In the Absence of the Familiar Article. The State Against the Incitement of Hatred and the Political Participation of Nationalists in Russia in 2019

Настоящий материал (информация) произведен и (или) распространен иностранным агентом РОО Центр «Сова» либо касается деятельности иностранного агента РОО Центр «Сова».

Criminal Prosecution : For Public Statements : For Participation in Extremist Communities and Banned Organizations
Federal List of Extremist Materials
The Banning of Organizations as Extremist
Other Administrative Measures : Prosecution for Administrative Offences : The Blocking of Online Resources and Internet Censorship
Crime and punishment statistics


Since the beginning of 2018, for the first time in the present decade, there has been a decrease in the scale of criminal prosecution for public statements [1]. In 2019, the partial decriminalization of the so familiar to law enforcers Article 282 of the Criminal Code has literally crashed the number of convictions for public statements, reducing it at least by half.

Article 280 (public incitement to extremism) has become the rightful heir of the former favorite Article 282, sending up the number of those convicted under it. The number of those convicted of incitement to terrorism has also increased. Both articles are within the scope of responsibility of the FSB. In general, we have observed that the FSB’s interference in criminal investigations has been increasing for three years in a row. Most of the sentences on criminal charges for public statements did not involve imprisonment. However, we are aware of several individuals sentenced to prison “for words only”, and their share is growing.

Although the new article on incitement of hatred, recently introduced into the Code of Administrative Offences (CAO), is being applied with increasing frequency, its scale of application is still far from that of Article 282 of the Criminal Code, and the number of criminal and administrative court rulings containing the phrase “incitement of hatred” generally decreased in 2019.

At the same time, the overall dramatic increase in administrative punishments under anti-extremism articles of the CAO invokes suspicion that automatic search mechanisms may have been introduced. While penalties for administrative cases are generally softer than for criminal offences, their number and the wide opportunities for prosecution materials manipulation are troubling. The confiscation of computers and other “instruments of crime” of high value constitutes a significant addition to small fines.

While the expansion of the Federal List of Extremist Materials slowed down in 2019, the lists of blocked websites are reaching a monstrous scale. Particularly impressive are the practice and scale of extra-judicial blocking, nontransparent in terms of both the procedure and results and therefore making any sort of open public discussion of this topic impossible.

Thus, despite the partial decriminalization of Article 282 of the Criminal Code, the trends in anti-extremism law enforcement in the past year remain a cause for concern. The number of those convicted of public statements remains excessively high, and the scale and sometimes the mere fact of punishment is often disproportionate to the public danger of the crime. Even more problematic is prosecution for participation in extremist and terrorist groups and organizations. Anti-extremism law enforcement is becoming, on the whole, more opaque, which heightens the risk of arbitrary actions and abuse.

Criminal Prosecution


Chart 1. Convicted of crimes of extremist nature[2]


For Public Statements

According to our data, incomplete as it may be, the number of convictions for “extremist statements” (incitement to hatred, incitement to extremism or terrorism, etc.) decreased by one-half compared with 2018. SOVA Center has information about 98 convictions against 103 individuals in 47 regions of the country[3]. In 2018, we had information about 206 such convictions against 218 people in 65 regions. These numbers and the chart above do not include the convictions that we find inappropriate, but their numbers are falling: in 2019, we found 5 convictions against 5 individuals inappropriate[4] (these convictions are not included in this report).

We record instances of release from criminal liability with payment of court fines. This alternative was introduced in Russian law (Article 762 of the Criminal Code) in 2016. We have no information about any instances of this alternative being applied in anti-extremism law enforcement in 2019, although in 2018 we had information about 11 such releases from liability in cases concerning “extremist statements”.

For the second year, we are using a more detailed approach to conviction classification. Whereas prior to 2018, we divided convictions for statements into “inappropriate” and “all other”, in the past two years we have been using a more detailed classification.

Chart 2. Appropriateness of convictions for statements in 2019



We deem appropriate those convictions where we have seen the texts, are familiar with the contents of the statements, and believe that the courts have passed convictions in accordance with the law. We have information about 12 lawful convictions against 16 individuals.

In our assessment of appropriateness and lawfulness, we apply the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, developed by the UN[5]. The Rabat Plan of Action contains a six-part test to assist courts in making decisions on incitement cases; it recommends that courts take into consideration not only the content of the expression but also its context, extent of publicity, social status of the speaker, intent of the speaker to incite hatred, and likelihood of causing harm. This test is supported almost in its entirety by the Russian Supreme Court.

An example of an appropriate conviction is the court decision issued in Vladivostok in the case of Anna Skripko, a paramilitary security guard at a Pacific Fleet facility of the Russian Navy. She published a video titled “Colonel Kvachkov’s Comments on the Situation of Russian Nationalists in Prisons” on her page in VKontakte social network and distributed this video personally and via messengers “among civilian personnel of the paramilitary guard”. Skripko received a suspended sentence of two years of imprisonment with deprivation of the right to engage in activities related to public organizations under Article 280 Part 2 of the Criminal Code. The sentence took into account the content of the statement (the ex-colonel Kvachkov’s republished speech contains explicit calls for armed violence), Skripko’s audience was wide enough, and, given that the propaganda was disseminated among armed personnel, among whom colonel Kvachkov and his supporters enjoy a certain degree of popularity, these calls presented considerable public danger.

In the vast majority of cases – marked as “Unknown” (67 convictions against 68 people) – we are not familiar with the exact content of the materials and therefore cannot assess the appropriateness of the court decisions. Sometimes we can assume, with a high degree of probability or relying on indirect evidence, that these sentences are most likely appropriate, for example, if the person was charged for similar publications before or is widely known in ultra-right circles. But since we do not have access to the texts of the publications, we cannot accurately assess the appropriateness of the sentences: the bias and incompetence of law enforcement agencies are not at all uncommon, and prosecution of well-known ultra-right personalities for publications not worthy of criminal charges is not rare.

Convictions that we find difficult to assess fall under the category of “Uncertain” (five convictions against five people); for example, we find one of the charges appropriate but not the other.

