“Belligerent nationalism, xenophobia, appeals to violence and ethnic hatred have always been and will always be a time bomb under our sovereignty,” Putin told the heads of the Interior Ministry today. This is quite a frank admission on the part of Putin, who has often been accused using nationalism and xenophobia to the Kremlin’s political advantage.
Putin’s statement is rooted in reality. On Tuesday, the SOVA Center released new stats on hate crimes in Russia. Once again they show that racial violence is on the rise. SOVA recorded 67 deaths and 550 injured as a result of racism, xenophobia and nationalism, a 13 percent increase from 2006. The bulk of the victims were students and immigrants laborers from Africa, Asia, Jews, and even antifa activists.
It already appears that 2008 will be just as racially violent. SOVA has already recorded 39 victims of neo-Nazi violence for January. Thirteen of the 39 resulted in death. As SOVA head Galina Kozhevnikova told reporters, “Neo-Nazis are out not to beat up (their victims), but to kill.”
SOVA’s report comes just as police in Yakaterinburg have arrested a gang of eight skinhead youths suspected of committing 37 murders. I look forward to Buster’s promised elaboration on this case on his blog, Moscow Through Brown Eyes. In Moscow, the body of a Kyrgyz man was found dead with more than 30 stab wounds. Stabbings are the hallmark of skinheads.
And the bomb ticks on . . .
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By Sean — 12 years ago
According to my unscientific survey, the Russian diaspora in Israel is an under reported topic in blogs on Russia. I present excerpts from two articles from Haaretz in hopes of beginning a discussion. The first tells of Russian anti-Semitism toward Orthodox Jews in the form of neo-Nazis, while the second reports on the Israeli oppression of Russians because of their adherence to the Orthodox faith. Both point to the contradictions the post-Soviet aliyah to Israel that began in the 1990s. Excerpts are below.
“Fear and loathing in Petah Tikva / Neo-Nazi gangs assaulting ultra-Orthodox Jews”
By Moti Katz
Haaretz, May 11, 2006.
A week after the desecration of the Great Synagogue in Petah Tikva, nothing remains of the horror the worshipers encountered there last Thursday when they arrived for morning prayers. The walls, which had been sprayed with swastikas and blasphemy, have been newly painted, the floor polished and the curtain covering the holy ark replaced.
However, the danger is far from over. For the past two years the ultra-Orthodox community there, which includes some 5,000 families and 300 synagogues, has been subjected to incessant attacks by street gangs from the former Soviet Union (FSU). The gangs have been beating ultra-Orthodox men, hurling curses at them and desecrating synagogues.
“These youths feel out of place in the Russian community they belong to, but they are not accepted in Israeli society either,” says Bella Alexandrov, the director of the multi-disciplinary youth center in Petah Tikva. She distinguishes between two kinds of immigrants – punks and skinheads.
“The skinheads buy Russian videos about ‘white power’ that call for cleansing Russia of Jews. They don’t get it from home. It comes from not belonging and not finding answers to their distress.”
On Sukkot eve last year, a number of teens bearing knives burst into the big Lithuanian yeshiva Or Israel on Rothschild Street in the city center. They started beating pupils, and throwing prayer books and scriptures on the floor.
Yeshiva head Rabbi Yigal Rozen has no doubt that these incidents are anti-Semitic.
“Persecution only strengthens us”
By Lili Galili
Haaretz, June 6, 2006.
Vladimir Gridin, a professor of solid-state physics, is certain that the fact our meeting took place last Sunday, on Pentecost, the day believed to mark the birth of the Russian-Orthodox Church, was no coincidence. Nor did he believe that it was coincidence that the church where we met, at the end of Hagai Street in Migdal Haemek, was vandalized right before the sacred holiday. “Divine providence,” he says. Even if one can ascribe a degree of divine providence to the timing of our meeting, it’s doubtful the youths who desecrated the church and the adjacent priests’ graves a few days before the holiday were so attuned to the nuances of Russian Orthodoxy that they specifically picked that day to commit their act of vandalism.
“A pogrom in the church,” was the cry that echoed from the small community whose spiritual life is centered on the Church of St. Nikolai. What took place wasn’t quite a pogrom, but it was the latest in a series of attempts to damage a holy place. On Friday morning, when they arrived for services, the congregants found the church windows broken, the icons overturned, a cross uprooted from a priest’s grave and the edge of the grave ruined. A lot of effort went into shattering the windows, which were protected by a dense metal screen. A particularly malicious hand had to work hard to get in between the spaces to break the squares of thick glass one after the other. And yet, the police, whose local headquarters are very close to the church, insist the vandalism was just a prank by a bunch of 8- and 9-year-olds. “We’ve gone back to the early days of Christianity,” said Gridin sadly. “Christians are being persecuted again.”
A somewhat unusual group gathered this week at the door to the church. Unusual, both because of the way they’d broken with convention in the choices they’d made in their lives, and because they were all situated on the delicate seam between the Law of Return and the rules of halakha (Jewish law). This is the congregation of Father Romanus, a 46-year-old Arab Orthodox priest from Haifa, who is just as fluent in Russian as he is in Arabic and Hebrew. He learned the language while studying at a Russian theological seminary in the U.S., and founded his community here.
