Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in April 2020
SOVA Center is not aware of any hate-motivated attack that occurred in Russia during April 2020. Since the beginning of the year, according to our data, no fewer than 12 people in Russia have suffered as a result of ideologically motivated violence, with another 3 receiving serious death threats.
However in April we learned of six instances of attacks on religious objects, including the arson of two Baptists churches and a synagogue. In total, since the beginning of 2020, we have recorded 11 cases of ideologically motivated vandalism.
In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic and the related quarantine measures introduced in Russia, Russian ultranationalist public activity has almost completely migrated to the Internet. For example, Russian nationalists have been spreading rumors of robberies carried out by "hungry migrants" from Central Asia (including via the Tsargrad television channel). As a corollary, groups including Conservative Yekaterinburg and the Nation and Freedom Committee have been calling for Russians to arm themselves.
The closure of churches on Easter caused outrage among many nationalist organizations. For example, the National-Conservative Movement considered the measure to be a move by unnamed agents against Russian Orthodox Christianity and in the interests of "the forces of worldwide globalism." Meanwhile the Forty Forties, an Orthodox movement, offered assistance to those "among whom a desire to attend Easter service in Petersburg churches has arisen."
Nationalists' sole street action took place on April 11, when Mikhail Pulin, an activist linked to the National Resistance Association (ANS) slit his wrists in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice in protest against the suppression of a prison riot at a colony in the Irkutsk Region.
We are not aware of a single verdict this month delivered in connection with any hate crime. This year in total, SOVA Center's data reflect only one verdict issued on the basis of racist violence (and which considered the hate motive), in St. Petersburg, but not of any rulings treating ideologically motivated vandalism.
Xenophobic and other statements formed the basis of sanctions issued against four individuals in as many regions of the country in April 2020. One person was fined under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (justification of terrorism); the underlying act was sending pictures of the attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand to a WhatsApp group paired with an audio message describing the attack as "logical" and "acceptable." Another person was sanctioned under Part 1 of Article 354.1 of the Criminal Code (rehabilitation of Nazism) for the publication on his VKontakte page that included "content aimed at rehabilitating Nazism" and denying the Holocaust. Meanwhile, the other two individuals were convicted under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremist activity) on the basis of unnamed xenophobic publications on VKontakte.
So far in 2020, xenophobic statements have been behind no fewer than 14 convictions of 17 individuals in 12 regions of Russia.
Only one April 2020 verdict was delivered under Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code (participation in an extremist community). The Second Western District Military Court of Kaliningrad convicted members of the Baltic Vanguard of Russian Resistance – a group of monarcho-nationalists, combining Konigsberg regionalism with various racist and antisemitic ideas – to various prison terms.
Eight individuals have been convicted so far this year, under two rulings, for participation and/or membership in extremist communities.
The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated twice in April 2020, on April 1 and 15, to account for entries 5018-5025. The new items include racist audio recordings; an antisemitic book by Alexander Sevastyanov (the former head of the National Sovereign Party of Russia (NDPR)); a book by Petr Khomyakov, one of the ideologues of Russian nationalism; a propaganda film featuring a speech by Josef Goebbels; and a few video clips featuring calls to jihad.
The Federal List of Extremist Organizations was not updated this month. However, we find it noteworthy that on April 6, 2020, the leadership of the United States declared the Russian Imperial Movement (RID), a monarcho-Orthodox group, to be a terrorist organization. This is the first time the US government has declared an ultra-right-wing organization to be a terrorist group. The Trump administration also included Stanislav Vorobyov, the leader of the organization, as well as Denis Gariev, the leader of Imperial Region, a "military patriotic club," and Nikolai Truschalov, the former head of the organization on its list. The Russian Imperial Movement came to the attention of the US government due to its members’ participation in the war in the Donbas region of Ukraine, as well as their contacts with the organizers of a series of bombings in the Swedish city of Gothenburg in 2016 and 2017.
No fewer than five people were sanctioned this month under Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement to hatred), which corresponds with the prior Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code. Four of these individuals were fined for the social-media publication of various xenophobic video clips, statements and comments. The fifth person was punished for comments on VKontakte calling for the "physical annihilation of violators of the quarantine." The prosecutor in this case alleged that the statement constituted incitement to hatred against "the group of individuals not complying with the quarantine."
A minimum of six individuals were fined this month under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (manufacture and distribution of extremist materials) in relation to social media publications.
Seven individuals were sanctioned under Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations). Four of these faced charges on the basis of social media publications featuring swastikas; another ran a store that sold wall décor featuring Nazi symbols; two demonstrated their tattoos featuring banned symbols to the public (one showed his tattoos to passersby in a public square, and the other was already in a prison colony and bragged about them to his inmates).
Our data in respect of administrative cases are reported without accounting for cases that we hold to be patently improper. More generally, our data, especially with respect to the Code of Administrative Offenses, are substantially incomplete.