Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in November 2021

In November 2021, SOVA Center recorded one xenophobic attack, on one person, in Moscow. Since the beginning of the year, according to our data, 61 individual people have suffered as a result of ideologically-motivated violence, including three who were killed. Another six received death threats.

This month in Volgograd, vandals left antisemitic scrawlings and Nazi symbols on a memorial to victims of the Holocaust, while in Yevtaporia, a monument to Sergei Kirov was vandalized with Nazi slogans and swastika. Since the beginning of this year, we are aware of 25 such incidents of ideologically-motivated vandalism.

The main event for Russia’s ultra-right movements every year is the Russian March, held on November 4. However this year, the Russian March did not take place. Nationalists in Moscow instead attempted, unsuccessfully, to hold mass actions near the Oktyabrskoe Pole Metro station, and in Lyublino. Several attended a mass at the church near the Dobryninskaya Metro station. Others led a small conference, while others performed a xenophobic sticker raid at the Lesoparkovaya Metro station. Actions of various types were also held in ten other cities, with the majority of cases being nationalist sticker campaigns. The largest was a people’s “festival” (“gulyaniya”) in Novosibirsk, which drew some 14 people.

Other nationalist actions in November were equally inconsequential. For example, we can note an event commemorating the 300-year anniversary of the proclamation of the Russian Empire, held on November 6 at the Church on the Blood in Yekaterinburg. Activists from the Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk branches of Conservative Russia came out for the day. About a dozen people holding Russian imperialist symbols participated.

A few radical right-wing Telegram channels attempted to spin stories about “interethnic conflicts” on the basis of incidents in Novye Vatutniki and Domodedovo. Both cases – an attack on a father and child in Novye Vatutniki, and a fistfight featuring teenagers in Domodedovo – were, as usual, used in order to spread xenophobic propaganda. This included the thesis that “ethnic crime” is growing in Russia, and its corollary idea, the necessity of limiting the entry of migrants to the country.

The new ultra-right-wing association, the All-Russian National Movement (OND), similarly attempted to spin conflict in the city of Pavlovo, in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, by making reference to a drunken brawl in the town, in which a man was killed. The OND called for requests to be sent to the Interior Ministry in connection with the incident, and demanded to check the migration status of one Elgun Farhad Ogly Abdullayev, the owner of a cafe located close to where the fight broke out.

However, we would note that the surge in nationalist activity in November 2021 was less remarkable than the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric in federal media.

SOVA Center is not aware of any investigations or rulings on of hate crimes during November 2021.(*) Since the beginning of the year, Russian courts have convicted 32 individuals in 11 rulings on the basis of ideologically-motivated violence. Another seven individuals were convicted in three rulings on the basis of ideologically-motivated vandalism.

No fewer than 19 people faced criminal charges in November 2021 for public statements. Almost all of them were on social media.

One person was convicted under Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement to hatred) for the repeated social media publication of video clips calling for violence against members of the security services.

Another 12 people were convicted under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls for extremist activity) over calls to attack Jews and other non-Slavic people generally, top managers of Russian companies, employees of the security services, government higher-ups, and “current and former presidents of Russia.”

Five individuals were convicted under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (public justification of terrorism), including for approval of the actions of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, who detonated a suicide bomb in the Arkhangelsk FSB office. Another three were sanctioned on the basis of radical Islamist propaganda. One had campaigned for the creation in Russia of a chapter of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, banned as a terrorist organization. Another “called for violent acts against Russian servicemen stationed in Syria,” and made heroes of Chechen militants. A third disseminated banned literature from the organization Katiba Tawhid wal-Jihad.

One other person was convicted under a combination of articles 282 and 205.2 of the Criminal Code on the basis of some materials justifying terrorist acts.

Since the beginning of the year, according to data collected and reviewed by SOVA Center, Russian courts have issued no fewer than 174 rulings, against 177 individuals, on the bases of xenophobic statements and calls to violence of any nature.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated twice during November (on November 8 and 23), in order to account for new entries 5217–5230. The list was supplemented by a song associated with the A.U.E criminal subculture, an antisemitic Soviet propaganda film, a video clip of radical Ukrainian nationalists, songs popular among neo-Nazis, songs about the Belgian commander of the SS and Cossack collaboration with the Nazis, and several songs about the volunteer units of the Wehrmacht. The list also includes several materials, the ban of which we consider inappropriate – for example the ironic song "Kill Beggars" by the Russian punk band Pornofilmy, and the memoirs of German journalist Martha Hillers about life in Berlin in 1945.

November also saw an addition to the Federal List of Extremist Organizations: the Council of Citizens of the USSR of the Prikubansky Okrug of the City of Krasnodar, which was deemed extremist by the Prikubansky District Court of Krasnodar on June 29, 2021. The court ruling states that the Council, which formed in June 2019, disseminated "ideas about the non-recognition of the Russian Federation as a state, about the illegitimacy of state authorities in Russia, and also called for the commission of hostile actions against Jews." The reason for the banning of the Council was the fact that its members regularly “disobey the lawful demands of law enforcement officials,” and face prosecutions. Thus, in March 2021, Council leader Marina Melikhova was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison under Part 2 of Article 280 of the Criminal Code, for a video calling for violence posted on a social network.

At a minimum, five social media users were fined in November under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (manufacture and distribution of extremist materials) for sharing materials included in the Federal List, including songs by Timur Mutsuraev, the bard of the Chechen armed resistance, as well as a song entitled “To Russia – Russian Power.”

Under Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations), no fewer than seven individuals were sanctioned this month. Two of them – prison colony inmates – had demonstrated their own Nazi symbol tattoos. The rest shared Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations on social media.

Finally, no fewer than eight individuals were fined under Article 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement to hatred), which is similar to the contents of Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code and applies for a first offense within a year. All were sanctioned on the basis of online speech (including on social networks as well as on WhatsApp). The offending statements included insults and calls to attack migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus, Jews and members of other non-Slavic groups, as well as government employees.


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