Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in April 2023

The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for April 2023.

In April 2023, we recorded only one hate-motivated attack, in Orenburg. In all, since the beginning of this year, we are aware that five individuals have suffered in such incidents.

In terms of public activity of the Russian ultra-right, we can only note one march in Ufa, on April 8. It involved a group of young people who marched the streets, shouting nationalist slogans and throwing the fascist salute.

According to reports on antifascist Telegram channels, a Yekaterinburg group of neo-Nazis calling themselves Edelweiß published a video on Hitler’s birthday (April 20) of the arson of two abandoned wooden buildings in their city.

This year in total to date, we have recorded eight convictions of 19 individuals in relation to xenophobic violence, and two convictions, of three individuals, on the basis of xenophobic vandalism. (Here, and further in this review, we report data without reference to court rulings that we find to be patently improper.)

We are also aware that four individuals were convicted in April for participation in extremist societies and organizations. Among these was a member of the group «Maniacs. Cult of Killers» (MKU) (deemed a terrorist organization by Russian courts) from the Orenburg region who had planned to bomb a mosque in the city of Orenburg. In all, we have recorded 18 such rulings, in relation to 31 individuals, since the beginning of 2023.

Aggressive public statements formed the basis of 12 convictions, of as many people, in April 2023:

— Five individuals were convicted under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (CC) (public calls to terrorist activity) over the social-media publication of calls to attack representatives of the state. These included one person who had expressed approval of the bombing of the local FSB headquarters in Arkhangelsk by the anarcho-communist Mikhail Zhlobitsky some years ago. Also in the mix was a so-called «citizen of the USSR» from Oryol, who was sentenced to six years in a penal colony over social media posts featuring a video clip entitled «Scheme for liberation from the regime» and calls for Muscovites to take to the streets and «occupy the Kremlin.»

— Three individuals were convicted under Article 280 CC (public calls to extremist activity) for their social-media publication of posts with calls for xenophobic violence.

— One person was convicted on a charge combining both articles over calls to attack representatives of the state, Central Asian people and people from the Caucasus.

— The Orenburg member of MKU noted above was also convicted under Articles 280 and 282 CC (incitement to national hatred). He was convicted for posting to an MKU group on VKontakte «photo and video materials of an extremist orientation, including scenes of beatings and violence against representatives of other nationalities, races and religions.»

— Two individuals were convicted under Article 354.1 CC (rehabilitation of Nazism). One had faced charges over social media posts of writings by, and photographs of, Nazi war criminals and Nazi symbols. The other was a penal colony inmate who had expressed approval, to other inmates, of «the actions of Nazi Germany with respect to the mass extermination of people in gas chambers and concentration camps,» as well as denial of the Holocaust.

Since the beginning of the year, we have become aware of 61 court rulings, convicting 68 people on the basis of radical statements.

This month, two individuals were fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO) (production and distribution of extremist materials) for sharing of xenophobic materials included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials. This year in total, we have recorded 25 such cases.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 25 people were sanctioned under Article 20.3 CAO (propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations). The majority were punished for posts to Russian social media, and Instagram (which is banned in Russia) of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned Islamist organizations (among them, ISIL and al-Qaeda). Three of these individuals had demonstrated their own swastika tattoos. In addition, one prisoner of the colony demonstrated a pendant, and another prisoner, playing cards — in each case featuring swastikas. In total, since the beginning of the year, we have been made aware that no fewer than 89 people have been sanctioned under Article 20.3 for such offenses.

As to Article 20.3.1 CAO (incitement to hatred), no fewer than 12 individuals were sanctioned over social media posts of materials with aggressive statements aimed at Central Asian people and people from the Caucasus, Black people, Jews, citizens of Ukraine, residents of Canada, employees of the state security services, and Christian clergy. One person was sentenced to community service, another was placed under administrative arrest, and the rest were fined. Since the beginning of the year, we know of 44 such decisions.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated only once, on April 17, to account for the addition of item 5341. The «Manifesto of the National Resistance... In war, as in war. The Kremlin is destroying the people of Russia!» had been deemed extremist by the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court on January 31, 2023. This text was published by opponents of vaccination, with the authors arguing that ethnic Jews and «Talmudic Jews» are to blame for all of Russia’s problems.