Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia: December 2023. Preliminary Results of the Year

In December 2023, we recorded six hate-motivated attacks. As usual in the last several months, we learn of the majority of these attacks by way of video clips posted to ultra-right Telegram channels depicting attacks on migrants and unhoused people.

Since the beginning of 2023, we became aware of 119 individuals who suffered as a result of hate-motivated attacks; of three murders; and of one serious death threat.

In the month of December, we recorded only one act of xenophobic vandalism: in the Volgograd Region, vandals destroyed a placard commemorating the forced transfer of the Kalmyks in 1943. In 2023 in total, we recorded 20 such incidents.

On December 10, nationalists held an action marking the 13-year anniversary of the December 2010 riots on the Manezhnaya Square in Moscow. The action was not only in memory of the slain football hooligan Yegor Sviridov, who was shot in a brawl with Dagestanis on December 5, 2010. Organizers also presented it as «a sign of respect for ordinary ethnically Russian people who came directly to the Kremlin to protest against this chaos — to Manezhnaya Square.» In St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk and Volgograd, nationalists held memorials for Sviridov.

In Moscow and Liubertsy (in the Moscow Region), nationalists limited themselves to laying flowers and spray-painting «Remember Manezhka» on walls. In Moscow, they planned to lay flowers at the Pushkin monument next to the residence of the United States ambassador to Russia, but police prevented the action. Seventeen people were detained.

We did not record any convictions on the basis of xenophobic violence in December. However, at the end of December in St. Petersburg, police detained three students (two 16-year-olds and one 14-year-old) who participated in the ultra-right «Razgrom» («Destruction») project. They are suspects in no fewer than five attacks on utility workers from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In Kaluga, 10 teenagers were detained after at least eight attacks on migrants that they lured into fake dates.

For 2023 in total, we recorded 18 convictions for xenophobic violence, delivered against 36 individuals.

In December, we learned of only one sentence for xenophobically motivated vandalism. In St. Petersburg, the magistrate’s court fined Nikita Gomulkin under Part 1 of Article 148 of the Criminal Code (CC) (public actions expressing clear disrespect for society and committed with the aim of insulting the religious feelings of believers) for breaking a cross on the site of the Church of Demetrius of Thessalonica. This year in total, we learned of six verdicts against nine people on the basis of xenophobic vandalism.

We have about six people convicted in December for participation in extremist communities and organizations, among them «Citizens of the USSR» and supporters of the Ukrainian Right Sector. In total, since the beginning of the year, we have become aware of 92 such sentences against 188 people.

We also recorded 17 December convictions for aggressive public statements, delivered against the same number of people. Among them:

— Six people were convicted under Article 280 CC (public calls for extremist activity) for social-media posts calling for violence against natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Jews, people whose nationalities were not noted, the police, and members of the security services. One person was found guilty under the same article for painting graffiti calling for violence against ethnic Russians on an icebreaker ship and on the walls of toilet stalls at a shipbuilding yard.

— Six people were convicted under Article 205.2 CC (propaganda of terrorism) for calls for Islamist terror or to undermine government institutions.

— Two people were convicted on a combination of these two charges for calls for violence against «ethnic outsiders» or to overthrow the government.

— One person was convicted under Article 354.1 CC (rehabilitation of Nazism) over a post on VKontakte containing certain materials «approving the ideology of Nazism and the activities of the SS troops,» and posts «directed against the memory of the defenders of the Fatherland, expressing disrespect for Victory Day.»

— One person was sanctioned on a combination of all three articles, for publishing antisemitic content on social media, along with materials calling for violence against representatives of the state.

In 2023 in total, according to our data, Russian courts convicted 272 people, in 245 rulings, for aggressive public statements.

December also saw four people fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO) (production and distribution of extremist materials) for sharing information online i.e. posting the article «There is Not a Single Russian National School in Russia,» the song «Shaved-headed Muscovites» by the group Shmeli, as well as various unnamed materials from the Federal List of Extremist Materials. In 2023 in total, by our data, 101 people faced liability under this article.

We also became aware of 15 people having been brought to justice under Article 20.3 CAO (propaganda and public display of Nazi symbols). Five people — three of them being penal colony inmates — showed their own tattoos with swastikas and other Nazi symbols; two people painted swastikas — one on a stall in the women’s toilet in a college in Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk Region, and another — on the facade of a building in Serpukhov, Moscow Region; one person painted a swastika and a white supremacist slogan on work gloves. The courts sentenced two to administrative arrest, while the rest were fined. In total, since the beginning of the year, we have learned about 564 convictions for such offenses.

We have information about eight people having been punished in December for xenophobic statements under Article 20.3.1 CAO (incitement to hatred). The reason was posts on social networks (primarily VKontakte and Odnoklassniki) directed against people from the Caucasus, Ukrainians and representatives of unnamed ethnic groups. One person was placed under administrative arrest, while the rest were fined. In total, since the beginning of the year, we know of 288 such rulings.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated three times, on December 18, 20 and 28, to account for new entries 5406–5416. The list was supplemented by three books: the anti-Ossetian book Mazdakians in the Caucasus by Bembulat Bogatyrev, as well as two Ukrainian-language books, including one about the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (which is banned in Russia). The additions also include eight texts of the Bashkiria cell of the «Citizens of the USSR.» In 2023 in total, the List was updated to include 80 new entries.

The list of organizations deemed «terrorist» by the Supreme Court was updated twice in December 2023 to include the Ukrainian Aydar battalion, as well as the Russian Volunteer Corps, a volunteer unit primarily comprising radical Russian nationalists who fight on the side of Ukraine. Russian Volunteer Corps leader Denis Kapustin (Nikitin) was sentenced in absentia in November 2023 by the Second Western District Military Court to life imprisonment.