Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in June 2020
A student from Azerbaijan was killed in June 2020 in an act of racist violence in Volgograd. Since the beginning of the year, according to our data, 13 individuals in Russia have fallen victim to ideologically motivated violence, with one of them being killed. Another three received death threats.
Also in June, the building of an Islamic cultural center was vandalized in Elektrogorsk. Meanwhile, Lenin statues in Vologda and Vladivostok were also vandalized. In all, for the year to date, we are aware of no fewer than 15 instances of ideologically motivated vandalism in Russia.
Racial discrimination in Russia intensified in June. On June 8, in Bryansk, a Yandex Taxi driver refused to take as a client a dark-skinned student. When the student asked, "Are you a racist?" the driver answered, "Of course I am." After the online group Overheard in Bryansk on VKontakte posted a video recording of the encounter that subsequently went viral, Yandex Taxi terminated the driver and made a public statement regarding the incident. On Twitter, the Russian blogger residing in Germany Kirill Kaminets, author of "Sputnik and Pogrom" ultra right web site and creator of the project "Vendée," created the hashtag #YandexCuckold, asserting that Yandex Taxi had "infringed on the rights of Russian drivers and denied them the right to choose customers." Some other users also posted the hashtag.
Meanwhile Maria Magdalena Tunkara, a Black St. Petersburger with a large online following, was baited online. She described receiving threats, of which she posted screen shots on social media, with Russian commenters calling her an "ape," and writing that "there is no place for Negroes in Russia," as well as express threats of violence. Beyond social media, Ms. Tunkara was also targeted among right-wing online communities, Dvach anonymous forum as well as the Telegram channel run by Vladislav Pozdnyakov, founder of Male State. Further the National-Conservative Movement (NKD) publicly and personally insulted Ms. Tunkara in posts ahead of the "No Borders Fest." NKD asserted that Ms. Tunkara "insulted nationalists" and was set to appear on June 20 at the festival, which NKD stated was organized by "leftists and nationalists." Other participants in the festival also drew threats and condemnation from the NKD: Zarema Zaudinova, "director of the theatre DOC, which runs plays on leftist and LGBT themes," as well as Bella Rappoport, who NKD referred to as a "kike-fem activist." "The event is being carried out with the support of murky organizations to help migrants," NKD added.
Several nationalist organizations came out against the proposed amendments to the Constitution. In particular, about 15 activists affiliated with the Nation and Freedom Committee (KNS) led a June 26 action entitled "Seeing off the Constitution." On June 28, the Third Alternative/Right Bloc held its own action near a statue of Yuri Gagarin against the "astronomical" amendments proposed by former cosmonaut and current Duma deputy Valentina Tereshkova, which would "annul" the past presidential terms of "tsar" Vladimir Putin so that his remainder in power would not violate Constitutional term limits. On June 22, on Sakharov Prospect in Moscow, leaders of the Permanent Council of National-Patriotic Forces of Russia (PDS NPSR) led an unsanctioned action against the new draft of the Constitution, and simultaneously against the "chipification" and vaccination (against COVID-19) of the Russian population, as well as the "fascistization" of Russia.
We are not aware of any June rulings delivered in connection with hate crimes. So far this year, SOVA Center has recorded two guilty verdicts in cases of racist violence that accounted for the hate motive; five individuals were sentenced in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We are not aware of any convictions on the basis of ideologically motivated vandalism this year.
Nine individuals, in as many regions of Russia, were charged on the basis of public statements in June 2020. Six of these were charged under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremist activity) over the social media publication of video clips, images and texts calling for violence against natives of Central Asia and the Caucasus as well as non-Slavic people in general. The sanctions issued varied from one to three years' suspended sentences. Additionally, one individual was sentenced to three years in a prison colony under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (justification of terrorism) because he re-posted three video clips about the First Chechen War to his VKontakte page (we doubt that this was a proper ruling). Another individual was convicted jointly under Articles 205.2 and 280 on the basis of an audio message "in a group on a popular messenger" featuring calls for xenophobic violence and a few messages calling for terrorism.
Aside from that, one individual, in Moscow, was sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence under paragraph "a" Part 2 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement to hatred with violence and threats of the use thereof) for calls to violence against members of law enforcement and their relatives.
In all since the beginning of the year Russian courts have delivered no fewer than 37 rulings on the basis of xenophobic statements, in which 40 individuals were convicted in 24 regions of the country.
One notable event this month was the sentencing of Moscow supporters of the banned movement "Artpodgotovka." On June 18, the Second Western District Military Court convicted Andrei Tolkachev, Yuri Kornyi and Yuri Keptya under Part 2 of Article 205.4 (participation in a terrorist organization) and paragraph "a" of Part 2 of Article 205, also using Part 1 of Article 30 of the Criminal Code (preparation for commission of a terrorist act by a group of individuals), accordingly to 13, 10 and 6 years in prison. The essence of the charge was that on the night of October 12, 2019, the defendants had planned to burn hay bales left after a city fair, and that they brought gasoline with them for this purpose. The defendants allegedly planned to film the burning hay and post the video clip online. It is our position that the sanctioning of an attempt to burn hay in an empty city square at 5 a.m. as a terrorist attack is unacceptably harsh.
The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated twice, on June 10 and 23, to account for entries 5030-5041. These included xenophobic songs and poems from the social media site VKontakte, a neo-Nazi print journal from Volgograd, and the antisemitic book War according to the Laws of Meanness, which glorifies Stalin and calls for support of Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko.
No fewer than 13 individuals were fined under Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement to hatred) for posting xenophobic video clips, statements and comments, directed at natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as ethnic Russians "holding atheist views."
Additionally, no fewer than 15 individuals were fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (manufacture and dissemination of banned materials) for sharing songs by groups popular among Russian neo-Nazis (among them "Beat Blacks" by the group Korroziya Metalla, as well as "Stormtrooper" and "Kolovrat Over the World" by the group Kolovrat), as well as songs by the Chechen separatist bard Timur Mutsuraev.
Eight 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). One person was fined for posting a Nazi symbol to his page on VKontakte; one was arrested for painting pink and white swastikas on a ground-floor window. Six prisoners were fined for demonstrating their own tattoos incorporating Nazi symbols. The most notable of these was Nikolai Korolev, who is currently serving a life sentence for organizing a series of terrorist attacks, including at the Cherkizovsky Market, and the racist murder of Chinese national Li Ji Wei.
(*) Information about criminal and administrative cases are reported without accounting for court decisions we consider to be patently improper. Our data, especially with respect to the Code of Administrative Offenses, are substantially incomplete.