What the Papers Say. Part B (Russia)
June 18, 2004, Friday
THE SKINHEADS ARE COMING
SOURCE: Russkii Kurier, June 18, 2004, pp. 12-13
By: Alexander Tarasov
Disastrous economic depression has left millions of Russians out of
work since 1991. The education system collapsed. Between 400 and 450
schools have been shut down nationwide every year the last several
years – for financial reasons only – and most their students found
themselves unable to continue their education. According to the
official data compiled by army enlistment and recruitment offices in
Siberia, between 7% and 11% of conscripts were illiterate in 1997.
Every third offender of high school age lacked even a basic education
in spring 1999. Crime, alcohol abuse, and drugs have inundated Russia –
and particularly its youths.
The new generation was an ideal target group for primitive ideologies
based on violence and individualism – criminal and politically criminal
(xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic).
Skinheads in Russia did not have a systematic ideology at first. They
were but impromptu racists, xenophobes, macho, militarists, and
anti-intellectuals. Constant propagandistic campaigns mounted
one after another by ultra-right parties, however, are turning
skinheads into conscious fascists, anti-communists, orthodox
fundamentalists, and anti-Semites. In fact, Russian skinheads were not
extremely anti-Semitic at first. Their racism was directed against
representatives of non-Caucasians – Negroes, mulattoes, Mongoloids.
Attacks at Jews were infrequent. Brainwashed by the ultra-right,
however, skinheads learned the major anti-Semitic myths – concerning
the Jid conspiracy, Bolsheviks as agents of the world Zionism, and
the Russian people oppressed by the Jids.
Russism, a fairly exotic ultra-right ideology, is quite popular
with skinheads. Boasting of their Orthodox roots, Russism is
fairly indulgent towards Aryan paganism (in the spirit of national
socialism, that is) because “the race is above faith” and “blood
unites while religions separate.” Russism creates a bridge between
pre-revolutionary Orthodox monarchism and national socialism. According
to this ideology, there were two “great Aryan leaders in the 20th
century” – Tsar Nicholas II and Adolf Hitler. Moreover, Hitler was an
avenger for Nicholas II, “ritually sacrificed by Bolsheviks and Yids”
and tried to bring “the Cross-Swastika into Yid-oppressed Russia.”
It should be noted that there are three major directions of skinhead
movement in the world – neo-Nazis, communist skinheads, and traditional
skinheads. Most Russian skinheads are neo-Nazis, while throughout
the rest of the world the traditional ones prevail.
The first skinheads in Russia were teenagers aged 13 to 19,
students of technical colleges, pupils of secondary schools, or
unemployed. The situation eventually changed. Equipment alone with all
necessary trimmings (boots, the bomber, stripes, tattoos, etc) costs
approximately 15,000 rubles. The poor do not have this sort of money to
throw around. A skinhead nowadays is frequently an owner of a pocket
computer and cell phone. Skinheads form small groups, essentially
gangs of three to ten men. On the average, such gangs last several
years. There are, however, larger and better-organized structures.
Skinlegion and Blood & Honor – Russian Subsidiary (B&H) were the
first to appear in Moscow. B&H is an international organization of
Nazi skinheads outlawed in some countries as extremist or fascist.
B&H – Russian Subdivision and Skinlegion included between 200
and 250 activists each. There was some sort of discipline in the
organizations, hierarchy, etc. United Brigades 88 (UB 88), the
third large organization, appeared in 1998, when fairly small White
Bulldogs and Lefortovo Front merged. The name of the organization
is quite revealing. The figure 8 stands for H, the eighth letter
in the Latin alphabet – therefore 88 stands for HH or Heil Hitler!
Hammerskin Nation appeared shortly afterwards – calling itself a
subdivision of the namesake international organization.
Skinhead gangs appeared precisely in the largest and best developed
cities – where social split of the population is particularly
noticeable. “The second wave” has inundated small provincial townships
No one fought the movement. OMON busy tackling residents of the
Caucasus, skinheads “gallantly” chose their own targets – people from
Central Asia or the Third World. Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhny
Novgorod are known as the centers of skinhead movement in Russia. In
Moscow, skinheads concentrate on Africans and Indians. St. Petersburg
skinheads attack Africans, Nepalese, and Chinese. In Nizhny Novgorod,
it is men from Central Asia (mostly Tajik refugees) who are in the
focus of attention.
