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.”
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- By Sean — 12 years ago
Last month Alexander Dugin boasted that his Eurasian Youth Union could bring out 1500 participants to their Imperial March. They got about 600-700 according to Kommersant (RFE/RL claims no more than 400 attended). It also seems that the Russian authorities have much more tolerance toward the far right than the left. A few days before the march,
mayor Yuri Luzhkov granted the International Eurasian Movement a permit to march down Tverskaya to Revolution Square. But there seems to be some confusion on this permit. Other news agencies, like the Moscow Times and RFE/RL, report that Luzhkov only granted a permit for a two hour rally at Mayakovskaya. In contrast, the mayor’s office has rejected a similar request by the “March of the Discontented” for April 14. Moscow
There were no reported arrests and no clubbing of demonstrators. That doesn’t mean that the police were not in full force. They were indeed. “Twenty-seven truckloads of soldiers, a stepped-up police presence and even several busloads of special forces troops protected the demonstrators and make sure no march occurred spontaneously,” reports Kommersant. One has to wonder who was guarding who. Were the police guarding bystanders or the Eurasianists?
The march displayed all the nationalist rhetoric one would expect at a neo-fascist rally. Again from Kommersant:
collapsed, I had the feeling that I was being cut up into pieces,” Eurasian Youth Union leader Pavel Zarifullin told those gathered. “But we will restore the empire. The process has already begun.” Alexander Dugin, spiritual leader of the movement, called opposition members who attend the March of Those Who Disagree “the forces of hell,” and stated that “ USSR is the kingdom of the Antichrist in the far West. Those who urge friendship with it want to sell the country for Internet and free chewing gum.” America
“We are supporters of the regime. We support Putin because he created the prerequisites for the rebirth of the nation,” Dugin told the rally. “We want guarantees that Putin will stay for a third term or secure the continuity of his course.”
should be strong and not crawling under the West,” Dmitry Zakharov, a rally participant, said Sunday. Russia
“National Bolsheviks want to monopolize street protests and the notion of civil society for themselves, and we want to show everybody today that we, too, are a part of civil society,” said Pavel Kanishchev, waving a black flag decorated with eight yellow arrows symbolizing
‘s imperial expansion. Russia
I think that this line from the International Herald Tribune summed things up nicely: “Some demonstrators said they were recruited in rural schools, and had little idea why they were there.”
- By Sean — 13 years ago
It seems that many of
‘s opposition parties can now breath a sigh of relief. Today, the Russian Supreme Court overturned the Russia Moscow Regional Court‘s banning of the National Bolshevik Party. If you remember, the Natsbols were outlawed in June for violating ‘s political party law. The Natsbols originally filed as a political party, but was ruled to be a social organization. They offered to drop “Party” from their name to no avail. The overturning of the ban is already being hailed as some sort of victory for Russian democracy. As a editorial on Gazeta.ru stated, “By reversing the ruling of a lower court to ban the National Bolshevik Party, the Supreme Court restored the rights not only of Eduard Limonov’s supporters, but of contemporary Russian politics as a whole.” Russia
While I support the overturning of the ban, I am continually fascinated by all the attention the Natsbols get in the Russian media and how, it seems, Russian democracy is connected to their fate. They are a small, albeit radical group whose tactics have garnered a lot of attention. But it could be easy to simply write them off as a insignificant group of disaffected youths who’ve found meaning in Edward Limonov’s cult celebrity. But things don’t work that way here and the Russian government has a tendency to undermine itself. The ban is just one example. The show trial of the 39 Natsbol “Decembristy” is another. The trial has gotten a lot of sympathy from otherwise apathetic Russians. The State’s heavy hand has not played well with the public, many of who see the Natsbols as symbolizing the frustration of many youths. It’s the frustration that many see as the problem, not the youths themselves. Putin Administration’s persistence against these kids has in many ways created the Natsbols as much as Limonov did. Putin has played right into Limonov’s hands.
