Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in May 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 May 2021.

In May 2021, according to data collected by SOVA Center, seven individuals were targeted in incidents of ideologically motivated violence, in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Omsk and Novomoskovsk of the Tula region. One person received a credible death threat. Since the beginning of the year, we are aware that no fewer than 23 individuals across Russia have suffered as a result of ideologically motivated violence.

Vandals caused damage to an Orthodox church, a Protestant church, an LGBT café, and a panel dedicated to Victory Day, on which they painted a swastika on May 9. In the year 2021 to date, we are aware of 12 cases of ideologically motivated vandalism.

A few nationalist organizations partook in political hooliganism this month in an attempt to attract attention to themselves.

On May 8, Zakhar Prilepin’s Guard brought a lampshade signed "this could be Shenderovich" to the editorial offices of the Echo of Moscow radio station, along with a letter. "Under Nazis, in all likelihood, the unrespectable Viktor would have to serve the Third Reich! In some capacity, anyway – a lampshade, for example," a representative of the Guard explained to a camera. Viktor Shenderovich's broadcast of "Special Opinion" on May 6, during which the host had mentioned the responsibility of the Soviet Union, in addition to Hitler, in the genesis of World War II, had agitated members of the Guard. This position had already generated negative reactions on a massive scale, with Yekaterinburg journalist Sergei Kalyasnikov appealing to Russia's Investigative Committee to open a case against the satirist under Article 354.1 of the Criminal Code (rehabilitation of Nazism).

On May 4, SERB (the South East Radical Block) showed up in its "daily watch" to the improvised memorial to Boris Nemtsov on Moskvoretsky Bridge. Seeing a Ukrainian flag a sign reading "Nemtsov Bridge," members of SERB began to bicker with the volunteer guards of the memorial, forcing them to remove the flag and sign. On May 1, on Rostov-on-Don, an assumed SERB activist dropped the photos of Nemtsov off the memorial to victims of political repression and sprayed them with black paint.

On May 8, the birthday of Maxim Martsynkevich, the "Conservator" movement of Valentina Bobrova and Mikhail Ochkin attempted to disrupt an LGBT event underway at the Kulishky Workshop in Moscow. Bobrova and Ochkin showed up at the workshop and called the police to report an event "propagandizing homosexualism" to minors at the site. However, the police recorded the organizers' explanations, and left.

Nationalists' traditional May activities have become less and less notable. For example the annual "Russian Mayday" was once again held in the form of an online-conference of the Nationalists' Movement. In Saratov, activists from the Black Front were unable to agree an event with the local authorities, and in the end a few people stood in front of the city's administration building holding signs reading "Down with the Chekist system." In Pskov, a "Russian Mayday" was planned in the form of an auto caravan riding and a meeting, but Rospotrebnadzor rejected the plan because of Covid-19. As a result, the Pskov "Russian Mayday" was held as a house party at the home of Grigory Pavlov ("Gosha the Aryan"), during which Center E turned off the electricity. Attendees stood on the apartment's balcony and held signs.

May 2 in Moscow saw a Remember Odessa action, commemorating the seventh anniversary of the tragedy at the House of Labor Unions in Odessa. Participants gathered on the Manezh Square and laid flowers at the World War II memorial sign at the Alexanderovsky Garden. Judging by photographs of the events, about 35 people gathered, including members of the "Party of Action," Identitarians of Russia, Left Front, Another Russia, and other organizations. Participants demanded that the Kremlin recognize the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples' Republics. After the laying of flowers, a roundtable was held in which activists called for the state to grant anyone fleeing Ukraine to Russia Russian citizenship.

On the same day, the "Tsargrad" society held a picket in front of the Embassy of Ukraine in Moscow. A few people in double-eagle t-shirts held signs reading "You answer for our dead" outside the building. Police on location took a look at the signs and left the picketers alone.

In St. Petersburg, ten ultra-right activists were convicted (*) on the basis of an attack motivated by racist and national hatred. They had attacked natives of Central Asia with knives and pepper spray. Three of the young men were sent to a prison colony, while the other seven were given suspended prison terms.

Since the beginning of this year, in total we have recorded five rulings in Russian courts, against 22 individuals, on the basis of ideologically motivated violence.

Two individuals were convicted in Samara this month, after being charged with participation in the activities of an extremist organization over their membership in the religious organization Al-Takfir wal-Hijra, which the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation deemed extremist in a September 2010 decision. According to the FSB, the individuals convicted "planned to execute a series of serious crimes, then flee to Syria to join the ranks of one of the international terrorist organizations."

No fewer than eight people were convicted in criminal proceedings this month on the basis of public statements. Four were charged under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremist activity) for social media posts featuring calls for attacks on representatives of the government and against government buildings. Two individuals were charged under Art. 205.2 of the Criminal Code (public justification of terrorism) over comments on a social media post about the explosion at the Arkhangelsk FSB building, and in connection with the Al-Takfir wal-Hijra case noted above. Another two were charged under both articles: one was Darya Polyudova, whose conviction we consider to be partially improper, and the one being a Saratov resident charged in connection with unknown Internet comments.

Since the beginning of this year, we have recorded no fewer than 61 convictions, against 62 individuals in 58 regions of Russia, on the basis of xenophobic statements.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated once this month, on May 20, to account for new entries 5177-5182. New entries include Russian nationalist songs, audio recordings of radical Islamist militants, and a peaceful Salafist sermon of Ruslan abu Ibrahim Tatarstani.

The Federal List of Extremist Organizations was not updated this month, but will be, inevitably. On May 21, 2021, the Supreme Court deemed extremist the organization NS/WP (National Socialism/White Power, NS/WP Crew Sparrows, Crew/White Power). According to the General Prosecutor's office, NS/WP is an international movement; the movement exists in Russia since 2010 as a branch organization the leaders of which have organized, at a minimum, 18 neo-Nazi groups. Many ultra-right groups use the abbreviation NS/WP, the most well-known being NS/WP Nevograd, which was the subject of a June 2014 case in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile the Sparrows Crew was a group from Yekaterinburg, which published online and, possibly, filmed videos of xenophobic attacks.

No fewer than four people were fined under Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement to hatred) the contents of which are identical to Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code, for the social media posting of xenophobic insults against natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as a comment degrading "the human dignity of Orthodox Christians."

Meanwhile no fewer than seven people were fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (manufacture and dissemination of banned materials) for sharing of content listed in the Federal List of Extremist Materials via social media.

Under Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (propaganda and public display of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations), Russian courts issued at least 12 decisions (with one individual facing seven counts). Three of those punished (one of whom is an inmate of a prison colony) were fined on the basis of their own tattoos featuring Nazi symbols. The others posted Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations on VKontakte.


(*) Data about criminal and administrative proceedings are reported without reference to rulings that we consider to be patently improper.