UCSJ Report: Racism in Russia, February 2012

Public authorities have once again shown interest in the problems of nationalism. President Dmitry Medvedev said that the fight against extremism and in particular the opposition to attempts to "play the ethnic card" must be one of the main areas of work for the recently renamed police. In response to the publication of an article by Vladimir Putin, "Russia: the National Question," the Ministry of Regional Development has prepared a draft concept of the federal program called "Strengthening the unity of the Russian nation and the ethnic and cultural development of the peoples of Russia".

Also, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) sent the Government a draft of the "Concept of State Migration Policy through 2025", on the development of which experts have worked for over 10 years. The Concept is based on the necessity of foreign migrants for economic development in Russia. Accordingly, the main objective of migration policy is in the words of Konstantin Romodanovsky, director of the Federal Migration Service, "make sure profit from migration exceeds the costs."

Questions of migration also came up in the presidential election, despite the lack of pre-election debates and discussions. On February 7, the Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin said that he does not support introducing a visa regime with the republics of the former USSR. Meanwhile, presidential candidate and businessman Mikhail Prokhorov has called for the closure of the borders between Russia and Central Asian countries and the introduction of a visa system.

One reason for the lack of more disagreement among the candidates is that the energies of the opposition were not directed toward candidates but the movement "For Fair Elections” in which the nationalists also took part in meetings on February 4 in at least in 20 cities.

Nationalists also help rallies particular to their interests. A notable event was the public right-wing campaign "Mirzayev must be in prison!" held in four cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, on February 18. The reason for organizing these events was the decision of a court to free athlete Rasul Mirzaev, accused of the murder of 19-year-old Ivan Agafonov.

In Moscow, according to various estimates, from 150 to 600 people gathered at the rally, and after its completion, some participants formed a convoy and headed to Manejnaya Square, chanting anti-Caucasian and other slogans and attacking those they passed who were not of Slavic appearance.

Nationalists were further angered by the dismissal of the Supreme Court of the appeal against the life sentencing of Alexei Vojvodin, the leader of the neo-Nazi group that carried out assassinations and attacks on foreigners in St. Petersburg. Specifically, he is charged with organizing the murder of anti-fascist anthropologist Nikolai Girenko in 2004.

In worse news for human rights organizations and LGBT groups, on February 29, deputies of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly adopted a bill to ban "the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors." Those who are found promoting homosexual activities among youth will be fined $16,000.

Unfortunately, the governor did not direct his efforts toward preventing violent crime. In February, according to the SOVA Center, as a result of racist and neo-Nazi attacks,  at least 12 people were injured, two of which (a native of Central Asia from St.Peterburg and anti-fascist Nikita Kalinin from Samara) have died. Violent incidents were reported in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladimir, Volgograd, Moscow and the Samara regions.

Such extreme actions may be supported by a sizable portion of the Russian people. On the eve of presidential elections the Public Opinion Foundation conducted a study which showed that the slogan "Russia - for Russians" is supported by a minority of respondents (11%). The same number supports the actions of Nazi skinheads (10%).

Still, the Federal list of extremist materials was updated four times. Its number increased from 1074 to 1081 and includes materials from the radical Islamist sites hunafa.com and djamaattakbir.com, leaflets by "Hizb ut-Tahrir", and the book "Russian World Order" by science fiction writer Yuri Petuhov.