Russian authorities just keep stretching and stretching the meaning of extremism. Now the list of extremists will include a variety of youth subcultures extending from skinheads to fans of the iconic Soviet rock band Kino. This is according to a report released by the St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office which places music fans under police surveillance. Reports the St. Petersburg Times:
According to the report, the district’s criminal police have identified and included on a register “88 people who attribute themselves to informal entities such as ‘Skinheads,’ ‘Aggressive Football Fans,’ ‘Punks,’ ‘Emos,’ ‘Black Metallers,’ ‘Fans of [the band] Kino,’ ‘Alternative Rock Fans,’ ‘Anarchists’ and others.”
Kino was a local 1980s pop-rock band influenced by The Cure and Duran Duran, and is still popular with young people in Russia, though it split up when its frontman and sole songwriter Viktor Tsoi died in a car crash in 1991. Plans to erect an official monument to Tsoi are underway in the city.
The report said that apart from the criminal police, “this work” is also conducted by neighborhood police inspectors and juvenile police departments.
Once exposed and registered, the music fans and members of the other “informal entities” are the subject of “preventive work” conducted by the district’s police officers, the district’s administration officials and educational institution staff to “prevent crimes, including those of an extremist nature.”
Wonderful. But far from anything new. A list of “ideologically harmful” music was concocted by the Komsomol in the 1980s. It didn’t work then and it sure as hell isn’t going to work now. One would think the St. Petersburg police have better things to do with their time.
And they say punk is dead. Nah, it’s just under police surveillance.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
The press finally caught up with the eXile‘s demise with the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Fox News, the International Heral Tribune, the London Telegraph, UPI, among others, all reporting the story. All of them basically say the same information repeated ad nauseum, i.e. the irreverent paper folded after Russian inspectors scared off its investors. Even the Committee to Protect Journalists released a News Alert. My favorite headline comes from Danwei from Hong Kong. “Death of the Rude Russian Exile,” its report reads. As Jeremy Goldkorn, the piece’s author, points out,
As far as your correspondent knows, no foreigner has ever tried to publish anything like The Exile in China. The closest thing I have seen is the rather inward-looking and music obsessed Eight Inches of Arsehole, a photocopied zine that was distributed in bars in Beijing and amongst the expatriate hipster musician types and people with strong thoughts about Beijing expatriate magazines.
But it was photocopied, anonymous, and had no advertising or pretense of being commercial media. And they never touched politics.
Makes you wonder why Russia, and not China, is more the scourge of all freedom lovers.
It also makes me wonder why almost all of the reports listed above never mentioned the “e” word. Not even the lefty Mother Jones made the fact that the eXile was being audited for extremism an issue, despite hailing it as the “World’s Best Alt-Weekly” (the word only appears in a quote one of Ames’ Radar Online posts.) In fact, according to one of my handy dandy LexisNexis searches, extremism only appears into two articles on the subject. One written by Ames himself and the BBC Monitoring Service‘s translation of Limonov’s article. How strange. Especially since if anyone wants to make a bigger political issue out of the eXile‘s demise, Russia’s elastic extremism law is surely the issue.
As for Ames’ whereabouts, we might want to dust off an old Where’s Waldo? games. According to Ames’ latest dispatch, he could be in London (or even here in LA) or undergoing a water boarding session in a back room at Sheremetyevo.
Before Ames shipped out of Russia, he got the unique pleasure to debate Nashist and Duma rep Robert Schlegel on Moscow’s Govorit Moskva, 92.0 FM. About a month and a half ago Schlegel tried to make his legislative mark by introducing a bill to further harden Russia libel law. President Medvedev shot him down. Schlegel, as Ames describes him, “isn’t entirely human the way you and I are, but is rather some kind of genetically engineered Boys From Brazil product, created so that he might one day serve a cruel and scary tyrant.” Indeed. If you take a look at Radar‘s accompanying photo, you will see that no Russian has looked this Aryan since Ivan Drago.
The debate went as expected. You can read a transcipt (in Russian) here.
Perhaps the most interesting mainstream article on the “eXile Affair” (If there can be a Litvinenko Affair why not an eXile one?), was an article in the Moscow Times (reprinted in the St. Petersburg Times) by Owen Mathews. He argues that the eXile’s demise has much more symbolic meaning. He writes,
The story of The eXile is the story of an earlier, pre-boom Moscow, before gourmet supermarkets and sushi restaurants sprouted on every corner. The eXile was born in a place that was dark, vibrant and absolutely compelling. The money, the sin and the beautiful people — it was doomed, apocalyptic and transiently beautiful. The incandescent energy of the pretty, deluded party kids whom the paper wrote about could have lit up this blighted country for a century if channeled into anything other than self-destruction and oblivion.
