Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in September 2021

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

In September 2021, according to data reviewed by SOVA Center, seven individuals in Moscow and the Belgorod and Kaluga Regions suffered as a result of ideologically motivated violence. This includes one person, a native of Tajikistan, who was killed in Stary Oskol.

Since the beginning of this year in total, we are aware that no fewer than 59 individual people have targeted in incidents of ideologically motivated violence; three of these were killed. Another six faced death threats.

SOVA Center has again received, by email, links to video clips showing acts of violence carried out on homeless people, with the signature "M.K.U." As with the clips received last month, we have not been able to identify when or where these attacks took place.

This month's highest-profile event was in the village of Buzhaninovo in the Sergiev-Posad district of the Moscow Region, where, after the murder of a pensioner, residents gathered at a hostel known to host migrants, demanding their eviction from the hostel and from the village generally. However there were no brawls, nor any notable ultra-right presence at these rallies. Migrants living in the hostel were resettled to a protected area by order of the local authorities.

The Male State group, led by Vladislav Pozdnyakov, continued to put pressure on the Tanuki restaurant chain, and also found a new target: the food delivery company Tandyr Barnaul, which advertised photos featuring dark-skinned men. Pozdnyakov and his associates first threatened the company via messaging. However on September 27, they began to place orders without prepayment, followed by refusal of the order if it was delivered by a “non-Negro.” Despite Tandyr's deletion of the photo with Black people, Male State remained dissatisfied as no apology was made "to the Russian nation for imposing an agenda alien to us." The bullying ended when the company posted an apology on Instagram.

Meanwhile, pro-government nationalists continued their attacks on representatives of the opposition. On September 2, the 80th birthday of renowned human rights advocate Lev Ponomarev, these nationalists left insulting graffiti on the door of Ponomarev's office and the entry to his home. They also pasted an insulting leaflet near his apartment, calling Ponomarev a "defender of terrorists." Activists of the National Liberation Movement (NOD) attempted to enter the café during his birthday celebration, but were denied by security.

A few cities saw actions in light of the first anniversary of the death of neo-Nazi Maxim ("Tesak") Martsinkevich. In Moscow, there was a great pilgrimage to Tesak's grave at the Kuntsevo Cemetery. In St. Petersburg, at the monument to the victims of political repression, on the other side of the river from the Kresty prison, activists of the MARS movement laid a wreath of oak leaves with ribbons in the colors of the imperial flag at a portrait of Martsinkevich. Two actions took place in Novosibirsk. One was carried out by activists of the Nationalist Movement, who erected a portrait of Martsinkevich, laid flowers and lit candles, and laid out in the slogan 14/88 at the monument to victims of political repression. Another group of 20 activists in the city center also put up Tesak's portraits and flowers. In Samara, Stary Oskol, Tver and Yaroslavl, the actions were reduced to the installation of portraits of Martsinkevich, flowers and candles, or the hanging of posters "No victims of the FSIN (the federal penitentiary service)" at the monuments to victims of political repression. In Chelyabinsk, members of the group Ultraviolence installed a portrait of Martsinkevich and flowers right outside the building of pretrial detention center where he died, and three other young people attempted to hang a banner on a bridge in his honor, but police officers intervened. On the same day, nationalists who tried to arrange a memorial action in Kemerovo were detained.

Among the other street actions this month, we found the September 11 and 12 pickets led by Conservative Russia in Yekaterinburg worthy of mention. These drew supporters of Anatoly Grudistov, who was convicted of the murder of Azerbaijani national Fazil Balaev. Following a revision (and harshening) of the verdict, the picketers insisted that the courts gave in to pressure from the Azerbaijani diaspora. Eight people took part in the pickets.

A few nationalists ran in the State Duma elections, but none was successful. The majority of them were unable to even gather enough signatures to make it onto the ballot. One Roman Yuneman, the leader of the Society – Future movement, collected signatures, but they did not pass verification. The same happened to the party list of the Russian All-People's Union (ROS), on which activists and others from nationalist organizations ran. The Motherland party was in the running, but only received 0.8% of votes. However, the leader of the party, Alexei Zhuravlev, again made it into the Duma – clearly with the consent of the authorities – in a single-seat constituency. The party's candidates also ended up in regional legislative assemblies in two regions. Meanwhile LDPR, the right-wing systemic opposition party, received 7.55% of the votes – its worst result in the 21st century, and will have 21 seats.

