Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Future of the Skinhead Movement"

Russian Skinheads Intimidate Foreigners Mosnews reprinted this article from Reuters by Oliver Bullough. It has been picked up by various newspapers here in the US as well. The article and interviews were apparently in response to the late December murder of Kanhem Leon, a student from Cameroon at St. Petersburg Water Communications University.

Mr. Bullough interviews a supposedly educated engineer and skinhead, who calls himself Tesak (hatchet). Tesak heads a group called Format 18 which posts videos on its website of their attacks on "non-white" foreigners (Armenians, Chinese, Tajiks in his words).

Some points that Mr. Bullough asserts:
Most Russians strongly disapprove of such assaults, but opinion polls suggest passive racism is widespread. Foreign visitors to Russia are often shocked by casual racist language and behavior that has long been taboo in their own societies.

Late last year, polling firm Levada Centre said 53 percent of 1,600 respondents supported the phrase “Russia for the Russians”, while the numbers supporting a limit on immigration were markedly higher than the year before.
Although these groups claim to not be organized, there are signs of organization in the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) as well as smaller neo-nazi groups.
"Tesak is the future of the skinhead movement. He is clever and confident, he doesn’t take drugs or drink. You can only kill him, you can never make him abandon his ideas,” said Sergei Belikov, a lawyer who works with skinheads and has written three books on the phenomenon.

“This is becoming a middle class movement ... It has become a national idea when nothing else is left. Teachers have become market traders, doctors have become bums, but they can all say at least they are white and European.” Until more of an effort is made, Belikov said even the precautions Cameroon urges on its citizens are not enough.

“Basically, I would advise Africans and Asians not to come to Russia, there is nothing good for them here,” he said.
I would not want to give a traveller to Russia the impression that they are going to be rounded up and beaten as soon as they leave their hotel. I've certainly not found that to be the case. However, in some cities, even native Russians avoid going out to certain places at night. Our Russian taxi driver in Yaroslavl - talked in rather black tones - about avoiding parts of the city at night. Apparently a friend of his was still in the hospital from a beating at the hands of some drunken hooligans.

Crime statistics for Moscow also compare favorably to similar crimes in New York City, for example. The one notable exception being public drunkeness which was higher in January for Moscow (New Years was a 10-day holiday in Russia this year.)

Increasingly however, it appears that semi-organized gangs of racially-motivated skinheads are making the rounds in cities in Russia. I've heard similar stories from friends and acquaintances in cities such as Ryazan, Veliky Novgorod, and Ekaterinburg. Certainly such things find their way into the headlines of newspapers both in the West and in Russia. It is also worth noting that there are organized anti-facist protests in various cities in Russia as well.

Some examples of other similar recent stories, just in St. Petersburg, include:
St Petersburg prosecutor's office has sent the criminal case over the murder of Vietnamese student Vu An Tuan to court. The city prosecutor's office brought charges against 17 people, 14 of them minors, facing a charge of hate murder committed by a group of people. A few adolescents charged with Vu An Tuan's murder will stand trial for other crimes as well. The attackers are indicted for a total of seven crimes.
An African student has been beaten up in St Petersburg's Vyborgskiy District, the city prosecutor's office reports. On 24 January several unidentified people attacked the 24-year old student at Forestry Academy. They beat him up and ran away. The student was admitted to hospital with broken bones and bruises.
Five people suspected of assaulting students Timur Kacharava and Maksim Sgibay were arrested in St Petersburg on 5 December, Fontanka.ru said. Four of them are said to have pleaded guilty of taking part in the assault. The arrested men allegedly admit to belonging to a skinhead movement.


Anonymous said...

The problem with skinheads in Russia is not ONLY that they hate non-Russian. They hate everyone who id different. For example, I wear glasses. And it also means that under certain conditions I could be attacked by skinheads as being "ochkakik". Jamaica loving Russians who wear dreads are more likely to be beaten by skinheads than any African student. To put it short - Russian skinheads are just punks who hate everyone who is different. That's pretty universal, isn't it?

Daut said...

Yeah, that's the real problem, that skins don't like funny looking people with glasses. How many Russians have been killed by skinheads? I only know of one, anti fascist activist Timur Kacharava. I lived in Moscow for years, I wore glasses and I was obviously a foreigner, and I never got fucked with. My friend Dan, from Cameroon, got attacked constantly.
Africans and Asians are killed on a regular basis. If a Russian is killed by a skinhead, it is because of his politics.

Sean Guillory said...

Yes Daut is right to point out that skinhead attacks on foreigners are on particular types of foreigners. Mostly people from Africa and Asia. It is also no surprise that these people also contantly get hassled by the militsia.

Racial violence is a growing problem for sure. But is really surprising is the affinity that many of these youths have for Hitler. I saw lots Nazi grafitti in Moscow and Riazan. I can only imagine what the older generation thinks of this, even if many of them are "passively" racist themselves.

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