The Natsbols, however, do represent a brewing battle for
‘s youth. As I’ve written in other reports, there is an effort by pro-government groups like Nashi to assert themselves as the representatives of youths. If Nashi is one option for political youth, the Natsbols represent another. Yet, the scope of the Natsbol’s influence is difficult to measure. Some say there are only a few thousand members; the Natsbols themselves claim that they have up to 17,500 activists with the average age of 20. The real numbers are probably closer to a few thousand, maybe even hundreds. Despite the low or high membership numbers, the Natsbols as a political aesthetic goes beyond organization. In many ways, their radicalism and tactics makes them the most attractive group to disaffected youths. They have reached the zenith of cool. Russia
The Natsbols also represents more. According to the editorial from Gazeta.ru, their presence in a country that has a history of political radicalism is a further sign of the weakness of Russian democracy:
“The NBP work for themselves, and for everyone else. Had there been a real opposition party in
that represented the opinion of those that don’t agree with the current regime, the NBP could have remained a small radical sect, as it was at the end of the 1990’s. But as it is, anti-Putin groups can consider themselves to be anything they want “parties, movements, interest clubs” but not real political forces. The popularity of the NBP and the sympathy it has from those people who would otherwise find the words “National Bolshevik” disgusting proves that there is something obviously unhealthy about the current state of Russian politics. Russia
Once again the National Bolshevik Party is catapulted to heights that even itself doesn’t profess, but I’m sure, would not refuse. The editorial continues, the party in power, United Russia, is a “bureaucratic” party which is bent maintaining the status-quo. Further, since
‘s democratic institutions are merely “plaster casts,” that is they merely fake real ones, the Natsbols’ mocking of power and politics fits well in a system that already parodies itself. In a way, the Natsbols have become the real opposition because the “fake” one is not only without ideology, it is without will. And this difference of will, according to this editorial, is what gives the Natsbols real political meaning: “And that’s because the NBP is the only party that not only talks, but does something too. As best as it can, of course. “ Russia
That “best it can” has been more than many “real” (or is it “fake”?) Russian politicians have done to become an effective opposition. The Natsbols radical profile and antics have filled a vacuum of sorts by doing what Limonov created them for: to scream a big fuck you to power.
It seems that the battle for the streets slated for the 2008 Russian Presidential elections is gearing up. According to Ekho Moskvy, as reported by Mosnews.com, Alexander Averin, a National Bolshevik spokesman, claims that six of its members were beaten by 30 members of Nashi with baseball bats and empty beer bottles. How does Averin know that they were Nashi? They were “trendily dressed young men.” Averin believes that the attack was associated with the overturning of the ban on Natsbols.
Perhaps there is something to Boris Kargalitsky’s recent opinion on how the political activities of
‘s youths are attracting more attention. And this attention has everything to do with the upcoming elections: Russia
“Politicians’ recent interest in
‘s youth is inversely related to their interest in elections. The opposition has split into two groups: those who are willing to go to the polls and have already made their peace with defeat, and those who are ready to take to the streets and address disputed issues there. But the liberal elite that is fed up with President Vladimir Putin is not about to go and take a blow from a police truncheon themselves. Only the radical youth — whether they are on the far left or right is unimportant — will be hitting the streets in protest. No matter who wins the battle for political power in Russia , they will not be sharing it with these young people anyway. Russia
Those in the Kremlin understand this all perfectly well, and they formed Nashi according to this very principle. When a bunch of policemen beat up some kid protesting on the street, the regime has done something wrong. But when two gangs of young radicals brawl in the street, it’s a minor riot. The authorities have no choice but to step in and reestablish order.”
Pieces on the chessboard of Russian politics. Kargalitsky is right when he says that it is unlikely that in exchange for their defense of the “nation”, Nashi will be given the country. He concludes, “The grown-ups who run the country have no intention of giving anything to anyone. They have kids of their own, after all, who would never stoop to fighting in the street.”