By Sean — 12 years ago
The historiography on the relationship between Muslims, the Russian Empire, and then the Soviet Union has become a cottage industry in Eurasian historical studies. A slew of books have come out in the last five years as researchers think about the reasons for the dissolution of the Russian/Soviet Empire and the state’s relationships with its Muslim subjects/citizens. Both the Chechen War and GWOT have made this interest even timelier.
There are too many books to list, and frankly my knowledge of this burgeoning topic is not as good as it should be. And that is more the reason to start putting my ear to the street and note new studies on the subject. First, for those who have access to academic journals, I point you to the Summer 2006 issue of the Slavic Review (vol. 65, no. 2). This issue features a forum called “The Multiethnic Soviet Union in Comparative Perspective.” Adeeb Khalid’s comparative essay on the Soviet and Turkish state’s relations with its ethnic groups and the applicability of postcolonial analysis is worth a read.
More accessible to readers is University of Michigan professor and specialist in Russian/Soviet nationalities, Ron Suny’s review in the Moscow Times of Stanford University professor Robert Crews’ For Prophet and Tsar. This potentially interesting new book examines the question of Russian-Muslim relations in the 18th and 19th century. Suny notes that Crews makes a novel contribution, if not a revision, of the standard story of Russian oppression of its Muslim subjects. Instead, Crews shows that while oppression did exist, the relationship between Tsar and Muslim religious elites were one of integration and collaboration. As Suny explains via Crews,
“Historians have usually depicted tsarist Russia’s treatment of its Islamic peoples as a story of repression, Russification and constant conflict between Christian rulers and their tens of millions of Muslim subordinates. That indelible image continued to color the analysis of Soviet rule of the Central Asian peoples, and conflicts like the war in Chechnya only confirm the idea of the eternal clash of Orthodox and Islamic civilizations. Stanford professor Robert D. Crews tells quite a different story in For Prophet and Tsar. He demonstrates how tsars used religion as a foundation for popular loyalty to the autocracy and as a means of disciplining and regulating the heterogeneous population of their vast realm. Religion, rather than language or nationality, was the principal identification of peoples in the empire. The law required every subject to be a member of a confessional community and to obey the clerical authorities of that community. The faiths of Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, as well as the non-Orthodox Christians — Protestants, Catholics and Armenian Apostolics — were officially recognized and integrated into the system of local governance. Over time, Muslims and others adapted to the tsarist religious regime “as a potential instrument of God’s will,” accepted (though not without contestation) the clerics sanctioned by the state and used official institutions to help regulate their own members and settle disputes among them.”
Sounds like a fascinating study and not just because it challenges our standard view of the relationship between empire and subject; it also gives us a better picture of the intersection of religion and modern practices of state efforts to regulate, subjugate, and discipline its populations. I hope to find time to read Crews’ study.
By Sean — 10 years ago
While everyone is focused on Medvedev’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, life goes on as usual in Russia . Perhaps, all too usual. Yesterday, court agents seized National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov’s property and forbade him from leaving the country. The move was to figure out how much the writer owns so he can pay the 500,000 ruble “compensation” for “damaging the honor, accomplishments, and business reputation” of Moscow mayor/oligarch Yurii Luzhkov. Last November Moscow’s Babushkinskii Court ordered Limonov to pay the mayor for disparaging remarks he made in an interview on Radio Svoboda. It was there that he made the audacious statement that Luzhkov controls the Moscow courts. Limonov clearly hit to close to home because he found himself in court shortly thereafter.
This is the second property seizure (at least that I’m aware of) of a National Bolshevik in the last month. The first occurred on 7 August, when authorities raided the apartment of Natsbol activist Maxim Gasovich. The authorities raided the apartment looking for another oppositionist named Darya Isayeva, who was suspected of “extremism” for a stunt she and several members pulled at a Moscow Yolki-Palki. According to the Moscow Times, the group of Natsbols skipped out of a 1,500 bill, and instead left leaflets saying “Eat for free!” on the table. The activists say that the stunt was a protest against rising food prices. I have to say that I find something endearing in the stunt.
Isayeva and another activist were detained but released later that evening. However, in an effort to find Isayeva again (if the cops wanted her, why did the let her go in the first place?) they raided Gasovich’s apartment a week later. The cops didn’t find her (surprise) and confiscated Gasovich’s computer and books by Eduard Limonov. In response to the incident the author said about the confiscation of his books, “These are published books. Only uneducated cops would think they could be used as evidence against us.”
Well, now Limonov’s books are getting seized.
What does he have in his apartment? Here is Kommersant‘s description:
Mr. Limonov lives in a apartment on Nizhni Syromiatnicheskii street (according to the author he doesn’t have another apartment). . . [He and his lawyer Aleksei Orlov] waited for the court officers in a small room which has a bed, a pair of chairs with leather upholstery, a desk with an old typewriter and shelves with books.
Not much by way of value. But the agents did their best. They took Limonov’s mobile and stationary phone, heater, the chairs, and several books (even the Soviet ones). The total worth amounted to a whopping 14,850 rubles.
The only question is how will they turn these items into cash? Even Marina Iliushchenko, the court’s press secretary, can’t answer that one. “I don’t even know what to do with these items,” she told Kommersant. “Who would want them is almost incomprehensible.”