Our statistics in the “Other” category (15 convictions against 15 people) included individuals who called for attacks on government officials and those who were convicted under extremism articles of the Criminal Code more appropriately than not but whose prosecution cannot be classified as counteraction to nationalism and xenophobia.

Speaking about the overall statistics, our information about convictions is, regretfully, far from complete. According to the data posted on the Supreme Court website[6], just in the first half of 2019, Articles 282, 280, 2801, 2052, 3541, and Article 148, Parts 1 and 2, of the Criminal Code were the main charges against 115 people convicted of extremist statements[7]. This is lower than the 230 reported by the Supreme Court in 2018[8].


The first half of 2019 was marked by the annulment of sentences and reviewing of cases as a result of the partial decriminalization of Article 282 of the Criminal Code[9]. We have information about ten convictions (in addition to the eight deemed inappropriate) that were annulled due to the decriminalization[10], including the conviction against former leader of the Black Bloc ultra-right movement Vladimir Ratnikov, who was found guilty of publishing neo-Nazi songs in the social network VKontakte and sentenced to 160 hours of mandatory labor in March 2018. At least 15 other cases (two of them partially and five entirely unlawful) were dismissed at the preliminary investigation stage[11], including the case of Alexey Kasyan, a researcher of the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who was charged with incitement to national and religious hatred for three xenophobic posts in LiveJournal. 17 cases were discontinued by the courts[12] “due to the absence of the elements of crime”, including criminal proceedings against the leader of Guerillas’ Guerrilla Truth Alexey Menyailov and his wife Slatana Menyailova, who were charged with creating and publishing videos against women[13].

As a result of the decriminalization of Article 282, the terms for those who were serving sentences for multiple offences have been reduced. Some convicts were released early, in 2019. Some of the most famous of these were editor-in-chief of the Radical Politics periodical Boris Stomakhin and the former leaders of banned organizations Dmitrii (Shults) Bobrov of the National-Socialist Initiative (NSI), Dmitry Demushkin of The Russians and The Slavic Union movements, and Vladimir Kvachkov of People's Militia Named After Minin and Pozharsky (Narodnoe opolcheniie imeni Minina i Pozharskogo, NOMP).


Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls for extremist activity) partially replaced Article 282 of the Criminal Code and was applied in the vast majority of the verdicts known to us[14], that is, in 68 verdicts against 69 people. In 61 of these convictions, this was the only charge.

Article 282 was applied in four convictions known to us, namely, paragraphs (а) and (c) of Article 282 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (incitement of hatred or enmity with the use of violence or with the threat of such or by an organised group).

We have information about one conviction under the updated Article 282 Part 1 of the Criminal Code: a resident of Vladikavkaz, the Republic of North Ossetia, who had previously been fined under Article 20.3.1 of the CAO (incitement of hatred) for publishing materials targeting the Ukrainians and later had again published posts aimed at the natives of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Roma, and other ethnic groups in social networks, received a three year suspended sentence.

We have information about one conviction under Article 2801 of the Criminal Code (public calls for actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation). In the town of Sibai, the Republic of Bashkortostan, a 55-year-old local resident received a 1.5 year suspended sentence for publishing a post calling on residents of Bashkiria, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, Mordovia, Mari El, and Chuvashia to secede from the Russian Federation. He did not rule out the use of force to achieve that goal and called for a war against “Moskals” (an ethnic slur for Russians).


We consider convictions under Article 2052 of the Criminal Code (public calls to carry out terrorist activities) separately. According to the Supreme Court data, in the first half of 2019, it was the main article in 45 convictions; in 11 convictions, it was applied along with other articles[15]. SOVA Center is aware of 30 sentences handed down to 31 people (this is about one-third of the total number of those convicted under it). In 15 cases, this was the only article applied in the conviction. In six other cases, it was applied in combination with Article 280.

Article 2052 of the Criminal Code must be mentioned separately because, in the vast majority of the verdicts know to us, it was applied in convictions for radical Islamic propaganda and calls to go to Syria and join ISIS. Two guilty verdicts were issued against the anarchists who called for overthrow of the government and justified the actions of a young comrade who set off a bomb inside a Federal Security Service’s office, killing himself in the blast. In another case, Arkady Markov, municipal deputy of the town of Ostrov in the Pskov region and a “citizen of the USSR”[16], was punished for publishing an excerpt from the Russian TV series Igra. Revanche (“Game. Revenge”) on his VKontakte page and on the website titled Platform for Social Journalism. In the excerpt, the main character kills an FSB colonel, accusing him of violating the military oath of the USSR. In his comments, Markov suggested his readers take a page from that book and insisted that “the protection of the socialist Fatherland is a sacred duty of every citizen of the USSR”. At least five of those punished for incitement to terrorism were sentenced while already imprisoned.

In some instances, this article was applied in combination with other criminal articles, including murder, making explosives, involving a minor in terrorism, etc.

Chart 3. Sentences for statements in 2019



Those who were convicted of public statements received the following sentences:

  • 50 people were sentenced to imprisonment;
  • 46 received suspended sentences without any additional measures;
  • 4 were sentenced to various fines;
  • 1 sentenced to mandatory labor;
  • 1 referred to mandatory treatment.

The number of those sentenced to imprisonment was slightly higher than in the previous year (in 2018, we reported 49 prison sentences).

Some received prison terms in conjunction with charges other than statements (robbery, violence, arson, or drug possession) or based on outstanding sentences. Five individuals were charged with repeat offence, which always significantly heightens the risk of prison time. Five others were already serving prison time, and their terms were increased. Penalties under Article 2052 of the Criminal Code were predictably harsher since it deals with terrorism[17].

Seven individuals, however, received prison terms in the absence of any of the above-mentioned circumstances (or, perhaps, in some cases, we just do not know about them). Only one publication that was the subject of criminal investigation is available for our assessment. Blogger Vladislav Sinitsa’s tweet became widely known and drew the attention of the public. Asked by a Twitter user why reveal identity of law enforcement and special forces officers, Sinitsa warned “courageous law enforcement officers'' that one day, “instead of their child <…> they will receive a package with a CD with snuff video in the mail” from the townsfolk angered by the tough crackdown on protests. The court has deemed this comment an incitement to social hatred with the threat of the use of violence; on September 3rd, Sinitsa was sentenced under Article 282 Part 2 to five years in penal colony[18]. While the tweet is undoubtedly aggressive, we find the sentence far too harsh.