Mikhail Butmirov (at that time, the head of the ROS Moscow chapter) participated in primary elections to the Moscow City Duma for the Veshnyaki, Novogireevo and Ivanovskoe districts, but took seventh place. Meanwhile Valentina Bobrova (of the Conservator movement) who ran with the Green Party in Podolsk lost as well.

We are aware of only one hate crime ruling this month.(*) In the Kirov Region, three young people, depending on their actions, were issued suspended sentences of 2.5 to 3.5 years in prison under Parts 1 and 2 of Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code (creation and participation in an extremist association), Article 116 of the Criminal Code (battery), Part 2 of Article 213 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism committed with the use of a weapon, motivated by national hatred and enmity, by an organized group), item "f" of Part 2 of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (intentional infliction of medium-gravity harm to health, motivated by hatred) and Part 2 of Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremism). It is not clear why these young people received suspended sentences, as according to the report of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee in the Kirov Region, they beat at least five “people of non-Slavic appearance” and “people who use drugs and alcohol.”

Additionally, it was reported that participants of neo-Nazi groups in Krasnoyarsk, Ufa and Vladivostok had been detained.

In Krasnoyarsk, according to the local branch of the Investigative Committee, members of an ultra-right group beat two young local residents "expressing insults on the basis of their social belonging" and attacked another young man with a flare gun insulting him on the basis of nationality.

In Ufa, five young people, presumably Neo-Nazis, were detained in connection with an attempt to "prepare a terrorist act at the facilities of law enforcement agencies" of Bashkortostan. 

In Vladivostok, the leader of the neo-Nazi association Right of Primorye was detained on the same grounds.

In all since the beginning of the year, Russian courts have issued seven rulings against 26 individuals for ideologically motivated violence, and two rulings against six individuals for ideologically motivated vandalism.

No fewer than 13 people faced criminal charges on the basis of public statements in September. The great majority of these were statements made on social media.

One individual (a member of the Kirov Region ultra-right group mentioned above) was convicted under a charge combining Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremist activity) and violence-related articles. Three people were convicted under Article 280 for calls to attack natives of Central Asia and law enforcement. Five were convicted under Article 282 (incitement of hatred) over publications of xenophobic comments; all of these had earlier been sanctioned under the analogous administrative provision (Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses which applies to the first violation of the kind within a year). One person was convicted under a combination of Article 280 and Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (public justification of terrorism) over calls to attack ethnic Russians and Ossetians. Two others were convicted under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code over stated approvals of the actions of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, the suicide bomber of the Arkhangelsk FSB building.

Meanwhile Sergei Shurygin, regional coordinator of the Left Front, was convicted under Part 1 of Article 282.1 (organization of an extremist association) and Part 2 of Article 280 of the Criminal Code for creating and leading the Union of the World Liberation Movement, People's Brotherhood "AllatRa” (also known as Union of the Peoples of the Sun and Peoples of the Crescent. We note that the movement was created on the basis of the recently-formed Ukrainian Allatra association, a central element of the ideology of which is the fight against “global Zionism.” Also, the movement is characterized by Stalinism and the messianic idea, according to which the Russian nation must save humanity and unite the peoples of the world around itself.

Since the beginning of this year, Russian courts have handed down no fewer than 123 rulings, against 126 individuals, on the basis of xenophobic statements.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated three times, on September 8, 22 and 28, to account for new entries 5194-5208. The new additions include: Islamist audio clips featuring calls to jihad; recordings of Muslim preacher Ruslan Abu Ibrahim; songs by the ultra-right groups ASTAT 88 and Argentina; articles by the known anti-Semite writer Anton Blagin; instructions published by the ultra-right group Militant Terrorist Organization (BTO), better known as the Borovikov-Voevodin Gang; recruitment videos to the Minin and Pozharsky People's Militia (NOMP), which was deemed a terrorist organization in 2015; and video clips about the A.U.E. subculture. 

In September, we learned about five people fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (manufacture and dissemination of extremist materials) for the social media publication of materials included in the Federal List, among them songs by the group Kolovrat, who are especially popular with the ultra-right.

Finally, we recorded 14 administrative rulings under Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations). One individual faced six counts. Those sanctioned include three prison colony inmates, who demonstrated their own tattoos of Nazi symbols. Meanwhile one individual drew the flag of the Third Reich on the façade of a building, and the others posted Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations to social media.

According to our data, no fewer than 16 people were fined under Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement to hatred), which aligns with the contents of Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code, over social media publications (on VKontakte and Instagram) featuring xenophobic insults directed at people from Central Asia and the Caucasus, Jews, Black people and other ethnicities, as well as members of law enforcement and government staff.


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