The police were always unbelievably indulgent. In Nizhny Novgorod,
Tajiks feared going to the police because every such approach
inevitably ended in their own arrests (with traditional references to
“illegitimate presence on the territory of the Russian Federation”)
with the following extortion of bribes or – whenever there was nothing
to be extorted – a beating and deportation. Feeling impunity, skinhead
movement grew up fast. These days, there are 50,000 skinheads in
Russia. Between 5,000 and 5,500 skinheads live and operate in Moscow
and the region, up to 3,000 in St. Petersburg and the environs, over
2,500 in Nizhny Novgorod, more than 1,500 in Rostov-on-Don. There
are over 1,000 skinheads in Pskov, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg, and
Krasnodar each, and several hundred in each of the following cities
– Voronezh, Samara, Saratov, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Omsk, Tomsk,
Vladivostok, Ryazan, Petrozavodsk. Back in 1992, there were just a
dozen skinheads in Moscow and five or so in St. Petersburg. Skinhead
gangs exist in approximately 85 Russian cities nowadays.
Ultra-right and nationalist parties and organizations view skinheads
as their potential recruiting pool. In Moscow, the Russian National
Socialist Party (Russian National Union before 1998) was the first
to turn its attention to skinheads.
Liberty Party (Russian National Republican Party before 2000) handles
skinheads in St. Petersburg, and Russian National Unity and the Russian
Guard (a splinter group) in the Trans-Volga region and Krasnodar.
It should be noted as well that most ultra-right parties began
working with skinheads only when advised to do so by their Western
counterparts. Emissaries of neo-fascist groups have been regularly
coming to Russia since 1997 from the United States, Germany, the Czech
Republic, and Austria. They came with recommendations on how skinheads
should be handled, The United States for example was represented
by KKK, Germany by Viking Youth (banned in Germany itself), German
People’s Union, Steel Helmet (also banned), National People’s Front,
Right Union, etc. Fascist emissaries know no visa barriers.
Skinheads feel at home in most Russian cities. The police and the
authorities are clearly on their side. Choi Yun Shik (President of the
Association of South Korean Students studying in Moscow) and Gabriel
Kotchofa (President of the Moscow Association of Foreign Students)
claim that the Moscow police refused to press charges against
skinheads in literally hundreds episodes. Colonel Mikhail Kirilin
of the Public Relations Center of the Federal Security Service and
Vladimir Vershkov of the PR Department of the Moscow Municipal Internal
Affairs Directorate told The Moscow Times that these services do not
regard skinheads as something dangerous. Perhaps, existence of the
skinhead movement is even beneficial to some because they are someone
on whom blame for the crimes committed by others may be pinned. The
raid to the camp of Tajik refugees in the Moscow region in 1997 (when
an infant was murdered) was pinned on skinheads, but it was clear
from the very beginning that the operation was much too professional.
There are numerous reports that Nazi skinheads are encouraged,
organized, and used by ruling circles of Russia. There were the
reports in the past that the Nazis had the protection of the regional
authorities (Krasnodar and Stavropol territories, Pskov region)
and law enforcement agencies (Saratov, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod,
Volgograd, Samara). It was established in 2002 that Nazi skinheads
were trained at the camp of the Moscow OMON. It would have been
impossible without permission from the upper echelons of the federal
Interior Ministry. In fact, close contacts between the Moscow police,
Russian National Unity, and skinheads were exposed in November 2001
when racist policemen Adanjaev and Yevdokimov were facing trial.
Dismissed by the authorities and ignored by the media, skinheads
progressed to pogroms. The first pogrom took place at the Vietnamese
hostel near Sokol metro station in Moscow on October 21, 2000. The
authorities and the media kept the matter under the lid, and
skinheads smashed up the Armenian school on March 15, 2001. The
police – when they came – merely dispersed skinheads. Not a single
arrest was made. Ignoring protests of the Moscow Armenian community
and official structures of the Republic of Armenia, city fathers did
not lift a finger to do anything about it.
A pogrom at the marketplace in Yasenevo was next. It was too serious
an incident to keep under the lid. Six skinheads were eventually
brought to trial.
The following pogrom began at the marketplace near Tsaritsyno metro
station and ended by the Hotel Sevastopol where Afghans reside. At
least 300 skinheads participated. Over 80 people were injured, 22 ended
up hospitalized, 4 were killed (a Moscow Armenian, citizen of India,
citizen of Tajikistan, and a refugee from Afghanistan). A public outcry
followed. Moscow authorities were forced to set up a special division
to fight youth extremism. The Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed
a lack of any information on the problem and was very uncooperative
when approached for help.
Only five skinheads faced trial.
Yasenevo and Tsaritsyno pogroms set the example. A wave of pogroms
swept the country.
Before “the second wave,” skinheads in Russia numbered between 35,000
and 40,000. When the wave is finally over, they will number between
75,000 and 80,000. And since youth subcultures never disappear in
Russia completely (not like in the West), it is reasonable to assume
that skinheads are here to stay.