As for the materials published by other offenders, we are not familiar with their contents; the only source available to us is general statements in the press releases of the Prosecutor's offices and investigative committees ("calls for extremist activity against representatives of the regions of Caucasus and Central Asia"). We can only assume that neither were the majority of the convicted widely known public figures nor did they conduct mass propaganda, and thus the imprisonment was, in some cases, an unjustifiably harsh and cruel punishment.

In comparison with the previous year, the absolute values seem to have improved: in 2018, 12 such convictions were reported, 7 in 2017, and 5 in 2016; this number was highest in 2015 (16 convicts); just two convictions were reported in each of the years 2013 and 2014[19]. However, if we were to look at the share of prison sentences “for words only” (without any of the above-mentioned “aggravating circumstances”) to the total number of those convicted of statements in these years (leaving out the obviously unlawful sentences), we would see a different picture and 2019 would actually set an anti-record in terms of our statistics: in 2019, the share of such convictions was 6.8% of the total, 5.5% in 2018, 2.8% in 2017, 2% in 2016, 6.5% in 2015, and slightly higher than 1% in years 2013 and 2014.

Chart 4. Dynamic of prison sentences “for words only”: absolute values and percentages



In 2019, the proportion of suspended sentences (44%, or 46 out of 103) was a bit lower compared with 48.6% (93 out of 192) in 2018. The share of the convicts whose sentences did not involve prison time (actual or suspended), i.e. those sentenced to fines or mandatory labor, has also been continuously declining for four years.

In terms of additional punishments, in 2019 we have information about the following bans: on holding leadership positions (2 cases), holding positions in state and local governments (3), participation in the activities of public organizations (4), engaging in public activism (2). Some additional penalties were related to the Internet, such as bans on posting materials in public telecommunications networks, including the Internet (3), bans on administering Internet websites (15), and bans on Internet use (8). The last measure seems clearly excessive as it is difficult to imagine modern everyday life without Internet use. Besides, it is not clear how implementation of this ban could be verified.


As usual, the vast majority of sentences – 85 out of 98, or 86%, in 2019 (94% in 2018) – were handed down for the materials posted on the Internet. Thus, the overall decrease in the number of sentences did not impact offline statements.


These materials were posted on:

  • social networks – 64 (41 on VKontakte; 2 on Twitter; 1 on Instagram; 2 on Odnoklassniki; 19 on unidentified social networks[20]);
  • messengers – 3 (1 of them on Telegram);
  • video channels (probably YouTube) – 1;
  • online news media – 2 (comments on articles in online media);
  • unspecified online resources – 14.


The types of content are as follows (different types of content may have been posted in the same account or even on the same page):

  • video – 28;
  • images (drawings) – 12;
  • photographs – 5;
  • audio (songs) – 9;
  • texts – 22;
  • comments (on social networks and forums) – 8;
  • administration of ultra-right online communities – 2;
  • unspecified – 15.


Both breakdowns have remained virtually the same in the past eight years[21]. We have repeatedly expressed our views on the quality of the law enforcement (see previous annual reports on this topic).


The number of convictions for offline statements (13) turned out to be slightly higher than the 11 recorded in the previous year. They were distributed as follows:

  • shouts during attack – 3;
  • shouts during football match – 1;
  • graffiti – 3;
  • distribution by mail – 1[22];
  • convicted of engaging in propaganda in prison – 5.


We have doubts about the lawfulness of only those sentences for terrorist propaganda given to those who are already in prison where we are not familiar with the actual content of the charges (it is easier to fabricate evidence in a colony or prison[23]). There are certainly quite a lot of individuals prone to violence among prison population; therefore, any promotion of hatred in prison is undoubtedly dangerous. However, it is not clear whether the key parameter in the articles of law applicable to statements – the audience size – has been taken into account; in most cases, the audience size is not reported. In some instances, the audience was definitely extremely small: propaganda was conducted in a prison cell where only a few inmates were held[24].

In 2019, for the first time in several years, we encountered criminal prosecution for mailing a letter. At the end of February 2019, Andery Zlokazov, a supporter of the Union of Slavic Forces of Rus (for more details, see Chapter “The Banning of Organizations as Extremist” of this report) and “Governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast of the RSFSR”, sent an “order” to the leadership of the military units of the Ministry of Defence and the National Guard (Rosgvardiya) containing “calls for revolution” from “Commander of the Armed Forces of Sverdlovsk Oblast”. This letter raised serious doubts about the mental capacity of “the citizen of the USSR”, and he was sent to mandatory treatment. We do not doubt the appropriateness of the sentences for shouts during attacks or football matches. However, we do call into question the need for the criminal prosecution for one-time graffiti on buildings.

For Participation in Extremist Communities and Banned Organizations

In 2019, we have information about six individuals convicted under Article 2821 of the Criminal Code (organising an extremist community) and three – under Article 2822 (organizing the activity of an extremist community); these numbers do not include inappropriate convictions, whose number has increased significantly compared with the previous year. 12 verdicts against 40 people have been deemed inappropriate[25], whereas in 2018, we reported 6 verdicts against 14 people under Articles 2821 and 2822.


In 2019, in all the sentences known to us, Article 2821 was applied to the founders and members of ultra-right groups and nationalist organizations.

In Perm, members of the PNZS group (Perm Nazi Squad)[26]received two sentences for graffiti on the building of the Prosecutor's office of the Perm region and for setting fire to the building which housed the United Russia party office (by mistake, the perpetrators set fire to the State Institute for the Development of Education of the Perm region, located in the same building). Based on the combined effect of Articles 2821 and 167 of the Criminal Code, they were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.

In the Far East, the founder and a member of the Stolz group have both been found guilty[27]. Two of the group members received extended sentences based on the combined effect of Article 2821 and a whole range of other articles, including Article 105 of the Criminal Code (murder)[28].