Despite decades of class consciousness being shoved down the throat of
‘s population, real class consciousness only embodies the minds of the ruling class. The millions that live to scrape by are once again abiding by the historical fact that nationalism always trumps class interest. Or one should more accurately state, for the ruling classes nationalism and class interest reinforce each other without contradiction. For everyone else, nationalism contradicts class interest. The blade of the former smites the latter. Russia
One only needs to do a class analysis of Nashi and the Natsbols to see polarization in process. There is no doubt that Nashi’s ranks are filled with middle class youths who aspire to play a role in
‘s bourgeois future. The Natsbols, on the other hand, appeal to the “disaffected youth” a code word for Russia ‘s new working class–little education, no prospects, and therefore no future. Time will tell if this symbolic battle between youths will become a real one. It looks like Nashi has their bats and bottles ready. Do the Natsbols? Will they soon trade in their eggs and mayonnaise for the weapons of their enemies? Russia
- By Sean — 12 years ago
By Vlad Tupikin
Translated by Thomas Campbell
Last Wednesday, the case of the murder of antifascist Alexander Riukhin (who was nine days away from his twentieth birthday when he was killed) was remitted to the courts for trial. On April 16, 2006, while on his way to a hardcore punk concert (hardcore is popular amongst Moscow’s young antifascists) on the outskirts of Moscow, he was stabbed to death. Several skinheads attacked Sasha and his friend Yegor. There was no struggle to speak of—only a murder.
Three of the attackers were detained, and Nazi paraphernalia and literature were found in their homes. The other three assailants are still at large. Everything then, it would seem, is clear? Don’t make snap judgments. The three assailants in custody—Vasily Reutsky and Andrei Antsiferov, members of Slavic Union; and Alexander Shitov, a member of the Format 18 gang—will be tried for premeditated group hooliganism (Article 213 Part 2 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code), premeditated non-grievous bodily harm (Article 115), and assault (Article 116). The murder itself is being treated as a separate case. Only Alexander Parinov, Nikita Tikhonov (who are still at large), and a third, unidentified, attacker, are under suspicion for that particular crime.
Lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who is representing the victim’s mother, Tatyana Riukhin, told a Regnum correspondent, “Every effort is being made to play down the threat to public safety posed by the actions of Reutsky, Antsiferov, and Shitov. There is this applicable albeit rather cynical rule of thumb: you got a corpse, you got a murder case. So it seems odd to me that the exception to this rule is the case of an antifascist murdered by radical right-wing activists.”
It is likewise odd that no one has yet been brought to trial for the murder of another twenty-year-old antifascist, Petersburger Timur Kacharava. It was also right-wingers who stabbed him to death. On November 13, 2005, a group of them attacked Kacharava and his friend Maxim outside the Bukvoyed chain bookstore on Ligovsky Prospect, in downtown Petersburg. The crime scene is a busy, crowded place: tourist buses headed for Finland depart from the spot, and the Moscow Train Station is down the street. There was no struggle. The assailants swooped down on the young men and inflicted several blows. One of these blows—a knife to the neck—proved fatal for Timur.
The young men who took part in this well-publicized crime have been in custody since December 2005. In their official statements, Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko and Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov commented on the fascist nature of the crime and the need to combat xenophobia in Russia’s northern capital. The investigation has been dragging on, however, and the word among Petersburg’s antifascists is that the authorities will attempt to scrap this case as well, charging those under arrest with hooliganism and letting them off with suspended sentences (or no sentences at all).
Finally, one more story, fresh from the presses. On December 22, 2006, a homemade bomb went off in the stairwell of a residential building in Liublino, a southwestern Moscow suburb. A swastika had been drawn on the wall next to where the bomb was discovered. A can containing the explosives was concealed behind a heating radiator; apparently, the bomb was set off by wires that connected it to a placard bearing an offensive nationalist message: “In apartment no. [X] there are nigg. . . .”The bomb (or rather, the placard) was found on the afternoon of the twenty-second by twenty-year-old Tigran as he was exiting the building. Tigran, who happens to live in the very apartment identified on the placard, was on the point of grabbing it when he noticed the wires. While he didn’t manage to get a good look at the bomb, he did have the presence of mind to run to the police. They sent a team over, followed by the bomb squad. The device went off as the police were attempting to defuse it.
