Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in October 2023

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

In October 2023, we recorded nine hate-motivated attacks. Simultaneously, several ultra-right Telegram channels posted video clips of pepper-spray attacks on Central Asian migrants, people of «non-Slavic appearance» and drunk people.

In the last month, we also recorded several attacks on ethnic Russians. On October 15, a Telegram channel called «A Tramp’s Life» circulated a video clip showing attacks by a group of young people calling themselves an «Azerbaijanian mafia» on Slavic passersby. The group of teenagers was arrested on suspicion of hooliganism (Article 213 of the Criminal Code(СС)) and inciting national hatred (Article 282 СС).

Mikhail Turkanov, nicknamed Pitbull, a well-known FC Zenit fan (from the «Coalition» crew of hooligans) and the commander of the Espanyola Assault Company detachment taking part in hostilities in Ukraine, recorded a video «condemning the actions of an ethnic gang of teenagers who are suspected of attack on the residents of St. Petersburg,» and promised that the young people «will be dealt with by soldiers who return from the front.» After this, his phone numbers and addresses were published in Telegram, and threats were made on behalf of natives of Azerbaijan to «deal with» his family. As a result, a criminal case was opened in St. Petersburg under paragraph «a» of Part 2 of Article 282 CC (incitement of hatred with threat of violence).

Since the beginning of the year in total, we have become aware of incidents in which no fewer than 90 individuals have suffered in hate-motivated attacks; of one murder; and of three serious death threats.

This month we also became aware of three acts of xenophobic vandalism in Moscow, Astrakhan and Kaluga. In particular, a young man threw bacon at a monument with a plaque in memory of the deceased Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov on the street of the same name in Moscow, and placed a pig’s head next to it. Previously, he had sent a message via Telegram chats calling for people to bury a pig’s head at the proposed construction site of a mosque.

So far this year, we have recorded no fewer than 16 acts of xenophobically-motivated vandalism. A number of anti-Semitic acts were carried out across Russia in response to the Israel-Hamas war, first and foremost in the North Caucasus.

On October 21 and 23 in Moscow, there were rallies of solidarity with Palestine, during which some gathered, for example, shouted «Khaybar, Khaybar al Yahud» (a reference to Muhammad’s important military victory over the Jews in the settlement of Khaybar as reported in the Quran).

On October 28 and 29, a series of anti-Semitic protests took place in the North Caucasus. An anti-Israeli rally took place in Makhachkala, while protests were held in Cherkessk demanding the expulsion of Jews from the region. In Khasavyurt, after a «national gathering» at a hotel, Israelis were prohibited from staying there. A Jewish cultural center was set on fire in Nalchik. In Makhachkala, in search of arriving Israelis, a crowd of protesters seized and destroyed the airport, and police were able to regain control only a few hours later. There are casualties, some of them very serious. A criminal case has been opened regarding mass riots.

The traditional annual actions against «ethnic crime» and the federal migration policy took place on October 1, as they did a year prior, in the format of agitation marches in Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as the Arkhangelsk, Volgograd, Kirov, Leningrad, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Rostov, Tula, Sakhalin and the Yaroslavl regions, as well as the Krasnodar Krai. Nationalists put up posters with the inscription «Ethnic criminals kill — the authorities cover up» near the entrances of houses and at bus stops. These so-call «agit-raids» were organized by Nationalists’ Movement, In the Moscow region, the Pamyat Russian Liberation Front joined the propaganda campaign; there, in addition to the traditional ones, posters «No to fraternal war» with crossed Ukrainian and monarchist flags were posted.

Aside from that, on October 15, a group of 12 nationalists held a march in Volgograd, shouting, «Glory to Rus, Glory to Russia.»

We know of only one October conviction on the basis of xenophobic violence. A resident of Orenburg (born in 2005) was convicted to a year in a penal colony for shooting at Indian citizens in a local shopping mall in March 2023.

Aside from this, in the city of Kamensk-Uralsk in the Sverdlovsk Region, a court convicted two young people to prison under Part 2 of Article 213 CC after they beat up a girl on August 1 because she «looked like a Jew and had blue hair,» then tried to drown her in a fountain. During the attack, they shouted that they had recently returned from the «Special Military Operation.» It is unclear whether the hate motive was taken into consideration by the court.

Since the beginning of the year, we have recorded no fewer than 18 convictions for xenophobic violence, handed down against 36 individuals; and of six convictions against seven individuals, who were charged with xenophobic vandalism (here and elsewhere, we report data without accounting for court rulings that we consider to be patently improper).

In all, in October 2023 we became aware of 13 people convicted of participation in extremist societies and organizations — among them, the «Citizens of the USSR,» ISIS, and unnamed ultra-right groups. Since the beginning of this year, we have recorded 71 such convictions against 115 people.