In Moscow, political consultant and Moscow City Duma nominee from the Communist Party Petr Miloserdov was sentenced to 2.5 years in penal colony under Article 2821 of the Criminal Code. He was charged with membership in a Kazakhstan extremist community founded by Alexander Belov, the former leader of two banned ultra-right organizations, Movement Against Illegal Immigration and The Russians[29]. The criminal case on the creation of this community involved, among other things, a meeting with the representatives of the local Cossacks, a workshop held at a sanatorium on Kirgiz Issyk-Kul Lake, and preparations for a “Russian March” to be held in Kazakhstan; however, Miloserdov’s role in all this remains unclear.

The infamous New Greatness trial[30], whose origins can be traced, to some extent, to the nationalists in the opposition, has lasted all year with no verdict reached yet. This case must be mentioned for two reasons: not only is it remarkable due to the infiltration of the group by several provocateurs at once, but the fact that none of the group members, as far as can be judged presently, have been charged with any “crimes of an extremist nature”, calls into questions the application of Article 2821 of the Criminal Code.


Just as a year earlier, supporters of Ukrainian organizations were charged with Article 2822. A Stavropol court has sentenced two alleged activists of the banned ultra-right organization Misanthropic Division[31] to prison; they have also been found guilty of planning assassinations of law enforcement officers. A Samara court has sentenced a football fan for two years and one month in penal colony for calls (both personal and posted in VKontakte) to join him and go to Ukraine to fight for the Right Sector movement, banned in Russia[32]. He has previously been charged under Articles 213 (hooliganism) and 116 of the Criminal Code (battery).


Some nationalist organizations have been previously banned as terrorist organizations; in 2019, however, we are not aware of any instances of the application of Article 2055 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of a terrorist group) against the militant ultra-right. Similarly, we are not familiar with any cases against them under Article 2054 (participation in the activities of a terrorist community), whilst sentences based on this Article were in fact issued in 2019 (9 convicted in the first six months).

On the whole, however, according to the Supreme Court data, in the first half of 2019 alone, articles related to participation in extremist or terrorist communities and continuation of activities of the organizations that have been banned as extremist or terrorist (Articles 2821, 2822, 2054, 2055) were used in verdicts against 100 persons. And since the total figure obtained by adding the data from this report and those on the inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremism legislation[33] is much lower, we cannot exclude the possibility of the presence of radical nationalists among those convicted under these articles, probably under Article 2822 in the first place.

Federal List of Extremist Materials

In 2019, the Federal List of Extremist Materials was expanding much slower than in 2018: it was updated 26 times (compared with 38 times in 2018) with 193 new entries (466 in 2018), and the total entries grew from 4811 to 5004[34].

Thus, though the expansion of the Federal List has slowed down in 2019, working with it is impossible due to its sheer size.


New entries added to the list in 2019 fall into the following categories:

  • xenophobic materials of contemporary Russian nationalists – 120;
  • materials of other nationalists – 7;
  • materials of Islamic militants and other calls for violence by political Islamists – 16;
  • other Islamic materials – 3;
  • other peaceful worshippers – 1;
  • other materials from Ukrainian media and Internet – 4;
  • anti-government materials inciting to riots and violence (including pieces by Boris Stomakhin) – 6;
  • materials citing works by classical fascist and neo-fascist authors – 8;
  • homophobic materials – 9;
  • banned parody – 1;
  • peaceful opposition websites – 2;
  • radical anti-Christian websites – 1;
  • materials created, in our opinion, in an altered state of consciousness – 4;
  • unidentified materials – 11.

At least 157 entries out of 193 refer to online content (in 2018, it was 402 out of 466). They include various kinds of video and audio clips and images, mostly from social networks. Offline sources include newspapers and books by nationalists, classics of Fascism, and Muslim authors.

However, often the description of the materials makes their sources indeterminable. For example, entry 4896 is described as “Information material, a combination of words “Warning! Tolerance carriers” and a drawing of two running half-men and half-animals whose animal backsides are marked with the Star of David; one of them is holding a briefcase, the other is wearing a small hat”. A very detailed description indeed, which cannot be said of the next entry: a video clip (entry 4897) is described merely as “Kings of Islam”, and a search for this title on Youtube returns a large number of results and a whole range of videos of different content.

We have been enumerating the shortcomings of the Federal List from one report to the next; they remain the same[35]. In addition to poor descriptions, abundant with typos and mistakes, new entries refer to the materials that have already been listed, albeit with different output data or online sources. 2019 was no exception. An audio clip titled “Calvados – Jewish Freedom”, deemed extremist on 28 February 2019 by the Tsentralny district court of Khabarovsk and added as entry 4886, duplicates entry 4822 for the same audio file, deemed extremist on 21 November 2018 by the Leninsky district court of Perm. As for several editions of the book by L. Maslov titled Revelations for the People of the New Century. Interpretations of Revelations (entries 4875–4882) have already been deemed extremist by the Taganrog court on 22 August 2014 (entry 2832).

By the end of 2019, there was a total of 246 such duplicate entries in the list.

And as before, the classification of materials as extremist is obviously inappropriate. At least five such instances were recorded in 2019.

The Banning of Organizations as Extremist

In 2019, four organizations were added to the Federal List of Extremist Organizations published on the website of the Ministry of Justice (compared with 7 in 2018). They are all very different.

1. FC Kamaz Fans Association Autograd Crew (a.k.a. Kamaz Ultras, Blue White Crew)[36]. The association was formed in Naberezhnye Chelny in 2008 and had between 15 and 20 active participants and approximately 200 ultra-right supporters; some of the members have convictions for administrative and criminal offences.

2. Public association Heading for Truth and Unity (Russian nationwide movement “Kursom Pravdy I Edineniya”, All-Russian political party “Kursom Pravdy I Edineniya”, political party “Kursom Pravdy I Edineniya”)[37]. KPE unites the followers of the leader of Conceptual party Yedinenie (“Unity”) General Konstantin Petrov, whose party was founded upon the para-religious Concept of Public Security “Dead Water”, which has a rather radical nationalist component[38]. (Interestingly, the list provides a detailed description of the organization’s flag and emblem. Detailed description of symbols have only been given once before, for the Volya party.)

