Galina Kozhevnikova. Spring-2008: Depression and Déjà Vu

Edited by Alexander Verkhovsky
Wе publish our seasonal report on radical nationalism and counteraction to it in spring 2008. As usual, the report is based on the results of the SOVA Center daily monitoring.



Manifestations of radical nationalism : Violence : Vandalism : Ultra-right activities : Other manifestations of nationalism

Counteraction to radical nationalism : Public activism : Lawmaking : Criminal prosecution : The federal list of extremist materials : The federal list of extremist organizations : Other measures of counteraction

Unwarranted enforcement : Criminal prosecution : Administrative prosecution : Persecution of organizations : Persecution of mass media and websites : Extremist materials

Appendixes. Crime and Punishment Statistics


This past spring did not bring anything totally new or unusual to our attention. Most of the reported developments either continued or reemphasized the earlier trends.

The rates of racist violence did not drop, while the incidence of grassroots xenophobic violence grew slowly but steadily, just as did the number of attacks motivated by religious hatred. Provocation of mass fighting was an increasingly common practice.

All the more or less active right-wing radical organizations were in a state of serious depression. On the one hand, they were unable to repeat their successful public actions of past years, and on the other hand, they were torn by internal conflicts and dissent.

Certain positive developments were observed in terms of counteractions to xenophobic manifestations.

Left-wing anti-fascists appeared to be increasingly united and bold in their public activism. Russian football clubs paid more attention to the problem of racism among their fans.

The rates of criminal prosecution of racist violence and racist propaganda were about the same as for last year. The wave of neo-Nazi killings reported in Moscow in the first quarter of 2008 was finally suppressed. It is too early yet to say whether or not the quality of sentencing has improved, but we have observed certain positive changes in the spring: art. 282 was relied on less often in cases of violent crimes, hate promoters were less often sentenced to imprisonment and were instead punished more appropriately, and a few sentences relied on the recent :anti-extremist; amendments of the Criminal Code adopted in 2007. For the first time since the adoption of the anti-extremist legislation, the mandatory publication of the federal list of banned "extremist groups" became a reality.

However, inappropriate anti-extremist enforcement continued at a faster pace and, disturbingly, was much more consistent than the appropriate enforcement. Political bias was not the only reason behind the abusive enforcement; there were two critically important non-political factors in play. Firstly, there was a lack of mechanisms to ensure appropriate enforcement and to rule out absurd interpretations (such as prosecution of an historical re-enactor for placing a cross on a model of the Nazi tank), and secondly, legal nihilism or poor professionalism of the enforcers who fail to ensure the consistency of enforcement even with regard to truly dangerous ultra-right wing activists, mass media and organizations.



Following a serious outburst of violence reported in the winter months of 2008, the situation somewhat settled down in spring. Between March and May 2008, according to SOVA Center's monitoring, at least 119 people were attacked, and 22 of them were killed. During the same season of 2007, a total of 23 people were killed and 135 were injured. However, it would be wrong to assume that the situation had improved. There can be no doubt that many attacks, particularly those where no one was killed, went unreported[1]. Besides, it is only recently that we have learned of an updated, much higher number for the 2007 casualties, and we expect this number to increase even further. The only certain thing is that the law enforcement authorities have been able to suppress the wave of killings that ravaged Moscow in January and February of 2008.

In total for the first five months of 2008, at least 245 people were affected by racist and neo-Nazi motivated violence; 59 of them were killed. Besides Moscow (36 killed, 90 injured) and St. Petersburg (12 killed, 19 injured), which traditionally see the greatest number of casualties, violent attacks were reported in 22 other regions. Once again, we notice an alarming increase in the rates of racist attacks in Voronezh. We have noted on numerous occasions that since the high-profile trials of 2005 and 2006, neo-Nazi activity in the region has subsided, as reported not only by the authorities, but also by local human rights groups. However, we observed once again an increased number of reported incidents: as of this writing, 11 casualties (including one death) have been reported in Voronezh Oblast, which is just slightly less than the 16 victims last year.

It is absolutely clear that natives of Central Asia are the most common target of neo-Nazi skinhead attacks and account for more than one third of the total casualties (32 killed, 58 injured).

Formerly, neo-Nazi attackers targeted men most of the time, while attacks against women and children were an exception rather than the rule; recently, attacks against the latter have often been reported, which is yet another evidence of growing neo-Nazi cruelty.

The involvement of young women in neo-Nazi attacks is not a new phenomenon, but increasingly noticeable in recent months, as seen not only from descriptions of attacks, but also from cases brought before courts (e.g. in the spring of 2008 at least three women were convicted and sentenced for racist violence and propaganda, and at least two more face criminal charges as of this writing).

We should note a dramatic drop in reported neo-Nazi attacks against leftist and anti-fascist youth and members of alternative subcultures. We suspect, however, that fewer reports do not mean fewer attacks; most likely, the victims of such attacks prefer not to report the crime, since they consider street fighting to be part of their "war" against the neo-Nazis. We emphasize once again that casualties of this "street war" may include innocent bystanders - as for example, Alexey Krylov killed on 16 March 2008 (his death was the most talked about hate crime in the spring of 2008).

To remind the reader, a concert of music groups popular among anti-fascist youth was to be held in the Art Garbage Club not far from Kitay-Gorod Metro Station in Moscow. Most spectators had been warned that neo-Nazis were planning to attack them and came to the club in large groups prepared to fight. Instead, the neo-Nazis attacked a small group of fans who were not part of the antifa movement and therefore unprepared, killing Alexei Krylov; another victim - a young woman - luckily avoided serious injuries. Eventually the organizers had to cancel the concert because someone had sprayed teargas inside, and then a warning came that a bomb had been planted on the premises. Incidentally, it was not the first cancellation of a punk concert following a fake or real threat of a blast attack. Back in 2007, concerts in St. Petersburg and Izhevsk were canceled for the same reason.

Nazi skinheads remained the usual suspects; however, just as before, some of the reported incidents had nothing to do with skinheads. For example, an ethnic conflict flared up once again in the last year between Armenian and Azeri students during the annual festival held on May 1st at the People's Friendship University in Moscow. In Siberia, one of the official theories explaining the suicide of a military school student in Novosibirsk was that an ethnic Tatar had suffered racist hatred at the hands of other students. In Chukotka, a drunken court bailiff broke into a Protestant prayer house and opened fire at the worshippers (fortunately, no one was hit).

Religious, rather than ethnic, hatred was obviously behind some of the reported hate attacks in the spring of 2008. Specifically, on 23 March in Nizhny Novgorod, members of the Krishna Consciousness Society were attacked, and one of them was injured. On April 2nd in Kuznetsk, Penza Oblast, a group attacked a priest of the Living Word church; on May 11th a woman was beaten in the Moscow metro for wearing Muslim clothes. However, attacks triggered explicitly by religious hatred remained rather rare and usually opportunistic (except attacks against Muslims). For example, the above attack in Penza Oblast was probably triggered by the ongoing drama of the Penza recluses, a group of doomsday believers who had barricaded themselves in a cave awaiting the end of the world[2]. Having said that, we are concerned about the expanding geography of such attacks.


Religious hatred often takes the form of vandalism targeting religious and memorial installations. Since the beginning of 2008, we have documented at least 29 vandal attacks against Jewish (14), Orthodox (8), Muslim (5), and Protestant (2) buildings, of which 19 (ten Jewish, seven Orthodox and two Muslim) installations were attacked in the spring. Eleven other incidents - nine of which occurred between March and May 2008 - may be described as :ideological; vandalism and included attacks against WWII memorials, spray-painted neo-Nazi graffiti, etc. To note, we did not observe any increase in the number of incidents since last year - a total of 31 vandal attacks were reported over the same period in 2007, including 20 in the spring months. However, this may be due to reporting delays and underreporting - for example, we learned about the April 2008 vandal attack against the Vladivostok synagogue from right-wing websites rather than official reports, and with a few weeks' delay.

Vandals were particularly active just before the V-Day: a few days prior, they vandalized WWII memorials in St. Petersburg, outside Moscow, and in Nizhny Novgorod, as well as attempted to hang neo-Nazi posters and banners in a few other cities.

