Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in January 2021

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

The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for January 2021.

As of the date of this update, we are not (yet) aware of any hate crimes committed in Russia during January 2021.

Nationalists' public activities in January were conducted in connection with more general events of the Russian opposition led by Alexei Navalny. Nationalists were active on "both sides of the barricade."

The “For Truth” party of Zakhar Prilepin (having just merged with A Just Russia) gained note in street politics following a January incident. On January 11, around 20 supporters of For Truth, as well as the Prilepin's party “guard” established on October 30, 2020, assembled at the Moscow office of Memorial Human Rights Center. Over the course of an hour, young people in masks and violet hats and scarves tried to force entry to the office, which was closed in accordance with the quarantine, while filming the incident and shouting "Look, Memorial is afraid to speak to people." They also scattered leaflets reading, "Let's rid Stalin of foreign agents." The reason for the visit was the opening in Moscow of a café called Stal'in Doner; Memorial had stated public opposition to having a café named after Stalin. In this connection, For Truth had responded that it found Memorial's statement to be "unacceptable," inasmuch as it "instills false ideas about history, trying to rewrite it. For Truth then called on supporters to gather at Memorial's office in order to "pose to them uncomfortable questions about history," and "at the same time clarify what foreign agents are doing in our country, and find out whether it's not time for them to leave our country and do their thing somewhere else."

For January of this year, we are not aware of any convictions (*) for violent crimes, which considered the hate motive.

We would only note, however, a Yekaterinburg ruling convicting one Pavel Zuev for the attack of two individuals in a restaurant. Zuev kicked one of the patrons in the face, and stole an Apple Watch from the other. The first victim was later diagnosed with a concussion and a broken nose. Notwithstanding the fact that the attack was accompanied by homophobic slurs and death threats, the court did not recognize the hate motive. As a result, Zuev was sentenced to five years in a colony under Part 1 of Article 162 of the Criminal Code (robbery). Evidently, Zuev apologized to the victims and stated that, while he sat in the detention facility, he came to his senses. However, when the verdict was read, new threats rained down on both the judge and the victims.

We recorded eight convictions, against as many people, this month on the basis of xenophobic statements. Five rulings were issued under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremist activity). These were in connection with calls to xenophobic, religious (against Muslims and Christians) and ideological (against antifascists) violence. One ruling – under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (public calls to terrorist activity) was issued for public justification of the terrorist acts committed on March 15, 2019 against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Another ruling was issued on the basis of both articles (calls to extremist activity as well as terrorist activity). The last was delivered on the basis of Part 1 of Article 354.1 of the Criminal Code (rehabilitation of Nazism) for posting of articles and comments in public groups approving of the actions of Adolf Hitler during World War II, as well as approval of the Holocaust.

This month also saw one ruling under Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code (organization of and participation in the activities of an extremist association). The Ryazan court sentenced one Artem Smorchkov to a 6-year suspended sentence with 3.5 years of probation. Meanwhile Yuri Lunin was sentenced under Article 282.1 and Part 2 of Article 280 of the Criminal Code to a year and three months in a maximum-security prison colony. In March 2018, the two young men had created an ultra-right organization dedicated to "attacks on antifascists." Later, two other members joined their organization. Evidently, from April to October of 2018, they did attack a few antifascists. They recorded their actions on video, which they then edited into clips propagating ideological violence; these clips were then posted online. It was reported that no fewer than three other individuals were tried, but the cases against them were dropped "due to active repentance" and "reconciliation of the parties," following payment of material compensation to the victims.

Other than those, we are aware of a ruling under Parts 1.1 and 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of, and recruitment to, an extremist organization). In Adygea, the court convicted a prison colony inmate, who is already serving a sentence for robbery, to 9.5 years for propagating the ideology of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi group Right Sector, which is banned in Russia, among natives of Crimea; he also called for others to leave for Ukraine to join the organization.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated twice, on January 13 and 20, to account for new entries 5144-5151. These include songs by groups popular among the ultra-right; a xenophobic book by one Kirill Riddick (a pseudonym of the Nazi skinhead Kirill Blinov, who was convicted in 2011 of hate-motivated murders); an inflammatory song entitled “Nothing good. Molotov Cocktail”; a video clip entitled “Ensemble of Christ the Savior. Kill…” and an ironic song by the Petersburg hardcore group Marrauders entitled “Orthodox Jihad.”

We know of three individuals who were fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (manufacture and dissemination of banned materials) due to social media posts featuring photographs, poetry, songs, and audio-video materials included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials.

No fewer than 10 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). Two inmates at colonies in the Vologda and Kemerovo regions demonstrated their own swastika tattoos to other inmates. The others shared Nazi and ISIS symbols via social media.

No fewer than four court decisions were issued under Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement to national hatred), in accordance with the contents of Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code, for the publication of xenophobic comments on social media and YouTube. Among the punished was an associate of the excommunicated Orthodox scheigumen Sergius (Romanov) Vsevolod Moguchev, who formerly led the Yekaterinburg branch of “Rus,” as well as the local branch of the banned Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) and the regional squad of the youth organization “Nashi,” and was a member Liberal Democratic Party. Moguchev was arrested twice this month. On January 12, he received 15 days of administrative arrest for sharing on social media in June 2020 of a video entitled “Who prepares slavery in Russia,” featuring a lecture by Fr. Sergius that contained xenophobic statements. On January 25, he received another 15 days of administrative arrest over the posting of a video on YouTube.

The annual nationwide action in memory of the human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were killed by neo-Nazis as they left a press conference in central Moscow in 2009, was held on January 19. Attendees laid flowers at the site of the murders. Organizers were unable to get permission from city authorities for the event, in light of Covid restrictions in place. On the eve of the event, the prosecutor's office of the Central Moscow District issued a warning that mass events were disallowed. As a result, participants at the site of the murders, on Ostozhenka Street, set up portraits of Markelov and Baburova, as well as other killed antifascists, and a poster with the names of victims of neo-Nazi killings. Police officers on duty at the scene did not interfere with the laying of flowers.

In St. Petersburg, activists associated with the international initiative Food Not Bombs, together with Left Bloc members, held a Day of Commemoration in honor of Anastasia Baburova, Stanislav Markelov, and other antifascists who had been killed by neo-Nazis. The event also featured a fundraiser in support of Azat Miftakhov, who was sentenced to six years in a colony for an attack on the office of the United Russia party.

Memorial actions were also held in the form of one-man pickets in Irkutsk and Penza.


(*) Our data on criminal and administrative cases do not take into account the court decisions that we consider to be clearly improper.