The press have treated the incident as yet another nationalist attack on Moscow’s non-Slavic residents. One more Armenian kid (or so they say) nearly fell victim to right-wing radicals: a routine tale in today’s Moscow, however horrible this might seem. Just as routinely, the prosecutor’s office opened a hooliganism investigation—not an attempted murder investigation. And Tigran was questioned as a witness to a crime, not as a crime victim!
This case isn’t so simple, however. Tigran is the Moscow-born son of Muscovite parents. (The press has been circulating the absurd and false report that he and his family have lived in Moscow for only ten years.) And Tigran isn’t a mere “Caucasian youth.” He is a Moscow antifascist and a former coworker of the website Antifa.ru. And he’s a fan of hardcore punk music like his murdered age-mates Timur Kacharava and Alexander Riukhin.
Everything points to the conclusion that Tigran was slated to become the third in a series of murdered young antifascists. His photograph had been posted on Nazi websites and he had received a number of death threats. Swastikas and the message “Tigran, say hello to Timur” were painted on the fence of a construction site across the street from his building. Several times, he was attacked at concerts or met at his front door by young men who appeared to be “boneheads.” (“Boneheads”—also known, in Russian, as “bonies”—is the name that antifascists give to Nazi skinheads so as not to confuse them with antifascist skinheads, who also exist.) Not the shy, retiring type, Tigran emerged victorious from these skirmishes.
And then there was the bomb.
While the prosecutor’s office tries to ignore the case’s political aspect and opens an investigation into rather minor offences, the Federal Security Service (FSB) does see the connection between Tigran’s case and politics. As the police were taking his testimony down at the precinct, FSB officers paid his mother a house call. (Warped by the force of the bomb blast, the front door of their building couldn’t be closed.) Taking advantage of her emotional shock, they confiscated some of his things without encountering any resistance from her. According to Tigran, they took buttons featuring crossed-out swastikas, sew-on jacket patches, and—most important of all—his computer.
Tigran even got a receipt from FSB officers stating they’d confiscated the computer. As final exams loom, he has lost access to all his course notes and files. He’ll have to think of something to tell the professors at his institute.
I want to make it particularly clear that, as far as I know, neither Timur Kacharava nor Alexander Riukhin was a member of any antifascist organization. They simply held antifascist views and were the sort of guys who practiced what they preached. Timur played in an antifascist hardcore band and, on Sundays, he helped the Petersburg branch of Food Not Bombs hand out hot meals to homeless people. (We should recall that the homeless—or, as they’re known by the old Soviet police acronym, bomzhy—are also objects of hatred for young Nazis, along with non-Slavs and members of such youth subcultures as punks and rappers.)
When I asked him whether he’d been in fights with Nazis, Tigran answered in the affirmative. “What else can you do if they attack? Let yourself get beat up?”
“It was the Nazis themselves who turned us into antifascists,” the former Antifa.ru coworker continues. “We’re all members of one subculture or another, one group or another. These groups often encountered fascist violence; they often were victims of attacks. At some point you lose your self-respect unless you answer blow for blow. Especially when the police and the state mainly do almost nothing to stop the street-level fascist threat.”
“They sometimes sling the accusation at us young antifascists,” Tigran continues, “that the Nazis would have calmed down long ago were it not for us. They say we’re like an irritating red flag for them. According to the people who blame us, Nazi street violence would have tapered off were it not for us. It’s all exactly the other way around. For a long time there were no antifa. They finally emerged because Nazi violence was showing no signs of going away; on the contrary, it just kept on expanding. Besides, it’s also common knowledge that at first the Nazis attacked people with non-Slavic complexions and rank-and-file youth subculture kids who were weaker. The antifa showed up later in reaction, as a response on the part of alternative antifascist youth.”
