By Daniil Meshcheryakov, Executive Director of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Politically active groups continued to advocate for a nationalist agenda within the broader protest movement. In recent discussions organized by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation called “The Nationalist threat in Russia: Trends, Prospects and Countermeasures” the results of 2011 were discussed, including the rise of xenophobia and a decrease in the number of hate crimes due to better law enforcement.
January marked the beginning of the electoral campaign in Russia, and the most important political event was the publication of an article by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called “Russia: the National Question” in the state newspaper. The caused a strong reaction from the public. The fact that the Prime Minister published an article on this subject shows its importance. Some of the articles provisions may be included in his presidential platform. However, experts doubt their feasibility. There are human rights concerns as well. It includes a proposal to tighten the registration standards for migrants in order to counter the flow of “illegal migrants” and social conflict. Also, despite the recognition of the importance of education in developing adequate attitudes to cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, Putin chose to focus on efforts such as introducing compulsory examination of migrants in the Russian language, Russian history, and Russian culture.
The wave of social activism caused by the falsification of election results in December 2011 has resulted in a number of internal discussions within the civic movement on whether or not to cooperate with the nationalists. They have decided not to. The anti-fascist activists were united in honoring the memory of murdered human rights journalists Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova in 22 Russian cities. This caused a violent reaction from the neo-Nazis who attacked participants in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Voronezh.
On January 21, a rally of several hundred Moscow football fans was organized to demand the investigation of the attack on the fan of the Spartak football team member Alexey Ershov, who was wounded by Andronick Simonyan, an ethnic Armenian, in September, 2010. The protesters made sure that the case had been sent to court, echoing a similar incident last year. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Putin met with football fans regarding the upcoming World Cup to be held in Russia in 2018 and promised to pay proper attention to the “national question” in Russia.
According to the Sova Center, in January 2012, at least 11 people suffered from racist or neo-Nazi attacks. One native of Azerbaijan was killed and 10 people were assaulted. The federal list of extremist materials, was updated in January four times and seven new items were added to it, including several related to Islamic fundamentalism and a brochure titled “Expansion from the South. Stop it?!”.