We have information on 18 convictions issued this month on the basis of aggressive public statements against 19 people. Among them:

— Four people were convicted under Article 280 CC (public calls for extremist activities). Among these four was a «Citizen of the USSR» who called for attacks on Jews, one person who called for other xenophobic attacks, and two people who called for violence against law enforcement officers.

— Four people were convicted under Article 205.2 CC (propaganda of terrorism) for calls for violent action and threats against government officials published on social networks, as well as for approving the actions of Chechen militant Shamil Basayev.

— One person was convicted under the combination of these two articles for unknown publications on Telegram featuring calls for violent action.

— One person was convicted under Article 282 CC (incitement to hatred) for calls on VKontakte for violent actions against government officials.

— Two people were convicted under Article 354.1 (rehabilitation of Nazism) for publishing messages on social networks and in WhatsApp denying facts established by the Nuremberg Tribunal.

— One person was found guilty under Article 282.4 CC (repeated propaganda or public demonstration of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols of extremist organizations) for repeated display of their own swastika tattoos.

— Two Perm teenagers, defendants in a sensational criminal case, were sentenced under Article 148 CC (insulting the religious feelings of believers) to community service for burning the icon of Anastasia of Sirmium, shouting «Sieg Heil» and «Glory to Hitler» and throwing the fascist salute.

— The rest were punished under the totality of Articles 280, 205.2 and other articles on terrorism for unknown episodes of propaganda.

Since the beginning of this year, we have become aware of some 192 convictions of 209 people on the basis of public statements (not including, as noted, those we consider improper).

In October we also became aware that four people were fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO) (production and distribution of extremist materials) for social media re-posts of xenophobic materials listed in the Federal List of Extremist Materials, including songs by the groups Banda Moskvy and Vivat, Rossiya, who are popular in the ultra-right community, as well as an image stating «Keep Your Blood Pure.» In total, since the beginning of the year, we have learned about 91 people punished under this article.

We also became aware of 29 people sanctioned under Article 20.3 CAO (propaganda and public display of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations). Thirteen people, seven of them colony inmates, showed others their own swastika tattoos. In Anadyr, a saleswoman in a shopping center drew a swastika on her shoulder with a red marker and showed it to customers. A resident of Bryansk set a Nazi march as a ringtone on his mobile phone. A Swiss citizen and former defender of the football club FC Ruswil, Sylvan Stadelmann wrote the lightning-shaped abbreviation «SS» on the wall in his room at the Passage Hotel in St. Petersburg, and at the reception desk threw a fascist salute, shouting «Sieg Heil.» The rest published Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations such as the Azov Battalion, the Ukrainian Right Sector, and the Freedom of Russia Legion on social networks; in the vast majority of cases, on VKontakte. Six people were placed under administrative arrest, and the rest were fined. In total, since the beginning of the year, we have learned about 457 sentences issued for such offenses.

We have information about 21 people punished in October for xenophobic statements under Article 20.3.1 CAO (incitement to hatred). All of these people published on social networks (mainly on VKontakte, but also on Odnoklassniki and Telegram) materials directed against natives of Central Asia and the Caucasus, Russians, non-Russians, Jews, and law enforcement officers. Among them are three people from Moscow who were placed in administrative detention for 15 days for burning the Israeli flag and posting a video entitled «Flash mob for burning the Yahud flag in support of Palestine from the Azerbaijani people in Moscow» to Telegram. They held flags of Palestine and Azerbaijan during the act. Of the 21 punished under Article 20.3.1 CAO, one person was sentenced to community service, four were sentenced to administrative arrest, the rest were fined. In total, since the beginning of the year, we know of 251 such court decisions.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated twice this month, on October 11 and 31, to account for new entries 5376–5395. The list was supplemented by songs and lyrics by Nazi skinheads praising the «white race» and calls for xenophobic violence, including the book «Skins. Rus’ is awakening» (which was already featured in the list as entry 1482), a song by Kaluga anarcho-punk group Antisocial Distancing, and a song by the group Contra la Contra. In August 2016, following a court decision in Yekaterinburg, these same items were already added to the list under paragraphs 3739–3752 and later removed. In March 2023, they were again recognized as extremist by a court in Kaluga. In addition, the list was supplemented by two books by ideologists of Ukrainian nationalism during the Second World War, published with the assistance of the banned Azov Battalion.

On October 23, the Federal List of Extremist Organizations was supplemented by the addition of the Oirat-Kalmyk People’s Congress, which was deemed extremist by decision of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kalmykia on August 23 of this year. We consider the claims previously made against this organization and its members to be insufficient to deem the group extremist, and thereby, the decision to be improper.