3. Public association Union of Slavic Forces of Rus (a.k.a. “The Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics”, “SSSR”)[39]. This exotic organization, created by Sergei Taraskin, a dentist, is based on a phantasmagoric ideology, a mix of references to the Bible (with quite a peculiar interpretation) and a discourse on space, the Universe, etc. SSSR employs anti-semitic rhetoric and promotes an idea of international Jewish conspiracy that is allegedly leading humanity to ruin by various means, including manufacturing of genetically modified foods and wireless and mobile communications radiation. Several SSSR activists have been prosecuted for administrative and criminal offences (see section “For Public Statements” above).

4. Pagan religious association Karakol Initiative Group (a.k.a. “Ak-Dyan”, “JАNY ALTAI”-MOVEMENT”, “Ak Jan”, “Altai Ak Jan”, “White Faith”, “Altai Dyan Ak Dyan”, “Altai Faith White Faith”)[40]. According to the Prosecutor's office, the goal of the movement’s followers is to “convert all the Altaians to their faith, eliminate all Buddhist organizations, reduce the number of Orthodox churches, chapels, and roadside crosses, and, as an ultimate ideal, to completely cleanse of them the Altai Republic”.

Thus, as of 1 February 2020, the list includes 74 organizations[41] whose activity is banned by court order and continuation of activity is punishable by Article 2822 of the Criminal Code (organization of activities of an extremist organization).


Furthermore, the list of terrorist organizations published on the website of the FSB was updated in 2019 with two organizations – Set’ (“Network”) (entry 30)[42] and Katiba Tawhid wal-Jihad[43] (entry 31) (in the previous year, similarly, two organizations were added).

Other Administrative Measures

Prosecution for Administrative Offences


Chart 5. Convicted of statements under criminal and administrative articles. Data of the Supreme Court.



The number of those convicted under administrative “extremism” articles increased in 2019. This is clearly evident from both our incomplete data and those of the Supreme Court for the first half of the year. The data provided below do not include the decisions we deem obviously inappropriate[44].


With the adoption of amendments[45] that introduced the mechanism of administrative prejudice to Article 282, Part 1, of the Criminal Code in 2018, a new Article 20.3.1 (incitement to racial hatred) has been added to the Code of Administrative Offences, identical in content with Article 282, Part 1, of the Criminal Code. And on 24 January in Saratov, the first verdict was issued based on this article: the Kirov district court sentenced a local resident to five days of administrative arrest for xenophobic publications in VKontakte social network.

In 2019, we have information about a total of 125 persons charged under this article. According to the data of the Supreme Court, in the first half of 2019 alone, 158 persons were convicted[46].

If we add the numbers of criminal sentences and administrative decisions concerning the incitement of hatred, based on both our data and those of the Supreme Court for the period in question, the figure suggests that the levels of prosecutions citing “incitement of hatred” have decreased. This decline has been observed since 2018.

According to our data, the majority were punished for xenophobic publications of various kinds on social networks (including VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, and Twitter) calling for attacks on and deportations of Roma, the natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Jews, “non-Slavs” in general, “residents of the Altai Republic”, Russians, and some other groups. Among those punished for racist publications was a CSKA fan Andrey Malosolov, who posted a tweet calling the former Spartak player, Portuguese Luiz Adriano, an ape. Several were fined for publications inciting religious hatred, including slogans calling for violence against the clergy and believers and telling them to “get out”. Several others were punished for homophobic posts, and one person in Nizhny Novgorod was arrested for seven days for misogynistic posts in the Anti-Feminist Left Front group in VKontakte.

As usual, the number of those prosecuted for offline offences was many times lower than online. One person was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest for verbal xenophobic insults. Two were fined for posting flyers on buildings, and a bakery owner was fined for posting a sign saying “Faggots Not Allowed” by his bakery entrance.

Most of the prosecuted were fined, six were sentenced to mandatory labor, and 14 to administrative arrests. Among them was a popular blogger and columnist Alexey Kungurov from Tyumen, who was arrested for publishing a post titled “Is It Acceptable to Call Russian People Shit?“ in his LiveJournal blog.


We have information about 153 individuals prosecuted under Article 20.3 of the CAO (propaganda or public display of fascist paraphernalia or symbols, or paraphernalia or symbols of extremist organizations, or other symbols whose propaganda or public display are banned by federal law) in 2019, three of whom were minors. (In 2018, we reported 133 sentenced under this article.)

But according to the Supreme Court statistics, in the first half of 2019, Article 20.3 of the CAO was used to impose sanctions in 1388 cases (5 against legal entities, 1 against an official, 3 against entrepreneurs without legal entities, 1379 against other physical persons). If we recall that during the entire 2018, sanctions under this article were imposed 1652 times[47] and assume that the second half of the year did not differ fundamentally from the first, we see a very sharp increase in the number of those prosecuted under this article, in contrast to the slight decrease observed in 2017–2018. Notably, this increase occurred against the backdrop of ongoing discussion of the narrowing down of Article 20.3, which will soon come into force[48]. We do not know the reasons for this dynamic, but the information circulating in social networks about the law enforcement agencies purchasing computerized search systems is worth paying attention to[49]. If these systems are already functioning, then, first and foremost, the search for the banned symbols must have become much easier: it may be equally easy to find a “suspicious” text, but then it must be analyzed, whereas a symbol is illegal regardless of its context.

The majority of those prosecuted under Article 20.3 that we are familiar with posted images of Nazi symbols and, in some cases, symbols of such banned organizations as ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Artpodgotovka, and the Ukrainian organizations Praviy Sektor (“Right Sector”) and Svoboda (“Freedom”) in social networks and messengers, with the vast majority of the posts made in VKontakte, two in Odnoklassniki, one in Facebook, and one in WhatsApp.