The painting of neo-Nazi graffiti was better organized, and the biggest :graffiti action; - still ongoing - has been coordinated over the internet, arranged according to levels similar to those found in a computer game, with crimes becoming more sophisticated with each level - from a simple stencil graffiti to physical threats against specific individuals and the publication of their personal data. Between February and March 2008, one of these :assignments; transmitted over the Web was to publish a list of names (which was later widely disseminated by many other neo-Nazi and ultra-right websites) with home addresses, contact phone numbers, and eventually photographs of persons whom the neo-Nazis believed to be :enemies of the Russian people.; In addition to personal data of people whom the ultra-right activists (often mistakenly) considered to be involved in anti-fascist activity, the list included personal details on members of the Public Chamber, journalists, high-ranking public prosecutors and Supreme Court judges. Such lists had been published on the web before, but they rarely contained personal data[3]. Moreover, assignments of this :game; have also included the posting of fake (so we hope) "executions" of people with non-Slav appearances[4].

Ultra-right activities

After a long period of inactivity, right-wing radical groups apparently tried to overcome a loss of morale caused by disappointment with the election campaigns (federal and local) and maybe also by the unusually large-scale arrests of neo-Nazi offenders in and outside Moscow.

We described the local elections in detail in our winter report[5]. We will just add that none of the right-wing :tricks; - such as running as Communist Party candidates, using social justice rhetoric to camouflage xenophobia, etc. -worked: the right-wing radicals lost even the relatively free local elections; they only had four of their candidates elected in Moscow and none in Yaroslavl and Volgograd.

On April 19th, before Hitler's birthday, they made their first post-election attempt to boost the morale of their supporters. An ultra-right coalition led by the Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) attempted to organize a nationwide action :in support of Russian political prisoners; - similar to their January 2007 campaign with meetings and pickets held in at least 16 Russian cities. This time they organized their events in just three cities - Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Volgograd (where the meeting was led by Igor Mogilyov, recently released from prison). The action was not as numerous as in 2007; the attendance in Moscow was 300 or less. Another public action - the First of May manifestation led by DPNI for a second consecutive year outside the Exhibition Center in Moscow - attracted no more than 400 people. To note, perhaps for the first time in the history of such events, Moscow anti-fascists were well-prepared for the march of the ultra-right: they posted anti-racist leaflets and painted relevant graffiti and slogans along the route of the ultra-right marchers. These messages attracted much more media attention than the rather uneventful march.

Much more numerous was the Serbian Easter March organized by the Eurasian Youth Union (ESM). However, one should bear in mind that unlike DPNI, ESM is a pro-Kremlin group. They have always emphasized their loyalty to the current political regime and acted as :political stormtroopers" by provoking public disorder during political opposition rallies; they are also known to practice targeted vandalism driven by ideological and religious motives.

The Easter March was held in Moscow on 27 April 2008 and proceeded along the same route as the Russian March 2007 down the Taras Shevchenko Embankment, which is virtually isolated from random observers and bystanders. By some estimates, the Easter March gathered approximately a thousand people. Interestingly, most marchers were not members of ESM - which is not a large group anyway[6] - but members of other nationalist groups who had agreed to withhold their group identities and to march under the banners of an apparent political competitor. Other interesting features included the involvement of the pro-Kremlin Young Russia members and their leader, United Russia Party MP Maxim Mischenko, who marched alongside radical Orthodox fundamentalists, such as hegumen Kirill (Sakharov) and leader of the Union of Orthodox Gonfalon Carriers Leonid Simonovich (Nikshich). It was the first incident known to us where leaders of apparently competing groups - let alone their rank-and-file members who had often picketed foreign embassies together - joined ranks, demonstrating once again that pressure against some groups, but not others, can be explained by their lack of political loyalty, rather than by their illegal conduct.

We should also mention an attempt to provoke mass fighting on 27 April 2008 in Alexandrovsky Garden in the center of Moscow. A few days before the event, right-wing radical websites announced that allegedly youths from the Caucasus had been plotting to :spoil the Russian Easter" on 27 April - i.e. to get together, dance lezginka and fight with neo-Nazi skinheads if attacked. We have not been able to find the original messages allegedly addressed to young natives of the Caucasus (only the information from the ultra-right activists is available), so we cannot say whether or not the allegations were well-founded to begin with. On 27 April, a relatively small group of ultra-right activists staged :Easter celebrations; in Alexandrovsky Garden, watched over by reinforced police patrols who had been alerted to the threat of possible fighting. However, no fighting or disturbances actually occurred.

Mutual provocation to massive fights between ultra-right activists and Caucasus natives have been reported recently this summer, but back in the spring the incident above was the only reported occurrence.

In contrast, increasing levels of confrontation, often with a nationalist tone, was observed between fans of different football teams. Specifically, visiting football teams from Naltchik (Kabardino-Balkaria) and Grozny (Chechnya) were confronted by home audiences displaying offensive banners, such as :Budanov Is the Hero of Russia!; [Budanov is a Russian colonel charged in the kidnapping and murder of a young Chechen girl]; fighting between groups of fans was provoked in some instances. Apparently, fans of the Caucasus teams did fight back, but we are less aware of their conduct and motives. The biggest conflict involving football fans was a fight in the city of Prielbrusye on 19 April 2008 (on the eve of a football game between teams from Moscow and Naltchik) causing three fans from Moscow to be hospitalized with injuries from beating and gas pistols. There are different theories explaining how the fighting started. According to one theory, local fans yelling anti-Russian slogans provoked the visitors; under another theory, visitors from Moscow got drunk and rowdy in the hotel and provoked the locals[7].

Since mid-April - just as was the case last year - formerly hidden internal conflicts in neo-Nazi and ultra-right groups started to emerge. These internal clashes and an overall drop in morale was probably caused by electoral disappointment[8] and by police pressure against the leaders.

In late April, leader of the National Socialist Society (NSO) Dmitry Rumyantsev declared that he was leaving the group, since he could not, as he put it, continue to lead an organization where many members did not trust him[9]. In turn, Rumyantsev's opponents accused him of financial dishonesty, misappropriation of funds and excessive loyalty to the government due to his desire to get the group formally recognized (registered). The conflict caused the group to split (to remind the reader, NSO had split once before, in September 2007).

In early May, following the arrest of Yuri Belyayev, leader of the Freedom Party (PS), the group's policy council accused Denis Tananin of their Moscow chapter of being an agent provocateur. It is not quite clear, however, whether or not Tananin had any supporters - and whether it was indeed a split or just an interpersonal conflict triggered by Tananin's rational, albeit somewhat cynical statement to the effect that the group should rethink its course and change its leadership since Belyaev's arrest.

The biggest news, however, was a split of DPNI. It was revealed on 19 May as DPNI announced its reorganization and declared A. Belov its chief leader (to remind, formerly Belov had always described himself as a member of the DPNI Central Organizing Council - COC). It follows from the group's website that the issue underlying the conflict was an intention to transform DPNI from a network - which it currently is - into a sort of political party, with a formal charter and fixed membership. The original disagreement split those who supported the Potkin brothers (Alexander Belov and Vladimir Basmanov) from those who sided with Alexander Mikhailov, leader of the Moscow chapter. Eventually Dmitry Zubov, leader of the National Students' Union, joined Belov's opponents - in fact, he had publicly left DPNI before the Russian March 2007 following a conflict with Belov. As of this writing (June 2008), Belov's supporters and opponents are lashing out at one another on the internet, routinely throwing mud at the other party - from repeated references to Belov's Jewish origins to accusations of betrayal and collaboration with security services.

Other manifestations of nationalism

As before, commercial companies were reported to engage openly in racist discrimination or in exploiting Nazi symbols and images, such as pictures of Wehrmacht military vehicles in V-Day greetings. Such scandals were usually written off as technical errors[10] - but the arguments were not always convincing.

For example, the biggest scandal in the spring of 2008 occurred in Yekaterinburg[11], where the Dragotsennosti Urala Bank displayed street ads to promote their special deposit offer for WWII veterans; the advertised interest rate on the deposit was 14.88%. Its symbolism was immediately deciphered to mean 14 Words by David Lane, the neo-Nazi credo, and 88 as the initials of Heil Hitler; thus 14.88 clearly suggested a Nazi code. Commenting on the scandal, the bank's spokesman allegedly said that it was a coincidence and that they could not be bothered by "all sorts of absurdities posted on the web"[12]. However, the bank's official release on the special offer had mentioned promotional interest rates ranging between 11.5% and 13.5% annually[13]. Any random coincidence between the Nazi code and the (nonexistent) interest rate was therefore out of the question. It remains a mystery whether someone in the bank's management expressed solidarity with the neo-Nazis or they believed that anything would go in advertising as long as they had publicity. To note, the bank never disowned the scandalous ad, and we are not aware of any response from the banking or advertising industries. The mere fact that the bank did not consider the :neo-Nazi; scandal damaging to its reputation, while relevant corporations failed to express their disapproval of this advertising strategy, in and of itself indicates a lack of boundaries in the corporate public conduct.

