Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in December 2022. Preliminary Results of the Year

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 December, as well as the preliminary statistics for the year 2022.

The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for December 2022, as well as our preliminary review in brief of our findings for this year.

In December 2022, we recorded only one xenophobic attack, in St. Petersburg. According to our data at the end of December, 22 individuals suffered in such attacks in 10 regions of Russia. Another one person received a serious death threat. These, and other data in this review regarding totals for the year 2022, are preliminary only. However, based on such data, we are able to note a decrease in the level of xenophobic violence in comparison with the prior year: our 2021 data reflect 63 individual victims of xenophobic violence.

This year in total, we recorded 21 incidents of xenophobically-motivated vandalism in 13 regions of the country. This is slightly fewer than in the previous year (where we recorded 28 incidents). We are not aware of any such incidents happening in December 2022.

This month, we did record two convictions that were handed down on the basis of violent attacks motivated by hatred. In St. Petersburg, a court sentenced two natives of Azerbaijan to five years each over their attack of an Armenian national in July 2020. In Belgorod, three members of the neo-Nazi gang White City 31 were sentenced to long prison terms in connection with a whole host of racist attacks on migrants.

Since the beginning of this year, we are aware of 11 guilty rulings (*) for violent crimes, where the court considered the hate motive. These convicted 21 individuals in 10 regions of Russia – noticeably fewer than in 2021 (when we recorded convictions of 34 individuals at year-end).

This year we recorded eight rulings against 11 individuals for crimes against physical objects, motivated by hatred. In this case, the number is significantly larger than in 2021 (seven people convicted). We do not have any information about any such rulings handed down in December 2022.

December 2022 also saw no fewer than 18 rulings in relation to public statements. Eighteen individuals were convicted in 13 regions of the country. (In 2021, we recorded 14 rulings against the same number of people.)

One person was found guilty under Article 282 (incitement to hatred) of the Criminal Code (CC) over xenophobic statements made on the Russian social media VKontakte. Six individuals were convicted under Article 280 CC (public calls to extremist activity) over calls on social media to attack members of law enforcement and Russian Army soldiers. Another five individuals were convicted under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (public calls to terrorist activity): three of them, for radical Islamist publications and calls to fight in Syria; one of them, for publishing a text in support of Mikhail Zhlobitsky, the anarchist who detonated a suicide bomb in the Arkhangelsk FSB headquarters in October 2018; and Left Resistance founder Darya Poliudova, in connection with two episodes, which we covered in greater detail in our December review on misuse of anti-extremism.

Six individuals were sanctioned under Article 354.1 CC (rehabilitation of Nazism) for denial or approval of crimes of Nazis. Five of them had posted on social media in approval of crimes established at the Nuremburg Tribunal, and pictures of the leader of the Third Reich. Another, a colony inmate, expressed approval of the Holocaust in a conversation with other inmates. Whether the number of listeners allowed the prisoner's statements to be considered public as a statutory matter, we cannot say. However, because Article 354.1 punishes precisely for public propaganda, this sentence, like others given in relation to actions inside the prison system, cause us to doubt.

In all, since the beginning of 2022, according to our data, Russian courts delivered no fewer than 195 convictions in relation to racist and other constitutionally barred speech, of 218 individuals in 59 regions of the country. That is, preliminarily, a notable increase from 2021 (when we recorded 184 rulings against 186 people).

In December 2022 we recorded seven rulings in relation to the leadership and participation in extremist communities and organizations, against 10 individuals. These include a Perm court's suspended sentence under Article 282.1 CC (creation of and participation in an extremist community), issued to members of the "National Revival Path of Ethnic Russian Patriotism" (NVSRP). According to the Investigative Committee, this group planned attacks on police, people of "non-Slavic appearance," and members of the LGBT community. Meanwhile, in Bashkiria, the head of the local Union of Slavic Powers of Rus chapter (an organization of "Citizens of the USSR" banned in 2019) was issued a conditional sentence under Article 282.2 CC (organization of activities of an extremist organization). The charge arose in relation to the group’s propaganda videos posted to social media.

For 2022 in total, participation in extremist communities and organizations was the basis of 43 rulings against 77 individuals, in 24 regions of Russia. This is almost a 350% increase from the previous year (when we recorded 12 convictions of 21 individuals).

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated three times, on December 12, 14 and 29, to account for new entries 5218–5334. These include: a book by a Tatar historian; songs by groups popular with the ultra-right community; a text from the Telegram channel of the group MKU; The Rose of the Seraphites. The Bogomil Gospel, a book by Bishop Veniamin Bereslavsky of the Orthodox Church of the Sovereign Mother of God; songs by the Stalinist bard Alexander Kharchikov; and a video clip from the "Citizens of the USSR" movement. A number of xenophobic anti-Ukrainian videos also made their way into the list. Over the course of 2022, the Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated 23 times, growing from 5254 to 5334 entries. That is, 81 items were added – fewer than in 2021, when 110 new items were added.

We know of three individuals who were fined in December under Article 20.29 (manufacture and dissemination of banned materials) of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO), in relation to publication of materials featured in the Federal List of Extremist Materials, including by posting xenophobic clips to social media.

We also have recorded information about 17 individuals who were sanctioned in December under Article 20.3 CAO (propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations). Four of these, colony inmates, displayed their own tattoos of Nazi symbols. The others posted Nazi symbols either to social media or in WhatsApp. One individual was placed under administrative arrest, while the others were fined.

Finally, we are aware that 10 individuals were sanctioned this month under Article 20.3.1 CAO (incitement to hatred) over xenophobic publications on social media and in Telegram. Nine of them were fined, while one was sentenced to community service.

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(*) Data about criminal and administrative cases are reported without reference to rulings that we consider to be patently improper, but including those in respect of which we have insufficient information or which we consider controversial.