Again, the number of those prosecuted for offline offences turned out to be much lower. Three persons were prosecuted for graffiti with Nazi symbols on the walls of residential buildings, and one – for placing a sticker with a Nazi symbol on a car window. Two young men and a woman were prosecuted for wearing Wehrmacht uniform and riding a World War II-era German motorcycle with a replica of a German machine gun in the city of Chita during the 2019 motorcycle season opening ceremony on 18 May 2019. On 4 November 2019, a member of the Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers (a Russian nationalist-fundamentalist organization) Dmitry Antonov wore uniform with Totenkopf, or Death's Head, a symbol of the 3rd SS Panzer Division, to the Russian March[50]. Among those prosecuted for displaying symbols was the leader of the Korrozia Metalla (“Metal Corrosion”) band Sergey Spider Troitsky, fined by the Izmailovsky district court of the City of Moscow for wearing an outfit resembling Wehrmacht uniform while performing at a concert in late 2018.

The number of inmates prosecuted for displaying their Nazi tattoos has decreased. According to our data, in 2019, this number stood at 29 compared with 53 in the previous year; 10 people displayed their tattoos in public, outside of prison.

The majority of the offenders were given fines between 1,000 and 3,000 roubles. 10 persons were sentenced to administrative arrests of between 3 and 10 days.


We are aware of 198 persons prosecuted under Article 20.29 of the CAO (production and dissemination of extremist materials), three of them – minors (in 2018, we reported 210 such persons).

According to the Supreme Court statistics, in the first half of 2019, Article 20.29 of the CAO was used to impose 865 sanctions (3 against legal entities, 6 against officials, 8 against self-employed entrepreneurs , 848 against other physical persons). In 2018, 1964 such instances were reported[51]. We do not see any significant changes with regard to this article.

Most of the offenders paid moderate fines. Six people were placed under administrative arrests. Among those arrested under Article 20.29 of the CAO was the coordinator of the Kostroma branch of the Right Bloc party Stepan Svyatyvoda Razin, who was placed under a 5-day arrest by the Sverdlovsk district court of the city of Kostroma for publishing extremist materials on the Internet. In the vast majority of cases, the content of offences was nationalists’ materials, such as songs by groups popular among the neo-Nazis (Kolovrat, Huk Sprava (“Right Hook”), Moskovskie britogolovye (“Moscow Skinheads”), Russky Styag (“Russian Flag”)); Format18 group videos; the neo-Nazi book White Alphabet Primer; videos of LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s speech titled “Russia for Russians”; a speech by Yuri Mukhin, a stalinist and former editor-in-chief of the Duel newspaper; a provocative speech by Kirill Barabash, the former member of the initiative group on conducting a referendum “For Responsible Authorities”, or ZOV, at the Russian Officers’ Meeting; the neo-pagan film Games of the Gods. Reposters were also punished for Islamic materials, such as songs by the bard of the armed Chechen resistance Timur Mutsurayev, audio files by the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir organization, the 16-century Islamic book 380 Great Sins by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, and other materials.

Some were prosecuted for distributing extremist materials offline. In Veliky Novgorod, a local resident was fined for distributing unspecified banned books. In Bashkortostan, two bookstore owners were fined for selling unspecified banned books. In Magnitogorsk, a store manager was prosecuted for selling t-shirts with the banned Azov Battalion symbols. In Kaliningrad, a Latvian citizen was fined for donating 11 books to the children's library, including those containing fragments of the above-mentioned White Alphabet Primer. In the Chelyabinsk region and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, imams of the prayer rooms where religious literature from the Federal List was found were fined.

Law enforcement officers are constantly finding new titles in the Federal List, so, in comparison with the previous years, more and more entries of diverse nature are being applied. However, keeping in mind that, as of the past year, the number of entries on the list has exceeded 5,000, a lot remains to be studied by law enforcement officers, and the scope for application of this administrative article remains very wide.

At least 20 people were charged under combined Articles 20.3 and 20.29 of the CAO in 2019. All of them were fined.

Speaking of penalties under administrative articles in general, we point out that the practice of confiscation of the “instruments of crime” (laptops, tablets, phones, etc.), the items whose cost is many times higher than the amount of fines paid, continues.


The decisions mentioned above include only those that we deem more or less appropriate. At the same time, we are aware of at least nine instances of inappropriate penalties under Article 20.3.1 of the CAO, 31 under Article 20.3 of the CAO, and 59 under Article 20.29 of the CAO. Thus, there are 99 inappropriate and 476 appropriate decisions, and the share of the inappropriate ones (about 20 %) has increased almost twofold compared with the previous year (46 inappropriate to 357 appropriate decisions, or 11.5%).

The Blocking of Online Resources and Internet Censorship

The judicial mechanism of blocking access to the banned or other, allegedly dangerous, materials by means of their inclusion in the Single Register of Prohibited Websites is being executed with increasing frequency. We cannot estimate the number of resources added to the Register specifically for extremism in 2019; without doubt, it constitutes but a small share of the many tens of thousands of resources blocked in the past year. Only Roskomnadzor has complete information. Some information is published on the Roskomsvoboda website[52], and the analysis of their data for the period between January and April has revealed about 900 such resources[53] (compared with a little more than 600 for the entire 2018; however, as happens every year, we cannot be sure whether we have identified each and every resource blocked “for extremism”).

Judging by these 900, the ideological spectrum of the resources added to the Single Register “for extremism” in 2019 has not changed much. The majority (78%) are Russian nationalists’ materials, from xenophobic songs to works by popular nationalist authors; 7% are Islamist militants’ materials, from ISIS videos to Timur Mutsurayev’s songs; peaceful Islamic materials constitute 4%. Apart from these, there is a small number of references to the works by the classics of Fascism (3%); Ukraine-related resources, from the ultra-radical (less than 2%) to peaceful publications by the Ukrainian mass media (1.5%); and banned parody (2%). The share of other materials – those of other nationalists and Orthodox fundamentalists, provocative websites, and non-radical opposition websites – was about 2.5%.