A case of explicit ethnic discrimination was reported in St. Petersburg. According to reports, in late April a downtown nightclub posted a notice on the door which banned :natives of the Caucasus" from entering the premises. The club administration was warned by the prosecutor under the anti-extremist legislation, and a disciplinary punishment was imposed (we do not know what sort of punishment).


Public activism

Besides the traditional activities undertaken by Russian NGOs to counteract racism and xenophobia, we note a few other, mostly opportunistic, developments.

Left-wing and apolitical young anti-fascists were increasingly active in the public sphere. Unfortunately, their actions were often triggered by tragedies, such as murders. Nationwide actions in 2007 were dedicated to the memory of Ilya Borodayenko killed in August 2007 in an attack against the environmentalists' camp outside Angarsk. In the spring of 2008, events were organized to honor the memory of Alexey Krylov killed in Moscow. A meeting and a march in his memory were held on 19 March in Moscow and on 25 March in St. Petersburg. Some reports mentioned 250 and 150 participants respectively, but videos of both marches posted on the web clearly showed a bigger attendance, which is unusual for this type of events, particularly since the participants faced a real risk to their lives (both in Moscow and in St. Petersburg, neo-Nazis tried to attack them). Notably, police in both cities allowed the marchers to proceed, but arrested them afterwards.

Another visible development in the sphere of public response to racism concerned football clubs: they increasingly addressed the problem of racist fans, particularly since some clubs had been quite successful internationally and cared about their reputation outside Russia[14]. Alongside the Russian Football Union (RFU) - inter alia, they fined the Torpedo Club for racist taunts against a black player - individual clubs, apparently frustrated by the RFU's inaction, took steps against racism. In particular, Locomotive made a public commitment :to ban racism from the bleachers of the country's best stadium; following the above-mentioned incident with "Budanov Is a Hero of Russia; banner. The Football Club TV program supported the initiative, particularly commentator Vassily Utkin known for his consistent anti-racist appeals to the football audiences. We can see that these statements have already made a difference - some racist fans have modified their banners so that very few people can decipher their neo-Nazi messages, and it certainly limits their impact on the audiences.


In contrast to 2007, attempts to amend the anti-extremist legislation dwindled after the parliamentary and presidential elections. Besides a proposal by the Prosecutor General's Office, reported by the press, but apparently too tentative and yet to be developed into a bill[15], just one new law - useful, but merely technical - was adopted in the spring of 2008 and came into force on 6 May. It amended a number of laws already in effect in order to delegate to Rosregistration (FRS) certain functions formerly carried out exclusively by the Ministry of Justice. As a result, FRS was made responsible for maintaining a list of banned extremist groups and monitoring all organizations for extremism, warning them, and taking cases to court in order to have offending groups liquidated or banned. The new law finally corrected a technical error dating back to 2004, which we have mentioned on many occasions. To remind the reader, due to a technical error in the legal text, the function of keeping inventories of extremist materials and organizations was taken away from the Ministry of Justice, but then not delegated to Rosregistration (as it should have been). In May 2006, a presidential decree empowered FRS to keep a registry of extremist materials (but did not mention a registry of extremist organizations). The new law filled this gap, but it was short-lived, because just a week later, on 12 May 2008, new President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree to initiate yet another restructuring of the federal executive authorities[16], which, inter alia, restored the function of registration with regard to political organizations, NGOs, and all non-profits (and, by extension, that of keeping a registry of extremist groups and materials) to the Ministry of Justice. By the same act, Rosregistration was assigned to the Ministry of Economic Development and retained its registration functions with regard to commercial transactions. Moreover, it is expected that by 1 October 2008 the agency will be liquidated. Therefore, no one has managed the banned lists since mid-May: the FRS has stopped this activity, and the Ministry of Justice have not started it yet.

Criminal prosecution


At least 10 convictions for violent crimes with a recognized hate motive were passed in the spring of 2008 against 28 individuals[17] (two in Moscow, one each in St. Petersburg, Omsk, Yaroslavl, Ivanovo, Krasnodar, Moscow Oblast Penza Oblast, and Sverdlovsk Oblast) [18]. Notably, just in three instances the hate motive was recognized in a criminal case under art. 282; other cases were tried under different articles of the Criminal Code - ranging from murder and physical abuse to infliction of minor bodily harm - with the hate motive recognized as an aggravated circumstance. Of course, it would be too early to celebrate a positive shift away from reliance on the "anti-propaganda" article 282 in the prosecution of violent crimes, but we observed for the first time that no more than a third of such cases were charged under art. 282.

In total for the first five months of 2008, at least 12 convictions for violent crimes were passed against 33 individuals.

The main development in the spring was a verdict in the Cherkizovo blast attack case (the blast in Cherkizovo market in Moscow on 21 August 2006 killed 14, including those who died later in hospital, and left 60 more with serious injuries). The suspects were apprehended and eventually found to be involved in at least eight other blast attacks. Furthermore, several of them were charged in the murder of Vigen Abramyants, a young Armenian, who was attacked and killed on 22 April 2006 in Pushkinskaya Metro station in Moscow, in front of many people.

On 30 April 2008, a jury delivered a guilty verdict against the eight defendants, and on 15 May the judge sentenced four to life terms (combined with involuntary psychiatric treatment for one of them), two more defendants to 20 and 13 years of prison, respectively, and the last two others each to two years of prison. Importantly, the court qualified this ultra-right attack as terrorism[19].

To note, two of the ten convictions were passed in cases where an acquisitive motive was present: an attack against Turkish nationals in Moscow and a beating of a young Armenian girl in Yaroslavl Oblast. The latter crime had apparently been triggered by grassroots xenophobia. In 2007, an Armenian girl aged 15 was attacked by three female school students, who tormented the victim for more than 40 minutes and then took her mobile phone and money. Only one of the attackers was convicted and sentenced to a probational term; the other two were under the age of criminal responsibility for such offences. Notably, however, the crime was qualified under article 117 (torment) aggravated by hatred, rather than art. 282. This is rather uncommon: in fact, it is just the second known to us case of a hate attack treated under art. 117.

In addition, three sentences for violent crimes handed down in the spring relied on the criminal code articles updated in 2007 to include the hate motive as a qualifying circumstance. These included cases in Omsk and Penza Oblast (art. 115, causing minor damage to health, with the hate motive), and in Krasnodar Krai (art. 116 - beating, with the hate motive). We have noted earlier that there is usually a significant delay between the time that a new law is adopted and the time it begins to work. The fact that at least four convictions relied on the recently amended articles (ones changed less than a year ago) of the Criminal Code indicates a strong grassroots law enforcement demand for the new provisions enacted in 2007[20], as opposed to the vague and largely perceived as irrelevant 2002 amendments.

The spring of 2008 was marked by yet another landmark criminal sentence where the hate motive was not recognized. On 30 May 2008 in Zabaikalsky Krai (formerly, Chita Oblast), a trial concerning an Azeri pogrom in the village of Kharagun ended in multiple convictions. To remind the reader, a grassroots fight in the spring of 2006 led to massive attacks against ethnic Azeri villagers and their homes, resulting in injuries to 12 (one victim later died in hospital); 17 cars and trucks were destroyed or burned down, and eight Azeri homes were looted and set on fire.

All 32 defendants were found guilty of a riot (part 2 of art. 212); incitement to active disobedience against the authorities' legitimate demands, public disturbances and violence against individuals (part 3, art. 212); intentional infliction of serious damage to health, acting as an organized group (p. a, part 3, art. 111); and threat of death or causing serious damage to health (art. 119 of the Criminal Code). To remind, yet another person involved in the riot was found guilty of murder and convicted in 2007.