“Look,” says Tigran, “when the fascists attack, their goal is to cripple or kill their victims: they use knives or even firearms. When they fight the fascists, the antifa, on the contrary, don’t make it their goal to physically eliminate them or inflict serious injuries. The fascists just need to understand that they aren’t here forever; they’re not immortal themselves. They need to experience in person what the value of a human life is, the value of every individual. Maybe if they get thumped a couple times by some regular guys, the small fry, the underage Nazis—the teenagers who shave their heads just because it’s cool, because they want to be feared—will figure out that there’s nothing that cool about being a fascist. Maybe a few of them will even quit.”
Tigran believes, however, that, since they’re a violent street movement, you can’t stop the Nazis as a whole by fighting them. That is just a holding action, the means the youth subcultures use to defend themselves against the Nazis. “If the authorities won’t put them in prison, the Nazi idiots will sense their own impunity and start doing God knows what. On their closed-access Internet chat sites they’ve long been discussing organizing terrorist strikes at markets and even in government buildings. But they haven’t decided yet whether to pin the blame on immigrants or take responsibility themselves.”
“How do you know this?” I ask Tigran.
“Our antifa hackers cracked these sites,” he replies. He claims that these same sites post instructions for the manufacture and use of homemade explosive devices, like the one that went off in his own stairwell.
“How are you doing overall after what’s happened?” I ask.
“I’m okay. Friends helped us fix the front door, they collected money. Now I need money for a good lawyer: I’ve got to drum that up. So I have plenty to do. It’s just that I always have this feeling that they’re about to blow up my front door.”
Isn’t Tigran afraid that unwelcome guests will descend on him again?
“They’ve already shown up—the night after the blast, when the front door was still hanging open. At four in the morning the intercom rang. The voice was young and rude: he said he was delivering a telegram. Then there was movement out on the stairs. Someone with his face hidden in a scarf and a hood dashed past our door, first on his way upstairs, and then again on his way down. Our cat got spooked and I looked through the peephole: ‘guests.’ I hollered at my sister to call the cops again and I dashed out into the stairwell myself, to try and chase them down. But you can’t run very fast in slippers: I didn’t catch them. And the police didn’t, either, although they did come running fairly quickly with their machine guns. Apparently they were staked out somewhere nearby.”
This whole phantasmagoria is really happening now, as Moscow prepares to greet the New Year. Personally, I’m finding it harder and harder to drive it from the threshold of my perception, to pretend that it’s all a matter of hot young blood, the desire to mix it up a bit, to rumble with the other gang. Knives have long ago become part of the game. And now it’s come to bombs.
It is completely obvious that the problem calls for intervention not only from the police, but also from politicians and educators. Is the officially sponsored Nashi (Our People) initiative, whose members have declared themselves a democratic antifascist movement, enough? Obviously not. Politicians who don’t want to farm the issue of antifascism out to the Kremlin and its political operatives should think hard about how to react meaningfully to the new alignment of forces.
Fascism and xenophobia aren’t simply the latest election campaign trump cards in the government’s stacked deck. They are social realities. Those who missed the point of the (November 4) Russian March shouldn’t miss the meaning of Nazi street terror. Apparently, though, our opposition politicians, who are chauffeured to the venues of the latest conference or joint demo with the nationalists (“moderate” nationalists, or so they imagine), don’t really notice what’s happening out on the streets. Nor do they notice that the Nazis have long been trying to run them.
The mass media quite often don’t pay attention to this fact, either. In the editorial offices of one respectable publication I was recently informed that a press release about the Sasha Riukhin murder case from “some Antifa.ru or other” wasn’t sufficient cause for them to react in print. “Especially since they’re definitely not registered,” the editor told me as he looked me sternly in the eye. I don’t know whether they’re registered or not. I do know that you don’t need to be registered to arm yourself with a knife or make a bomb. And the Nazis know this, too.
Vlad Tupikin frequently writes on anti-fascism, Russian anarchism and the anti-globalization movement in Russia.