The removal of the references to banned websites from the keyword search engine results instead of blocking whole websites and pages has become a consistent practice ("download links to the audio files returned by the search engine in response to the “territory of war” keyword query"; "list of audio files returned by the search engine in response to the query “kolovrat russia belongs to us”") and constitutes more than half of the orders known to us in 2019. We find this practice clearly unlawful and inappropriate: in response to keyword search, search engines return a whole range of different results. For example, the first few pages of search results for keywords “Tushinsky Aerodrome” (“Tushino Airfield”) and “Karaoke 82” return absolutely peaceful resources, and a popular waltz is the first thing Google returns when one searches for “Amur waves”.

The number of obviously inappropriate blockings in this category is also high. We are unable to provide a quantitative assessment, but the materials blocked in 2019 include those of Jehovah's Witnesses and Falun Dafa, peaceful islamic materials, and other resources that clearly present no public danger. The mass blocking of the Hizb ut-Tahrir party materials also remains a cause for serious concern: while the party has been banned and some of its materials may well be illegal, the history of the law enforcement against it suggests an assumption that the majority of its materials do not contain any dangerous calls and is being blocked merely based on affiliation with the banned organization, although such an approach is not based on law.


A separate register, based on the “Lugovoy” Law[54], provides for extra-judicial blocking of sites that disseminate calls for extremist activities, mass riots, and many other activities. The number of blockings in this register, conducted by the Prosecutor’s office, is growing at a much faster pace than that of the Single Register; we no longer have any means of obtaining even an approximate number of “extremist resources” in the Lugovoi Register. For the second consecutive year, we have been working only with the data published on the Roskomnadzor website.

According to Roskomnadzor[55], in the first nine months of 2019, 97,040 resources were blocked “for extremism” (the data for the whole year are not available yet; in the same period in 2018, 51,892 sites were blocked). According to reports, these are not the original sites ordered by the Prosecutor-General’s office (their number is a mere 369) but mirror sites “identified” by Roskomnadzor itself. Judging by the numbers though, we believe that these are not all mirror sites in the exact sense but also other sites with identical or very similar content.

Chart 6. Blockings of online content under the “Lugovoy” Law in the first three quarters of 2019. Data of Roskomnadzor


In its reports, Roskomnadzor identifies the following types of resources:

  • ISIS propaganda – more than 20,700 materials (more than 17,000 in 2018);
  • Hizb ut-Tahrir – more than 14,700 materials (more than 17,000 in 2018);
  • banned Ukrainian organizations (Praviy Sektor (“Right Sector”), UNA-UNSO, Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Stepan Bandera Tryzub (“Stepan Bandera’s Trident”), Bratstvo (“Brotherhood”), and Azov) – more than 12,100 materials (about 5,000 in 2018);
  • calls for “mass riots, extremist activities, participation in unsanctioned mass public events violating an established order – 122; 96 of them in the 3rd quarter (728 in 2018).


This amounts to about 47,600 resources in total. Roskomnadzor did not specify the remaining 49,400.

As the Federal Service reported, in the first three quarters of 2019, “illegal information” was deleted from 194,325 resources and they were unblocked (it is possible that some of them have been blocked earlier).


What is striking in these reports is the number of extra-judicial blockings, growing year after year. Interestingly, the combined amount of blocked ISIS and Hizb-ut-Tahrir materials has not changed that much compared to the previous year’s data for the same period, while the amount of banned Ukrainian organizations’ blocked materials has more than doubled. What is remarkable, by the way, is how few resources that disseminate calls for mass riots get blocked, while they are those very resources whose threat has led to the adoption of the “Lugovoy” legislation in the first place: in 2019, their number was several times lower than in 2018. Unfortunately, it remains completely unclear what is behind these high numbers, what resources are affected, how dangerous the materials are, and whether immediate, extrajudicial blocking is justifiable. Our suspicion that, at this scale of numbers, mistakes and arbitrary actions are simply inevitable is well-founded.


Our work on this issue is supported by the European Union, the Netherlands, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and International Partnership for Human Rights.

On 30 December 2016, the Ministry of Justice has forcibly listed SOVA Center as “a non-profit organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”. We disagree with this decision and have filed an appeal against it.


[1] For more information on the changes in anti-extremism policy in 2018 see: Alexander Verkhovsky. Readjustment of Repression. How Is Anti-Extremism Policy Changing in Russia? // SOVA Center. 2019. 17 May (

[2] In all charts, SOVA Center’s data are used, except where noted.

[3] Data as of 24 February 2020.

[4] See the concurrently published SOVA Center report: Maria Kravchenko. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremism Legislation in Russia in 2019. (further – Maria Kravchenko. Inappropriate Enforcement…).

[5] Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence // SOVA Center. 2014. 7 November (

[6] Consolidated statistics on the activity of federal courts of general jurisdiction and magistrate courts for the first half of 2019 // Official website of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ( (further – Consolidated statistics of the Supreme Court for the first half of 2019).

[7] According to the data posted on the Supreme Court website, the highest number of criminal convictions (62) were issued under Article 280 of the Criminal Code, and in 53 of them this article was the main charge. It is followed by Article 2052 of the Criminal Code with 56 convicted, for 45 of them this being the main charge. No convictions were issued under Article 2801 of the Criminal Code. Only one individual was convicted under Article 3541 (rehabilitation of Nazism). One individual was convicted under Article 148 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (no convictions under Part 1 of this article, insulting of religious believers’ feelings). Article 282 of the Criminal Code was used to convict 27 people, for 15 of them this was the main charge; 21 were sentenced under the decriminalized Part 1, i.e. for repeat offence in one year, and only six – under the more grave Part 2.

For more information see: Official statistics of the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court on the fight against extremism for the first half of 2019 // SOVA Center. 2019. 22 October (

[8] Consolidated statistics on the activity of federal courts of general jurisdiction and magistrate courts for the first half of 2018 // Official website of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation (

[9] Putin signs law partially decriminalizing Article 282 of the Criminal Code // SOVA Center. 2018. 28 December (

[10] Sentences overturned due to partial decriminalization of Article 282 // SOVA Center. 2019. 30 September (

[11] Criminal cases discontinued as a result of partial decriminalization of Article 282 of the Criminal Code // SOVA Center. 2019. 22 April (

[12] Criminal cases discontinued as a result of partial decriminalization of Article 282 of the Criminal Code // SOVA Center. 2019. 1 November (

[13] Suvorov: case against “Guerillas’ Guerrilla Truth” leader Alexey Menyailov and his wife Slatana terminated // SOVA Center. 2019. 25 January (

[14] All further numbers reflect the convictions known to us, although, judging from the Supreme Court data, the actual numbers are much higher. But given the volume of available data, it can be assumed that the observed patterns and proportions will hold true for the total number of verdicts.