Most defendants were sentenced to probation terms; however, 12 perpetrators were sentenced to actual imprisonment in strict and general regime prison colonies (from 3.5 to 6 years), and yet another one was declared insane.

Even though most of the perpetrators were sentenced to probation terms and the judges had apparently tried to minimize their punishments[21], it was the first case known to us of a thorough criminal investigation of an ethnic pogrom (though the law enforcement authorities denied the presence of hate motives, arguing that some of the victims were ethnic Russians). Apparently, the prosecutor's office identified and brought to justice some of the most active rioters (not all, by far, since at least a hundred people had been involved in the pogrom). It is important to note that back in 2007 the prosecutor's office complained to court about the local administration's inaction concerning the riot, and the court ordered the local authorities to take a series of steps to prevent such conflicts in the future (again, it was the first reported case that we know of). The large number of defendants and the actual punishments were particularly impressive compared to the investigation and trial for the Kondopoga riots, where just 12 perpetrators were tried and sentenced to probation without any additional punishment. Finally, the Chita Oblast (Zabaikalsky Krai) Prosecutor's Office kept the public informed of the progress of investigation in a consistent and comprehensive manner, explained its opinion concerning the details of the case, and responded strictly and decisively to all nationalistic speculations[22]. So the Kharagun case has been the most successful and comprehensive example so far not only of a thorough investigation in an ethnic pogrom case, but also of subsequent efforts to suppress opportunistic activity of right-wing radicals, to prevent grassroots xenophobia and to stop xenophobic publications in various mass media (from right-wing leaflets to mainstream papers).

Propaganda and campaigning

The authorities continued their efforts to suppress xenophobic propaganda. At least nine convictions for violent crimes were passed in thr spring against 14 individuals (two in Samara, one each in St. Petersburg, Ulan Ude, Kursk, Kazan, Makhachkala, Voronezh, and Lipetsk).

Five convicted perpetrators were sentenced to probation terms without any additional penalties; in fact, three of them were hardcore ultra-right activists who had apparently deserved a tougher punishment as opposed to minor offenders who had only posted racist leaflets or expressed nationalist views on web forums.

Specifically, a court in Voronezh sentenced NSO leader Dmitry Rumyantsev to one year of probation without any additional penalties. From this perspective, the Rumyantsev case was similar to the case of Maxim (Tesak) Martsinkevich who had faced court a few months before. Similarly to Martsinkevich, Rumyantsev was not tried for his core activity - i.e. leading a neo-Nazi group which openly promoted racism and hate violence - but for a single statement made at just one rally. In the Tesak case, the court had apparently taken into account that the defendant was a public danger; in the Rumyantsev case they did not, and released him on probation. We can only assume that the mere fact of his conviction caused a split in NSO, mentioned above.

However, a landmark verdict this spring was delivered on 26 May 2008 by the Sovetsky District Court in Kazan in a trial of six activists of the local RNE chapter. In addition to a number of offences under various articles of the Criminal Code[23], the Kazan ultra-right were all found guilty of organizing and participating in a banned extremist community (art. 282.2). It is the first case we know of in Russia - besides the trials of Hizb ut-Tahrir members - where the defendants have been charged under this article. Just one defendant got away with a probation term, while the others were sentenced to punishments ranging from fines to 7 years of prison. Additionally, three defendants were banned by the court from working in their current jobs[24]. It was the only reported judgment during the spring 2008 season where a ban on occupation was imposed in conjunction with imprisonment (which we find totally appropriate).

Since the beginning of 2008 at least 17 convictions were passed against 22 people for this type of crimes. Probation without additional sanctions was imposed on 8 people; seven were sentenced to prison, and we find just one sentence too tough - that of a student in Maikop who had posted on the web a video with a racist execution of a Tadjik and a Dagestani. The student's sentence came into force in March 2008. We repeat that a ban on professional occupation was only imposed on the RNE members mentioned above.

We cannot say that the quality of sentencing for propaganda improved much, but at least the rates of excessively tough punishments - i.e. prison terms - for minor offences decreased.

In one case reported in the spring of 2008, a court in Samara Oblast used a common sense approach, but it clashed with the prosecutors' apparent desire to blow up their anti-extremist reporting[25].

We are referring to the criminal proceedings against the author of Skin-Head, a right-wing radical website, and concurrent proceedings to have the website content banned as extremist. Back in June 2007 in Novokuibyshevsk, Samara Oblast, criminal charges were brought under art. 282 against Denis Dorofeyev, author of a right-wing radical website. In January 2008, while the case against Dorofeyev was investigated, the prosecutor's office requested the court to find the website content extremist. We have observed that whenever some material is found extremist prior to a related criminal verdict, the finding is used as evidence against the author in the criminal trial - even though a civil judgment cannot legally precede a criminal verdict. However, whenever a civil action follows criminal proceedings, the criminal verdict is used to support the civil claim. Priority of judgments is not observed in such cases.

The court in Novokuibyshevsk denied the civil claim on the grounds that criminal proceedings into the same materials would establish whether or not they were extremist. We find this argument reasonable and consistent with the above-mentioned priority of criminal over civil proceedings; we also believe that the court had demonstrated common sense by refusing to duplicate its own judgment of the same case in two different types of proceedings. The prosecutor's office appealed to a higher court, which quashed the judgment of the first instance court on 3 March 2008 and declared the denial of the civil claim unfounded. This judgment of the Oblast court and the prosecutor's office persistence were not in breach of the applicable law: the website content was obviously illegal, and parallel proceedings in such cases were quite common. It appears, however, that even though the approach used by the first instance court's made both common and legal sense, the other authority had wished to blow up their reporting and prevailed.

Yet another landmark event took place in the spring of 2008. In March 2008 in Khabarovsk, a criminal case was opened under part 2 of art. 136 (violation of the equality of rights and liberties of a human being and citizen committed by someone in an official capacity) against a college teacher for discrimination against religious students. The case had been initiated by a collective complaint filed by the religious students' parents who insisted that the teacher would send their children away from class saying that "religious people should not study - they should stay home" and had refused to give grades and credits to students under the same pretext. It was an extremely rare attempt to enforce art. 136 of the Criminal Code (we are not aware of any criminal convictions relying on this article) [26].

The federal list of extremist materials

A number of items were added to the federal list of extremist materials. The list was updated four times over the three spring months: on 14 March, on 5 April; on 16 and 28 May 2008[27]. A total of 58 new items were added to the list before the end of May, bringing it to 141 items[28]. Notably, the list was updated promptly. In ten cases, the courts banned the materials in question in March and April 2008, and seven other materials declared extremist in the spring of 2008 had been added to the overall list published on Rosregistration before the end of May (the official daily - Rossiyskaya Gazeta - published the updated list much later - on 16 June). We find most of the new bans unfounded (see below). One of them is simply ridiculous: item № 128 of the federal list reads: :A message (leaflet) posted by Vtulkin Alexander Alexandrovich on the news portal and on the Agency for Journalistic Investigations website...; To remind the reader, the description refers to threats against St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvyenko posted on a web forum back in 2004[29]. Formally, banning Vtulkin's radical xenophobic statements had been consistent with the law. But on the other hand, the offensive posting had promptly been removed, and most likely had not survived anywhere except the criminal case file. In fact, the court had banned an inexistent material.

Among the spring 2008 updates of the banned list, 31 materials were Islam-related - apparently, they had been banned as part of criminal proceedings against Islamic fundamentalists (particularly members of Hizb ut-Tahrir); 17 were neo-Nazi materials (such as 12 songs of the Cyclon B music group), and propaganda produced by ultra-right groups or (as in Vtulkin's case) individuals. The rest were anti-Semitist materials and two materials produced by radical neo-pagans in Altai.

To sum up, at least 17 judgments were passed in the spring of 2008, banning at least 29 items as extremist.

The least questionable of the bans, in our opinion, was the ban of the above-mentioned video showing the killings of a Tajik and a Dagestani and posted on the web in August 2007. This judgment of the Novgorod City Court passed on 17 March 2008 was the first case known to us of a video declared extremist in Russia.

