Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in April 2021
The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for April 2021.
According to our data, three individuals, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, were injured in ideologically motivated attacks in April 2021. Since the beginning of the year, no fewer than 17 individuals in Russia have been on the receiving end of such violence.
One incident drew significant media attention in Russia and abroad: the xenophobic verbal assault of two Buryat women by two other women in Moscow. A video clip of the incident was posted to Instagram on April 14.
Among those subjected to xenophobic attack in April 2021 was the director Vitaly Mansky. During the Artdocfest film festival at the Oktyabr cinema in Central Moscow on April 9, Mansky was attacked by several activists from the Russian Liberation Movement SERB (formerly known as the South East Radical Block (SERB)). SERB activists had previously come out in opposition to the screening of an entire list of films being put on by Artdocfest. On April 3, they showed up to the Oktyabr, in response to the planned screening of the Maria Shevchenko film Birthmark, about the "occupation of Crimea." On April 6, SERB announced that it had "disrupted" a screening of the film Summer War, of the "Russophobe Mansky," which "makes heroes of members of the terrorist organization Azov." On April 6, SERB leader Gosha Tarasevich called the theater, demanding cancelation of the film Quiet Voice, about a homosexual of Chechen descent. On April 7, SERB again showed up to the Oktyabr, demanding cancelation of the film Road Home.
And on April 17, SERB representatives, together with members of the National Liberation Movement (NOD) disrupted the queer festival Show Me Love.
Vandals targeted six cultural and religious and government objects this month. Among them was the Shamir synagogue, where unknown assailants painted swastikas and set fire to the building on April 20, Hitler's birthday. In 2021 so far, we are aware of eight instances of ideologically motivated vandalism.
On the eve of Hitler's birthday, one ultra-right Telegram channel called on followers to commit murders on April 20. All the same, fortunately, ultra-right activity on this day was primarily limited to the Internet.
A few nationalists were present at the action in support of Alexei Navalny on April 21. These were activists from the Nationalists' Movement, including Georgy Shishkov. Meanwhile, SERB activists came out to Tverskaya Street and the Manezh, and tried to start minor provocations.
We know of only one conviction (*) this month – of seven individuals – on the basis of ideologically motivated violence. This was in St. Petersburg, where Andrei Linok (formerly Kleshchin) and another six young people were convicted under Part 3 of Article 33, and Part 2 of Article 213 of the Criminal Code (organization of hooliganism by a group motivated by ideological or political hatred) for an attack on an anti-fascist concert at the club Tsokol on September 2, 2018.
Since the beginning of the year, Russian courts have delivered at least four rulings, against 12 individuals, for hate-motivated violence. We note in this connection that on April 29, arrests of a third group of ultra-right activists were carried out across Russia, this time totaling 16 individuals involved, according to the FSB, in the society "Maniacs – Cult of Killers" (MKU). It is difficult to say what the MKU actually is or was, as there was no publicly available information about the group prior to the first round of arrests. The FSB considers MKU to be a Ukrainian-based organization with chapters in various Russian cities. Members are alleged to have committed various ideologically motivated crimes, and planned serious attacks on state organs. There is no corroboration of any Ukrainian connection with the organization, but the existence in any case of the society, at least online, appears to be possible (there is an MKU group, for example, in VKontakte). The same can be said of the increasing radicalization of its members, comparable to the actions of the Northern Brotherhood in the early aughts.
Public statements were the basis of convictions of at least 14 individuals in April 2021. Eight of these were convicted under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremist activity) over the social media publication of comments and video clips calling for attacks on natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Jews and representatives of the government. Another four people were convicted under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (public justification of terrorism online) for calls to join ISIS, and for approval of the terror acts carried out at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. One supporter of the Novosibirsk chapter of Russian National Unity was convicted under both articles for the publication of several comments on social media. Another individual was charged jointly under Articles 280 and 354.1 of the Criminal Code (rehabilitation of Nazism), as well as six other Criminal Code articles, over the posting of several texts "the content of which is aimed at calling for the implementation of extremist activities, as well as justifying the ideology of fascism and denying the facts established by" the tribunal at Nuremburg.
Since the beginning of this year, Russian courts have convicted no fewer than 52 people, in as many decisions in 32 regions of the country, on the basis of xenophobic statements.
The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated three times this month (on April 1, 12 and 22) to account for new entries 5161-5176. The new additions include the latest ultra-right video clips, songs by the radical right-wing groups Yarovit and Kolovrat, articles by Boris Stomakhin, ex-editor of the Radical Politics bulletin, myriad Islamist materials ranging from songs featuring calls to jihad, to books of interpretations and quotes on the Koran by Ibn Kasir and as-Saasi, whose ban we view as improper.
The Federal List of Extremist Organizations was also supplemented in April, by the addition of the football hooligan group Irtysh Ultras (also known as Brutal Jokers and Fluss Geboren), which had been deemed extremist in a November 27, 2020 ruling of the Omsk Central District Court.
No fewer than 11 people were fined under Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement to hatred), the contents of which correspond to Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code, for sharing of xenophobic comments, pictures and video clips via social media (primarily on VKontakte).
Additionally, no fewer than 18 people were fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (production and dissemination of banned materials). Seventeen of them were fined for sharing content listed in the Federal List of Extremist Materials, including songs by Timur Mutsuraev, the bard of the Chechen armed resistance, songs by the groups Kolovrat and D.I.V., which are popular among neo-Nazis, as well as the neo-pagan poem cycle Christian Slavery. One individual distributed banned materials off-line.
Finally, no fewer than 19 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 of these, colony inmates in Tver and Crimea, demonstrated their own Nazi tattoos to other convicts. The others posted Nazi symbols on social media.
(*) Data about criminal and administrative proceedings are reported without reference to rulings that we consider to be patently improper.