced to four years in a penal colony, as well as restrictions on internet use for three years.
In all, since the beginning of 2020 we are aware of no fewer than 4 convictions on the basis of xenophobic statements, against 5 individuals in the Vologda, Voronezh and Omsk regions.
The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated twice, on February 6 and 20, to account for entries 5006-5009: antisemitic articles from the newspaper Vladimirskaya Rus, as well as some misogynistic songs.
The Federal List of Extremist Organizations was also updated in February to reflect entry no. 75, the religious group Alla-Ayat (whose name in Russian may vary slightly depending on the translation from the Kazakh language). Alla-Ayat was deemed extremist by the Samara Regional Court on May 28, 2019. The group's activities had already been banned in Kazakhstan and in several regions of Russia. Followers of the method propagated by the group, which was formed in the early 1990s by one Farkhat Abdullaev, preach an esoteric cure for all diseases incorporating a certain "life formula" as set out in their journal, the Star of Selennaya. Several seriously ill residents of the Samara Region who became followers of the group refused medical care and died. While it is SOVA's position that, as a matter of Russian law there are likely grounds for criminal prosecution of the group's organizers, as well as grounds to ban their activities, we consider the ban on Allya-Ayat religious groups as well as the ban of Star of Selennaya journal as extremist to be unlawful.
No fewer than five people were sanctioned under Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement of national hatred), corresponding to Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code. All five were fined on the basis of social media posts featuring xenophobic statements targeting Roma people, all "non-Russians" and other, unnamed ethnic groups.
Additionally, no fewer than two people were fined this month under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (the manufacture and distribution of banned materials). A resident of Chechnya was sanctioned on the basis of an Instagram post with a video clip featuring the caption "We are mujihadeen, the army of God"; in Kalmykia, another person was sanctioned on the basis of sharing a song included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials.
Two people were sanctioned under Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code (propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations). One of them had posted an image of a swastika to VKontakte, while the other – a prisoner in a colony in the Lipetsk Region – was fined on the basis of a swastika tattoo.
Our information in respect of criminal and administrative cases is reported without accounting for rulings that we find to be arbitrary. Please note that our data, especially as it relates to the Code of Administrative Offenses, is substantially incomplete.