The federal list of extremist organizations

In the spring of 2008, nearly six years since the enactment of the Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity, the authorities finally complied with the legal requirement to disclose the names of organizations found extremist by courts. In early April 2008, even before the abovementioned law formally empowered them to do so, Rosregistration published on its website the first List of public and religious associations and other non-profit organizations effectively liquidated or banned on grounds stipulated by the Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity. Similar to the Federal list of extremist materials, this list was incomplete and included only six banned organizations - even though currently, to the best of our knowledge, at least 10 organizations have officially been found extremist. We find the bans in at least two cases - the National Bolshevik Party and Nurdjular - unfounded. But at least they disclosed the banned list.

We would like to note one instance of a group declared extremist. In March, a court in Ryazan banned a local chapter of the Russian National Unity (RNE) - an independent, active right-wing radical group - following criminal conviction of its leaders, B. Parshin and O. Panfilov, found guilty under art. 282 in August 2007. Notably, the judges in Ryazan - as opposed to their colleagues who had banned RNE chapters for extremism between 2002 and 2003 - did not rely on a (vague) similarity between RNE's symbol and the Nazi swastika, but instead referred to the actual behavior of the group.

Other measures of counteraction

Authorities continued their efforts to suppress nationalist propaganda in mass media. On 25 April 2008, the Supreme Court of Khakassia ordered the closure of the local Communist Party (CPRF) paper Pravda Khakassii[30]. The closure followed three warnings by Rossvyazokhrankultura for various publications in the paper between 2006 and 2007. Even thought one might suspect political bias behind the warnings (e.g. CPRF insists that "[the authorities] found extremism in the publications of [CPRF leader] Gennady Zyuganov's election program in Pravda Khakassii[31]), at least one warning triggered by Alexander Kharchikov's article[32] appears well-founded.

At least five anti-extremist warnings were issued by the Rossvyazokhrankultura's central and regional offices in spring[33], and a total of 13 warnings were given since the beginning of 2008. It is important to note that in contrast to last year, we find only one of the warnings unfounded: the case of Za Cheloveka paper warned for an article titled "Putin: Our Good Hitler," by Igor Averkiyev (see below).

Rossvyazokhrankultura's ongoing litigation with the Duel paper is noteworthy. To remind the reader, in 2007 a court ordered the closure of the paper based on two questionable warnings by Rossvyazokhrankultura (even though by the time of the court order two more warnings - this time, well-founded - had been issued for other publications in the same paper). On 28 February 2008, the judgment was overruled by a higher court, and the case was sent back to be reconsidered. We are not sure about the progress on the case, but we know that in 2008 the newspaper has received anti-extremist warnings two more times (again, for good reasons[34]),. Therefore, Rossvyazokhrankultura now has every right to initiate closure proceedings once again.

Back in 2007, regional prosecutor's offices published their first anti-extremist compliance reports, and by late spring 2008 the publication of such prosecutorial reviews had become a consistent practice. Even though the reports were not in the least transparent[35] and hardly reflected the actual performance of the regional law enforcement in fighting dangerous extremism, the mere fact that such reports have been published is good news. At least it shows that prosecutor's offices in virtually all Russian regions have publicly admitted that the problem exists.


In the spring of 2008, inappropriate anti-extremist enforcement continued in virtually all the same spheres as before with the only exception that after the elections the authorities no longer used anti-extremist provisions to discredit opponents to the current political regime or to confiscate protest campaign materials on the pretext of reviewing them for extremism.

As before, inadequate interpretation of applicable legislation, as well as political motives, resulted in inappropriate anti-extremist enforcement. To complicate matters even more, in a number of cases the law was enforced arbitrarily and inappropriately against really dangerous extremist offenders.

Criminal prosecution

The spring season's main event was the ongoing case of Savva Terentyev, a blogger in Syktyvkar facing criminal charges for a single offensive comment against the police in the Live Journal. On 31 March 2008, his trial began in the Syktyvkar City Court. His defense lawyer successfully challenged the expert opinion relied upon by the prosecutor, having shown a due process violation in the preparation of the opinion. T he text of the comment was then sent back to a new expert examination[36].

On 13 and 22 May, Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev faced charges under art 282 (2) (incitement to hatred by someone in an official position) for organizing the Banned Art exhibition. To remind the reader, the exhibition opened in the Sakharov Museum in March 2007. The organizers, having learned the lesson of their prior Beware: Religion! exhibition, took steps to avoid accusations: the exhibits were hidden from view, each covered by a piece of canvas and accompanied by a written warning, so that visitors had to make a conscious effort to see the exhibit in question through a peephole in the canvas. However, the precautions did not work: some activists of Narodny Sobor, an Orthodox nationalist group led by RNE veteran Oleg Kassin, accused the organizers of the exhibition of "anti-Christian provocation" and filed complaints, resulting in criminal charges in June 2007. A year later, the investigators finalized the charges, which are every bit as unfounded as the criminal charges in the Beware: Religion! case.

On 16 April 2008, the Ordzhonikidzevsky Court in Ufa found imam Said Baiburin guilty of public incitement to extremist activity (art. 280 (2) of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to 18 months of imprisonment [37]. The evidence presented in the judgment and in the expert opinions appears to us totally insufficient. The main premise of the judgment - whether or not Baiburin is a follower of Wahhabism and whether or not he has disseminated the Fundamentals of Tawheed by Al-Wahhab - remains arguable, but it should not matter anyway; even if he is and has, it is an administrative, rather than criminal offense. The expert witnesses of the prosecution alleged that Baiburin had incited hatred against certain groups, but they failed to provide any evidence - even quotations - to support their allegations. Only one of the prosecution's witnesses confirmed that the imam had encouraged violence against opponents of Wahhabism. The sentence was eventually appealed; the appeal hearings began on 30 May 2008 and, to the best of our knowledge, are ongoing.

On 28 April 2008, criminal charges were brought under art. 282 against Rafis Kashapov, leader of a non-governmental Tatar Center, who had made a strong statement alleging that maternity hospitals had baptized babies into Christianity without the parents' consent. The allegations of involuntary baptism were eventually refuted, but regardless of this fact, Kashapov's leaflet had not disrupted public order and did not contain any offensive statements against Christian Orthodox believers. Nevertheless, the case was not dropped.

Between mid-February and late April, law-enforcement agencies reviewed a newspaper article for evidence of extremism: the article, written by Igor Averkiyev, a prominent civil society activist in Perm, was titled Putin: Our Good Hitler, and did not fit any part of the "extremist activity; definition. Admittedly, the authorities announced on 25 April that they would not press criminal charges against Averkiyev. However, the newspaper which had published the article in question received an ;anti-extremist; warning from Rossvyazokhrankultura on 12 February 2008; to the best of our knowledge, they have not challenged the warning in court.

Administrative prosecution

Less is known about administrative proceedings, perhaps, because they are not taken as seriously.

A big scandal in the spring of 2008 was an anti-extremist warning issued by the Novosibirsk Oblast prosecutor's office in March 2008 to Vyacheslav Veryovochkin, reconstructor/re-enactor of military vehicles and technology. A mock combat between the Soviet T-34 and the Nazi "Prague' tanks was staged in a village of Novosibirsk Oblast, reenacting a scene from WWII history. Both tanks were manned by people wearing appropriate historical costumes and symbols; the Nazi tank bore a white cross which eventually triggered the prosecutorial warning. It appears that the prosecutor's office did not only mistake the Wehrmacht cross for a Nazi symbol, but issued a warning which failed to take into account the context of its use. The story was reported by mass media as an absurdity of anti-extremist enforcement, but the Oblast prosecutor's office refused to admit the mistake[38].

Apparently, some right-wing radical activists known to the prosecutor's office were involved in the mock combat (a press release of the Novosibirsk prosecutor's office mentioned some from the Eastern Front group). We believe, however, that prosecutors seeking to suppress the radical activists should pick more obvious cases of unlawful conduct. Otherwise, they undermine their own (quite impressive, we would note) achievements in this area as well as subsequent actions of other law enforcement authorities.

The above was a graphic illustration of a broader problem of a lack of mechanisms to ensure proper enforcement of the anti-extremist legislation and to rule out formalistic and absurd cases. The use of military symbols as collection items or as props of a staged performance, etc. remains open to arbitrary interpretation, affecting more and more people. An antique shop in Samara was fined in spring for having military symbols of Nazi Germany on display. Even though sanctions against retailers and individual collectors remain rare (we usually hear about a couple of such cases each year), it is still a problem.

A few cases of inappropriate :anti-extremist; enforcement were reported during regional election campaigns. On 17 March in Saratov, the district election commission annulled the registration of a Communist Party candidate Sergey Mikhailov, editor-in-chief of the Saratov Reporter, on the ground that he had lost his right to be elected after being warned for dissemination of extremist materials. They referred to articles which had triggered warnings against the newspaper back in 2007. To remind the reader, we consider both warnings unfounded (one of them, issued in connection with a widely reported case of an illustration featuring V. Putin as Schtirlitz, was eventually lifted) [39]. However, regardless of the publications in question, the law did not allow the removal of Mikhailov from the elections, since he was not the author of the articles. Indeed, a court overruled the decision of the election committee on 24 April, after the election campaign was over.

Persecution of organizations

Even more alarming was the growing pressure against organizations.

On 1 April 2008, the RF Supreme Court upheld the refusal of the Moscow City Court to review its judgment banning the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) as extremist in February. The paradox of the judgment was that by the time it was adopted none of the three episodes which the prosecution relied on to demand a ban of NBP ,remained valid. To remind the reader, the episode with National Bolsheviks in Chelyabinsk was a prosecutorial error to begin with[40]; the incident with the National Bolsheviks' attempt to disrupt a session of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly was eventually settled between the parties (following this out-of-court settlement, NBP attempted to have the ban lifted, but was denied the request by the Supreme Court on 1 April). This then meant, in turn, that NBP's violence against the Legislative Assembly's security guards was negligible. On 26 March, the activist charged with intrusion in a polling station in Odintsovo was convicted, but no "extremist" articles of the Criminal Code were involved. Therefore, the current ban of NBP is based on one error and two arbitrary opinions of the prosecutor's office, which have not been upheld in the criminal proceedings.

The NBP case sets a dangerous precedent of a ban relying on unconfirmed prosecutorial opinions. A similar problem arises from another part of the :extremism; definition.

When the 2007 amendments were adopted, some experts expressed their concern that a part of the extremist activity definition dealing with :knowingly false accusations of extremism with respect of a government official" was amended to remove the requirement that the :false accusation; (i.e. libel) must be proven in court[41]. In spring, we observed a few attempts to liquidate two organizations for libel with respect of government officials and for extremism. We are referring to the proceedings against the Council of Balkar Elders (CBE) in Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria for their sharp criticism of Kabardino-Balkaria President V. Kanokov interpreted by the prosecutor's office as :accusing Kanokov of terrorism,; and against one of the best known NGOs in Russia, Golos Beslana (the Voice of Beslan) for their letter published three years ago which described the government's - and particularly President Putin's - inaction concerning the investigation of the Beslan tragedy as aiding and abetting the terrorists. In essence, the proceedings against both organizations were ill-founded, because a phrase :such and such policy aids terrorists; is a rhetorical statement rather than an allegation to the effect that a specific official is implicated in terrorist activity.

In the CBE case, the text relied upon by the prosecutors in their attempt to have the group liquidated is also part of evidence in a criminal libel case, and the latter trial is ongoing since 8 April. But the absence of a criminal verdict did not prevent the Kabardino-Balkaria Supreme Court form ordering liquidation of CBE on 14 January, i.e. even before the start of the criminal proceedings and without any consideration of the case on the merits - just like in the NBP case. In the Golos Beslana case, no parallel criminal charges were brought, even though a :knowingly false accusation; of aiding terrorists is subject to criminal libel charges and should be addressed in criminal proceedings.

The trial of Golos Beslana began on 21 March 2008[42]. The plaintiffs' prospects are not particularly bright at the moment of this writing: an independent linguistic review requested by the North Ossetia law enforcement authorities failed to find any evidence of extremism in the text. The CBE case, following the Supreme Court judgment which overruled the Republic Court's order to liquidate the group, was sent back to be reconsidered. A new trial began on 12 May.

The most ridiculous - but not at all funny - was the case of the Rainbow House, a LGBT group in Tuymen, denied official registration in 2007 on the pretext that their founding documents contravened the anti-extremist legislation, namely, they :undermined Russia's [demographic, as may be assumed from the context - G.K. ] security.; The LGBT activists made a few unsuccessful attempts to challenge the denial of registration in court, and their most recent appeals failed even after the removal of the phrase about "undermining the security" from the definition of extremism.

In March 2008, the European Court of Human Rights admitted an application filed by the Rainbow House, and in early May a certain "office for public morals and intellectual property" of the Tyumen Oblast Police Department opened an investigation, following a request by the Federal Registration Service, against the unregistered group in order to "check them for extremism". The leader has been forced to give explanations to the police and is now facing a threat of criminal prosecution.

On 10 April 2008, the Russian Supreme Court banned the religious group Nurdjular by finding it extremist. The proceedings were initiated by the Prosecutor General's Office. The group members are followers of Turkish theologian Said Nursi, whose books translated into Russian were banned as extremist in 2007, amidst protests of many Muslim leaders and theologians. We have no idea as to the reason why group should be banned (except for the prior ban of Nursi books - incidentally, the case is currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights); there is no evidence known to us that Nursi's followers in Russia have ever been involved in faith-motivated violent acts or in hate propaganda.

Even the formal existence of the group is questionable. So far, the name Nurdjular has been used to refer to the organization of Nursi's (or his disciple Fathulla Gulen's) followers in Turkey and to their real or assumed representatives in Russia. No Russian organization of this name has been known, and Nursi's followers in Russia have never engaged in any visible, organized activity.

Notably, the Supreme Court ruling - with its potentially serious consequences for many of Nursi's followers who face problems as members of the banned organization - has not been published yet (just as the landmark judgment of 2003 banning 15 organizations as terrorist groups). This uncertainty creates a situation where one cannot challenge the judgment or even get a copy of it without showing one's personal interest in the case. For example, one might claim to be a member of the group and ask for a copy of the judgment - and risk criminal charges[43].

Persecution of mass media and websites

Continued pressure against mass media remained a problem. Policies and practices affecting mass media clearly illustrate our observation that authorities enforce the law in an arbitrary manner even against explicitly xenophobic publications. A striking example of arbitrary enforcement was the case of the New Petersburg (NP) paper in St. Petersburg. Even though a number of human rights groups had repeatedly complained to law-enforcement agencies about xenophobic publications in the paper, the authorities failed to respond - that is, until the paper supported the Dissenters' Marches. A series of warnings were issued to the paper within a short period, liquidation proceedings were launched, the paper was suspended from publication, and in February 2008 a court ordered its closure[44]. The management of the paper attempted an appeal, but failed: on 13 May, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of the St. Petersburg judges. In closing the paper, they relied on two publications: one of them, an article by Nikolai Andruschenko Why We Will Join the Dissenters' March on 25 November, was definitely not extremist and had not even been published. The other one - an article by Konstantin Chernyaev Here Is the Real Candidate! was published in Issue 27 of 21 June 2007, but we are not aware of its content.

It is interesting how political agendas cause the authorities to camouflage procedural flaws. Once it became obvious that NP had been erroneously warned for an unpublished article, Rossvyazokhrankultura - just to play it safe - issued them yet another warning for an article titled Citizens! To Arms! It is arguable whether the latter warning was well-founded, but the court did not rely on it anyway.

Just as promptly the prosecutors adjusted their course in the case of Ingushetiya.Ru website. After their first attempt to close the website failed in March 2008 - the Russian Supreme Court denied the motion by the Prosecutor of Ingushetia - a better organized and more successful attempt followed between April and May. Firstly, in April a court in Nazran (Ingushetia) found a material published on the website extremist without notifying the website owners (they learned about the judgment passed on 3 April almost a month later and as a result missed the deadline for an appeal) and then in May, Kuntsevsky Court in Moscow relied on the first judgment to launch closure proceedings (their respective judgment ordering closure of the website was dated 6 June).

The verdict of the Nazran Court of 3 April raises serious doubts. It relied on the publication of an interview with prominent Ingush oppositional leader Musa Keligov reprinted from Vremya Novostei print paper[45] - the latter had never had problems with the publication. We do not have the text of the judgment banning the website available to us, but the prosecutor's motion against the provider read that in his interview, Keligov allegedly accused Ingushetia's President Zyazikov of financing some rebel fighters, i.e. of an extremist activity, and this :knowingly false accusation of a government official of extremism" had made the author liable for extremism. Perhaps it was the ground for finding the interview extremist. However, we were unable to find any mention of Zyazikov's financing of rebel fighters in the text of the interview, so we believe that the judgment was unfounded[46].