[15] A year earlier, according to the Supreme Court data for the same period, Article 2052 was the main article in convictions against 39 people; in 11 convictions, it was applied along with other articles.

[16] “Citizens of the USSR” is a community that denies the collapse of the Soviet Union and insists on implementing Soviet laws. In their opinion, the Russian Federation does not exist.

[17] Another reason to exclude those who received prison time “for words only” under Article 2052 from our totals is because too little information is available about the cases under this article. Besides, we have observed that the vast majority of sentences under Article 2052 have nothing to do with countering incitement to hatred.

[18] Suspect in the Moscow Case Vladislav Sinitsa sentenced to five years in penal colony. He tweeted about the children of law enforcement officials // Meduza. 2019. 3 September.

[19] Who has been imprisoned for extremist crimes of non-general nature // SOVA Center. 2013. 24 December (

[20] Most probably, VKontakte

[21] See: N. Yudina. Virtual Anti-Extremism in Russia in 2014–2015 // SOVA Center. 2016. 29 June (

[22] For more information, see Yekaterinburg: a supporter of the Union of Slavic Forces of Rus referred to mandatory treatment // SOVA Center. 2019. 29 April (

[23] See: Maria Kravchenko. Inappropriate Enforcement…

[24] See: Cases of terrorist propaganda in pre-trial detention centers and places of detention // SOVA Center. 2019. 15 April (

[25] See: Maria Kravchenko. Inappropriate Enforcement…

[26] Also mentioned in Chapter “Criminal Prosecution for Crimes Against Property” in: N. Yudina. Criminal Activity of the Ultra-Right…

[27] Movement designated as extremist in December 2017. See: The Stolz group designated as extremist in Khabarovsk // SOVA Center. 2017. 6 December (

[28] See also Chapter “Criminal Prosecution for Violence” in: N. Yudina. Criminal Activity of the Ultra-Right…

[29] Alexander Belov gets 7.5 years in penal colony // SOVA Center. 2016. 24 August (

[30] Alexey Polikhovich, Elena Kriven. New Greatness case. Who are these people and why are they being prosecuted? // OVD-info. 2018. 27 October (; Maksim Pashkov. Without purpose or motive: Why the New Greatness extremist community cannot exist // OVD-info. 2020. 20 February (

[31] Misanthropic Division is a group of radical neo-Nazi pagans that gained notoriety in connection with the events in southeast Ukraine and is supporting the current Kiev government. In 2015, the group was designated as extremist by the Krasnoyarsk district court. For more details see: Misanthropic Division movement declared extremist // SOVA Center. 2015. 27 August (

[32] Five organizations added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials // SOVA Center. 2015. 28 January (

[33] See: M. Kravchenko. Inappropriate Enforcement…

[34] As of 21 February 2020, the list has 5008 entries.

[35] N. Yudina. Countering or Imitation: The state against the promotion of hate and the political activity of nationalists in Russia in 2017 // SOVA Center. 2018. 3 March (

[36] Designated as extremist by the Naberezhnye Chelny city court of the Republic of Tatarstan on 6 February 2019. See: Tatarstan: Autograd Crew Football Fans Association designated as extremist // SOVA Center. 2019. 6 February (

[37] Designated as extremist by the Maykop district court of the Republic of Adygea on 7 May 2018 and by an appeal ruling by the Judicial Board on administrative cases of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Adygea of 16 October 2018. See: One more organization added to the Federal List of Extremist Organizations // SOVA Center. 2019. 16 February (

[38] Evgeniy Moroz. Pagan stalinists or “Conceptual Party ‘Yedinenie’” // SOVA Center. 2003. 24 November (

[39] Designated as extremist by the Supreme Court of the Komi Republic on 11 July 2019. See: The Komi Republic: SSSR banned by court // SOVA Center. 2019. 8 July (

[40] Designated as extremist by the Onguday district court of the Altai Republic on 11 December 2018. See: In the Altai Republic, a court bans the activity of the Ak Tyan movement // SOVA Center. 2018. 18 December (

[41] Not including 395 local branches of Jehovah's Witnesses, banned together with their Management center and listed under the same entry.

[42] Designated as terrorist by the Moscow district military court on 17 January 2019, came into force on 14 March 2019. We are not covering the Network Case in more detail in this report, as it definitely does not relate to the topic of countering nationalism and xenophobia.

[43] Designated as terrorist by the Moscow district military court on 5 June 2019, came into force on 5 July 2019.

[44] For more detail, see: M. Kravchenko. Inappropriate Enforcement…

[45] See: Putin signed ….

[46] Consolidated statistics of the Supreme Court for the first half of 2019…

[47] Outcomes of the cases on complaints and protest against judgments and decisions in cases of administrative offences that have come into force // Official website of the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation [Date of inquiry: 2019. 1 February] (

[48] Amendments to Article 20.3 of the CAO passed by the State Duma // SOVA Center. 2020. 18 February (

[49] This has been covered repeatedly. For example: Police across Russia is purchasing social media monitoring systems. They help find extremism “without leaving office” // Meduza. 2018. 16 October.

The purchases can be tracked on the Roskomsvoboda website (

[50] The 2019 Russian March in Moscow // SOVA Center. 2019. 4 November (

[51] Outcomes of the cases on complaints and protest against judgments and decisions in cases of administrative offences that have come into force // Official website of the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation [Date of inquiry: 2019. 1 February] (

[52] See: List of blocked websites // Roskomsvoboda (

[53] “Extremist resources” in the Single Register of Prohibited Websites // SOVA Center (

[54] Full title: Federal Law “Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection’”.

[55] Reports on activities of Roskomnadzor // Official website of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (