THE POGROMS HAVE ALREADY STARTED
MANY CRIMES HAVE BEEN COMMITTED BY NEO-NAZI GROUPS, BUT FEW HAVE EVER BEEN TAKEN TO COURT. THIS IS LIKELY TO MAKE THESE GROUPS BELIEVE THEIR ACTIONS ARE IN LINE WITH THE GOVERNMENT'S PLANS FOR BOOSTING
PATRIOTISM. THESE NATIONALIST EXTREMISTS ARE TARGETING JEWS, BLACKS,
AND OTHER MINORITIES ACROSS RUSSIA.
On March 15 there was a nationalist pogrom in Moscow. About twenty teenagers, armed with sticks, clubs, and chains, attacked a school which is called "Armenian" in the district: its students are mostly from Armenian families, they have classes in Armenian language and literature. The thugs broke the windows of the school and street lamps in the school yard; and severely beat several students. The police dispersed the thugs, but - amazingly - no one was detained.
Several dozen Russian neo-nazi groups appeared in Moscow in the early 1990s. At first they were rather quiet: rambled around downtown incredibly proud of themselves for being so advanced in the latest western fashion.
In early 1994 the number of Moscow neo-nazis increased up to several hundred over just two months, directly due to the events of October 1993. Police from special police detachments, who were beating up "people from the Caucasus" in the streets of Moscow without being punished for doing so, set the pattern for teenagers from impoverished families in Moscow suburbs. Back then, they were afraid to attack newcomers from the Caucasus; they chose the more defenseless black students from third-world countries. Groups of neo-nazis immediately appeared in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod. And everywhere, the police obviously favored the neo-nazis, especially in Nizhny Novgorod. As a result, now, less than six years since the start of the "movement", there are about 3,800 neo-nazis in Moscow; about 2,700 in St. Petersburg; there are over 2,000 in Nizhny Novgorod; over 1,500 in Rostov-on-Don; over 1,000 in Yaroslavl, Pskov, Kaliningrad. There are several hundred neo-nazis in Voronezh, Samara, Saratov, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Tomsk, Vladivistok, and Ryazan. Overall, the number of neo-nazis in Russia is now over 30,000.
Who are they? As a rule, neo-nazis are 13-18 years old, high-school students, students from trade schools, or unemployed. Usually, they cluster into small groups of three to ten people, gangs which don't stay together for more than a few years. However, there are some larger well-organized groups. For instance, there are "Skinlegion" and "Blood and Honor" - Russian branches in Moscow. Blood and Honor is an international organization of neo-nazis, which is officially banned in several countries, such as Germany, as an extremist group. There are 150-200 members each in Skinlegion and Blood and Honor; they have discipline, hierarchy, and labor division. In 1998 another large organization appeared, "United Brigades 88". There is even a group of neo-nazi feminists in Moscow, calling themselves "Russian Girls".
About 150 St. Petersburg neo-nazis are organized into Russky Kulak (Russian Fist); about 50 more are members of the Kolovrat organization. In Nizhny Novgorod about 150 teenagers are members of the Sever group; the Yaroslavl White Bears gang has about 100 members.
April 1998 marked an important phase in the history of Russian neo-nazis. They sent faxes to Moscow newspaper promising to "kill a nigger a day" to mark Hitler's birthday. The majority of newspapers did not take the messages seriously; but they should have. In April-May 1998 the Moscow neo-nazis held a coordinated campaign for the first time. According to the Foreign Students Association, during the month after April 20, four black students on average were attacked every day. One black student was killed; the police refused to admit it was a racial murder. Two women from families of Pakistan diplomats were severely bashed on Arbat Street. As a result, the embassies of South Africa, Benin, Sudan, India, and Nigeria sent official protests against Russian neo-nazi terror to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Finally, a black marine, William Jefferson, a security guard at the US Embassy, was beaten up and hospitalized. Under pressure from the US (not a third-world country!) the police found and arrested the person who had bashed Jefferson: Semyon Tokmakov, 22, the leader of the Russkaya Tsel (Russian Goal) neo-nazi group. Soon there was another international scandal: neo-nazis beat up Peter Taff, a leader of the British Socialist Party.
The Tokmakov case united the Russian neo-nazis: they held protest meetings in front of the US Embassy. Jefferson had to leave Russia, while Tokmakov was released. In October 1998 a group of neo-nazis organized a demonstrative attack on the son of the ambassador of Guinea-Bissau. Paradoxically enough, this time the police also refused to admit it was a racial attack!
Neo-nazis first started to attack their compatriots in late 1995. Since summer 1998 they have become very aggressive toward Russians. A Moscow school student was severely beaten for wearing a "Rage Against the Machine" T-shirt. About that time, neo-nazis began to use weapons in their attacks. In November 1998 a group of neo-nazis was brought to court for assaulting some "Caucasus people". It was only by chance that no one was killed then; one of their victims had 17 stab wounds. All the members of the group received provisional sentences, except for the leader.
In 1999-2000, several members of the Berkut groups were arrested in Moscow. They were charged with planting several bombs in the streets; the group was "cleansing" its native city. The Berkut case was to go to court in December, but there has been no trial yet.
In February two members of the Divine Aryans group were arrested and charged with attempted arson against a synagogue. The Divine Aryans also claimed responsibility for bombing a synagogue in another Moscow district in May 1998.
The neo-nazi movement in Russia is definitely moving in the direction of classic political extremism - fascism. The style and interactions within neo-nazi groups are more reminiscent of organized crime. They can kill for "betrayal".
In 2000, there were three very serious incidents involving neo-nazis: they attacked a police patrol in Moscow; then they attacked a Vietnamese dormitory in another Moscow district; and they desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Nizhny Novgorod. Of the three incident, only the attack on the police received any media coverage at all. And all of these circumstances are very likely to give the neo-nazis grounds for believing that their activities do not run counter to the government's concept of "patriotic education".
Translated by Arina Yevtikhova