We are not sure what specific materials the Kuntsevsky Court in Moscow relied on when it ordered closure of Ingushetiya.Ru, but we know that the website was accused of incitement and xenophobia. The former accusation was ill-founded: the website had never incited anyone to riots or violence. Its authors' strong opposition to President Zyazikov and efforts to organize massive protests were not the same as extremist activity, even if individual participants of such protests had done something illegal[47]. In contrast, the charges of xenophobia (directed mainly against ethnic Ossetians) were anything but unfounded, and they have been considered in the criminal proceedings under art. 282 of the Criminal Code launched in the summer of 2007. It's a different question whether they are serious enough to warrant closure of the website, let alone bring criminal charges against anyone in particular. Apparently this issue should be addressed with regard to the overall climate of ethnic intolerance in the region, particularly the sentiments expressed by Ingush mass media towards ethnic Ossetians.

The case of Ingushetiya.Ru also set an important precedent in terms of technical enforcement of a ban concerning web-based materials. On 21 May 2008, the Nazran District Court satisfied the prosecutor's office request to obligate the provider - Telecom, LLC - to limit access to Ingushetiya.Ru, thus legalizing the denial of access to the website from the territory of Ingushetia (all local providers had complied with an unofficial instruction from the law enforcement agencies to deny their customers access to the website since November 2007). It is intriguing to note that in his request before the court, the prosecutor relied on a number of allegedly extremist materials: in addition to the abovementioned Keligov's interview, these included three other texts which had not been found extremist by any court.

Then, on 26 May, the Kuntsevsky District Court in Moscow required that all providers in the country should deny access to the website even before the final judgment. This act was clearly unlawful, since by that time just one article on the website had been (again, unlawfully) found extremist. The judgment of the Kuntsevsky Court has not come into force yet, and can be accessed.

Of course, besides such :marginal; examples, other arbitrary administrative practices remained common. In April 2008 in Kirov, access was denied to the website of a local paper - Vyatsky Nabludatel - just for one comment posted on their forum. However offensive the comment might have been, the newspaper had not authored it. The provider blocked access to the website anyway as instructed by the local police, even without any court ruling.

A judgment of a district court in Samara issued on 27 February 2008 became effective in the spring of 2008; the court banned an entire website as extremist for just one article Nowruz and the Islamic Docrtine (previously, it had been disseminated as a booklet, triggering a negative reaction of the local law enforcement[48]). The author of the article argued that Muslims should not celebrate Nowruz (Nawruz) [49], since the holiday had pagan origins; the article did not contain any statements that could be considered extremist[50]. The court in Samara preferred to side with the conventional interpretation of the Islamic doctrine in Russia. Rather than just ban the material, the court outlawed the entire website (indeed, is not accessible). The author had not been invited to the court hearing, and subsequently the same court denied a cassation appeal.

Extremist materials

Perhaps the most common type of excessive anti-extremist enforcement was the finding of various materials extremist.

We have noted in previous reports how many items were added to the federal list of extremist materials in the spring of 2008. The way it usually happens is that investigators of :extremist; offences find certain materials on the suspects or in their homes (print, video, etc.) and ask courts to find any :suspicious; materials extremist. Otherwise how can one explain the reported attempts to outlaw Hitler's biography by Joachim Fest or Ayatollah Khomeini's legacy[51]?

The grounds of such rulings are often questionable, and it does not help that the courts rely on the findings of certain academic experts. As an example, six materials were banned in connection with the Penza recluses case (to remind, in the autumn of 2007, a group of believers barricaded themselves in a cave awaiting the end of the world; in the spring of 2008, when the cave walls began to collapse due to erosion from rains and melted snow, the recluses came out). On 30 April 2008, the Bekovsky District Court in Penza Oblast found five books extremist and banned them- all apparently written by the group leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov - as well as one booklet which we have not been able to identify and attribute.

Since we are not aware of the content, we cannot judge whether the finding of the materials extremist was appropriate, but we are suspicious of the prosecutor's wording to the effect that all materials contained :overt and covert propaganda of religious and ethnic hatred, overt and covert propaganda of violence; and :the content of the books may arouse negative emotions, affect one's mental state, trigger various behavioral reactions, and in special circumstances may provoke aggressive, agitated, and immoral conduct.; In our opinion, the statement is too vague, particularly since we are dealing with a religious text. However, the experts failed to offer any further clarifications.

Yet another persistent problem leading to excessive enforcement is the extremely poor quality of the federal list of banned materials. The most obvious example has been the scandalous "Buguruslan list" published without any details except the titles of the banned materials[52]. But it was just one of many similar cases. In March 2008, thirteen new titles of banned Islamic materials were added to the list (Nos 84-96); they had been found extremist by the Magnitogorsky Court in Chelyabinsk Oblast in November 2007; about half of these materials are not properly attributed, so it is impossible to tell which exactly brochures titled A Path to Faith or The System of Islam have been banned.

In fact, the delays with updates and the poor quality of the list have led to at least one criminal prosecution for dissemination of extremist materials. Publisher Aslambek Ezhayev claims that a criminal investigation was opened against him on 16 May 2008 in Moscow for publishing one of the :Buguruslan books; in 2007 - namely, The Personality of a Muslim: the true Islamic personality as defined in the Qurran and Sunnah. Firstly, it had been impossible to identify the banned book before the official publication of the ruling, and secondly, it was added to the federal list on 29 December 2007, whereas prior to that date even experts had been unaware of the judgment. In this context, how would a publisher know that a book - this particular book - has been banned? Nevertheless, a criminal case is pending under Article 282 (1) of the Criminal Code.

APPENDIXES. Crime and Punishment Statistics (ZIP (Word))


[1] As usual, we do not include the victims of massive fights and :acquisitive; crimes where the investigators failed to find a motive of hatred. Having said that, we find violent robbery to be a common neo-Nazi practice used to disguise the racist motive behind the attack. See details below.

[2] Specifically, at least one of the news reports about the reclusive Penza sect members featured local residents' suggestions :to poison them with gas, like in the Nord-Ost.; See an overview of mass media coverage of the situation with the Penza recluses in: G. Kozhevnikova. Hate speech and elections: the federal and regional levels. Based on the autumn-2007 monitoring // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2008. 1 June (/hate-speech/publications/2008/06/d13465/).

[3] Except for publication of :street antifa's; personal data, it was is the second known to us case since 2006 - then a neo-Nazi website published a similar list with personal details of a few Russian human rights defenders (including Sergey Kovalyov and Svetlana Gannushkina). The threats were never investigated.

[4] It looks as follows: an image of a :non-Slav; appears on a black background; he asks :the Russian people; for forgiveness. Then the image dims out and disappears, and a gunshot is heard.

[5] See G. Kozhevnikova. Winter 2007-2008: An epidemic of murders against the backdrop of elections // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2008. 23 March (/en/xenophobia/reports-analyses/2008/03/d12920/#r2_3).

[6] ESM claimed that they had been joined by the Young Russia, the Union of Orthodox Gonfalon Carriers, and :a number of nationalist and monarchist organizations,; including the Russian All-National Union and the Russian Imperial Movement (a dwarfish ultra-right group which openly uses a slightly modified four-wing swastika as its symbol).

[7] While no documented evidence exists to support the :nationalist locals; theory, the racist motives of the Moscow Spartak fans are clear from the videos of the game. See details: in Fans' fighting in Prielbrusye: racism or :hooliganism;? // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2008. 30 April (/racism-xenophobia/news/racism-nationalism/2008/04/d13227/).

[8] Of course, winning even four seats in a local legislature can be celebrated as success in the current situation. But their poor performance in the Moscow municipal elections in spite of all efforts, plus the failure of the People's Union in Yaroslavl and particularly the loss of a powerful lobby in the State Duma (possibly combined with some frustrated informal agreements) were indeed likely to cause a drop in morale.

[9] It is possible though that facing a criminal conviction, D. Rumyantsev had faked a split to save NSO from the risk of sanctions by association.

[10] For example, by some reports, on the eve of May 9 city authorities in Chelyabinsk displayed banners in the streets wishing the veterans a happy Victory Day; the banners featured a WWII photo of a Wehrmacht soldier riding a captured Soviet T-34 tank.

[11] According to the bank's spokesperson, such posters had been displayed in some other cities of Sverdlovsk Oblast and maybe in Chelyabinsk as part of their promotional campaign.

[12] Unfortunately, we have not been able to find any direct comments of the bank's representatives concerning the poster and the related scandal. See available references to reported comments in: SCANDAL! Numbers 14.88 in a bank's ad discussed on the web // JustMedia. 2008. 7 May (; A bank in Yekaterinburg accused of neo-Nazism // Marketing Media, 2008. 12 May (

[13] The bank's press release of 9 April 2008 Dragotsennosti Urala Bank's official website. 2008. 2nd Quarter (

[14] In this report, we are not describing the problem of racist fans faced by Zenit club and the Russian football authorities after the team's success in the UEFA Cup. We hope, however, that the RFU will intensify their efforts to counteract racism.

[15] Since we know about the proposals only from media reports and while relevant materials available to us are clearly very remote from a would-be bill, we prefer to withhold our comments on these ideas of the Prosecutor General's office.

[16] Decree No 724 Matters of the System and Structure of the Federal Executive Authorities // The Russian President's Official Website. 2008. May (

[17] At least two of the perpetrators did not have the hate motive recognized in their sentences, even though the court found the gang murder they were charged with to be a racist crime.

[18] Since the beginning of 2008, at least 12 convictions were passed against 32 people for this type of crimes.

[19] Charges against the perpetrators in the Cherkizovo blast case relied on a number of Criminal Code articles: art. 205, p. 3; art. 210, p. 2; art. 222, p. 3; art. 223, p. 3; art. 105, p. 2, subpar. a, f, g, k; art. 30, p. 3 of the Criminal Code. S. Klimuk - two episodes; D. Fedoseyenkov - two episodes; N. Kachalov - one episode (except the market blast attack); N. Senuykov - one episode; N. Korolyov - 9 episodes; O. Kostaryov - 6 episodes; V. Zhukovtsov - 5 episodes; and I. Tikhomirov - 7 episodes.

[20] It remains unclear why the law enforcement agencies had never before relied on the hate motive as an aggravating circumstance in the qualification of this type of crimes (art. 63 of the Criminal Code); we suspect that they had simply forgotten about it.

[21] All defendants sentenced to prison terms had been convicted and sentenced to probation before, i.e. everyone who could legally get away without a real punishment was released on probation.

[22] From a public warning through mass media stating that such speculations incited interethnic tensions in the region and therefore their authors might face criminal liability under art. 282 - which eventually happened - to public explanations why the hate motive had been left out of the charges.

[23] They faced charges under 9 articles of the Criminal Code - art. 282.2 (running an extremist organization or participating in it), art. 282.1 (organizing an extremist community), art. 282 (incitement to ethnic hatred), art. 280 (public appeals to extremist activity), art. 163 (extortion), art. 223 (illegal manufacture of weapons), art. 222 (illegal purchase of weapons), art. 213 (:hooliganism;), and art. 150 (involvement of minors in crimes).

[24] We are not aware of the previous job of one person (Yevgeny Nazarov) barred from his professional occupation; as to the group leader Yekaterina Melnikova, she had been employed by a local youth club and thus directly involved in youth education. Alexander Pavlov was barred from working for mass media.

[25] [Statement by the Prosecutor's Office of Samara Oblast] //Official website of the Samara Oblast Prosecutor's Office. 2008.13 March (

[26] See details of the cases under art. 136 of the Criminal Code tried between 1997 and 2000 in V. B. Ailamazyan, A. G. Ossipov, R.V. Sapozhnikov, Legal mechanisms against discrimination and incitement to ethnic hostility in Russia // (

[27] The dates correspond to the official publication of the updates in Rossiiskaya Gazeta. We should note, however, that the paper published the updates 2 to 3 weeks after the publication of the updated list on the FRS official website.

[28] In some instances, more than one material was listed under the same item. Conversely, one material was added to the list twice, under items 93 and 122 - Proclamation on the Progress of Actions - banned by Magnitogorsky (Chelyabinsk Oblast) and Tuimazinsky (Bashkortostan) courts, respectively.

[29] By the time the material was banned as extremist, its author Vtulkin had already served his sentence for posting it (to remind, he had been found guilty under art. 282 and sentenced in 2006 to eighteen months of settlement colony).

[30] On 1 July 2008, the Supreme Court quashed the ruling.

[31] State Duma member V. G. Solovyev: Police attacks against the CPRF and G. A. Zyuganov! // CPRF official website. 2008. 13 February (

[32] If we have correctly identified the article, it is an abridged version of a pamphlet written in mid-90ies in a typical :patriotic communist,; explicitly anti-Semitic style.

[33] The first list of warnings issued by Rossvyazokhrankultura in 2008 was published in March, and it is unclear whether the warnings issued in March had been included.

[34] So since the start of the proceedings the paper has been warned (and quite appropriately) four times more, and the recent warnings have not been challenged in court. Specifically, one of the recent warnings followed an explicit violation of the Law on Combating Extremist Activity by publishing one of Hitler's speeches.

[35] For example, they may include prosecutorial warnings issued to finance institutions for poor tracing of their :suspicious; customers from the secret :extremist; list maintained by Rosfinmonitoring or warnings about poor performance of school security, etc. On the other hand, the reports may include warnings for real extremist activity. But it is impossible to make sense of their bundled statistics.

[36] The new expert findings were made available in June and they were no better than the previous ones. On 7 July, Savva Terentyev was sentenced to 1 year of parole, plus one years of probation. The case will be appealed to the court of cassation.

[37] To remind, S. Baiburin, imam of a mosque in Ufa, was arrested in Ufa in May 2007, at first on charges of possession of explosives and drug dealing (both explosives and drugs had clearly been planted in his car shortly before the arrest). Eventually, the original charges were replaced by charges under art. 280. The investigation and the trial were carried out with numerous procedural violations and ended in May 2008 in a guilty verdict. See details in: Religion in a Secular Society // SOVA Center (/religion/).

[38] On 19 June 2008, Sergey Shmonin, a participant of the mock combat, was fined 900 rubles for the display of Nazi symbols.

[39] See details in: Alexander Verkhovsky. Anti-Extremist Legislation and Its Unwarranted Enforcement // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2008. 5 July (/en/xenophobia/reports-analyses/2008/07/d13739/); G. Kozhevnikova. Hate speech and elections: the federal and regional levels; based on the autumn-2007 monitoring // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2008. 1 June (/hate-speech/publications/2008/06/d13465/).

[40] Not only had they been expelled from the party, but NBP stated publicly on a number of occasions that the party did not share the opinions expressed in the texts they had been convicted for.

[41] See details in: State Duma members seek to toughen punishment for extremism // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2007. 16 May (/racism-xenophobia/news/counteraction/2007/05/d10864/).

[42] Then the proceedings have hit a legal snag: the organization has split, and the current leadership has nothing to do with the statement in question, while the authors of the statement no longer can act on behalf of the organization.

[43] This is what happened a few years ago to a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir who was charged with a criminal offense and sentenced, even though the only charge against him was his membership in the organization.

[44] We learned about it in May 2008 from the Supreme Court documents.

[45] The Ingush people should maintain order in the Republic themselves // Vremya Novostei. 2008. 11 February. The text is still accessible from the paper's website (

[46] There had been no libel suit in this case.

[47] See details on these events in Ingushetia in: :As If They Fell From the Sky; Counterinsurgency, Rights Violations, and Rampant Impunity in Ingushetia. Human Rights Watch, 2008. June. P. 87-103.

[48] See details on the lawyer Rustem Valiullin's website: Judicial proceedings to find the website extremist // Za pravovoye gosudarstvo. Undated (

[49] The author of the article is an Azeri and he spells Nowrus with an :o; according to his linguistic tradition. The authors of this report spell this word according to the Russian tradition.

[50] There had been no libel suit in this case.

[51] Found extremist by the Gorodischensky District Court, Penza Oblast, on 21 February 2008.

[52] The original text of the Buguruslan Court judgment was finally published in the summer of 2008, and it did contain the necessary details of the banned materials. See: The judgment of Buguruslan Court, Orenburg Oblast, on finding 17 books and booklets extremist // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2008. 16 June (/racism-xenophobia/docs/2008/06/d13573/).