Perhaps the end of the eXile is symbolic of Russia crossing the Rubicon into a full fledged Putinian utopia.Post Views: 68
By Sean — 11 years ago
“No to Fascism in
Estonia!” reads a slogan at a Nashi picket in Ural city of . “No to Genocide against the Russian Population in Novosibirsk !,” another boldly proclaims. Hyperbole was hardly lacking at this small rally of the self-proclaimed “Young Democratic Anti-Fascist Movement Nashi” as several of its Estonia activists gathered around a statute of Lenin in the city’s central square. The activists hoped to whip up the fervor of local youths over Novosibirsk Estonia’s removal of the “Bronze Statue” from the center of on April 27. Tallinn was not the only local Nashi organization to mobilize against the Soviet WWII memorial’s relocation. Over the past two weeks, rallies and communiqu?s of opposition have hailed from Nashi chapters in Tula, Ivanovo, Vladimir, Kaluga, Penza, Volgograd, Krasnodar, Tver, Kostroma, Lipetsk, Voronezh, not to mention its main chapters in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The events in Novosibirsk , which Nashi calls the “Fascist Government of Estonia” in its propaganda, has made the issue the center piece of its activism, if not its present reason for being. Estonia
When looking at the Nashi website (which until recently appeared to be inaccessible to non-Russian IP addresses) one can’t help be reminded of the pages of the Young Communist League’s Komsomolskaya pravda. Editions from the 1920s and 1930s contained a daily section called “Around the League” that also featured the goings on of local cells. Often, like during the All-Union Cultural Campaign (kul’tpokhod) in 1928-29, they carried short reports about how local activists were rising to the challenge and zealously fulfilling the center’s directives. While there was some truth to these blurbs, the chorus always sang a bit too well in key.
Make no mistake. Nashi is the new Komsomol. But it is not the Komsomol of the 1970s and 1980s when the organization was merely a quasi-compulsory bureaucratic funnel into the Communist Party and other Soviet institutions. Currently, Nashi hardly has the numbers, let alone the political networks, to facilitate institutionalized upward mobility. Instead, Nashi better represents the Komsomol of the 1920s and 1930s—hardly a mass organization (At 2 million in 1928 the Komsomol only captured a fraction of Russian youth. Nashi even less so with an estimated membership of 300,000) but far more activist and militant. So militant that the League served as the spearhead for the Communist Party’s populist mobilizations in the Stalin Revolution. When the Bolsheviks called for “storming fortresses” it was a Komsomolets that often held the charging banner. Similarly, Nashi appears to be the spearhead of the Putin Administration efforts to stir nationalist populism among the masses.
Though it is one among many youth organizations in
, Nashi has become the most visible, not to mention the most funded and politically supported, youth movement in the country since its founding in March 2005. Separate from any political party in particular, (United Russia’s youth group is called Molodaia gvardiia. A name that also invokes Komsomolesque lineage), the attendance of several of Russia prominent politicians, including Putin, Kremlin chief ideologist Vladislav Surkov, and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, among others at its summer retreat in Tver and conferences makes formal connections superfluous. In a news conference last year, Surkov told reporters that “We have to try not to lead this too much. But of course we contact and support those who support us.” In fact, one might say that Nashi is none other than the Kremlin’s young guard. And while Nashi does not have the attention or influence among the majority of Russian youth, of all Russia youth groups they are the most recognizable. There is no doubt that their campaign against “Estonian fascism” will only boost their appeal among mainstream patriotic youth. Russia
The past two weeks have seen a ratcheting up of Nashi activity focused around the Bronze Statute incident. The most widely reported incident involves the week long “siege” of the Estonian Embassy by Nashi activists in
. The usual Nashi spectacles were all present: slogans, posters, activists in costume and the harassing of politicians. This time the victim was Estonian Ambassador Marina Kaljurand. Last Wednesday, Nashi activists attempted to prevent her from attending a press conference at the Argumenty i Fakty offices. A melee resulted with her bodyguards using mace to repel the would-be attackers. Eleven Nashi activists were reportedly detained by Moscow police. The “blockade” ended late last week when Nashi leader Vasilii Yakemenko announced that “We escorted the Ambassador all the way to the airport, watching out to prevent any possible provocations which could have been later blamed on us. Marina Kaljurand took the plane to Moscow and left. She got really scared, and she feels ashamed. And we will pack a suitcase and send her things to her, — Estonian sprats and cheese.” This was of course a few days after Yakemenko told RIA Novosti that Nashi’s “blockade” was actually protecting the Estonian embassy. “Had we not been standing outside the embassy drunk or aggressive members of the public would have smashed the building to pieces. By being here we are preventing things that could have been used to say that Russians are uncivilized,” Yakemenko said. Stockholm
Activities were not just centered on
. At a panel discussion about Russia-Estonian relations in St. Petersburg, Nashi activists heckled Lauri Bambus, the Estonian consul general, with questions about Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip’s remarks that the Soviet soldiers buried near the Bronze Statue were “drunk and run over by their own tank,” or “shot down for looting,” or were “deceased patients from a nearby hospital.” As Bambus left the panel, Nashi activists chanted anti-Estonian slogans and held placards that read, “Wanted: a consul of a fascist state.” In addition, Nashi activists have also blocked highways at the Estonia border and called for economic boycotts of Estonian goods. There are even allegations that their hackers attacked Estonian government computer networks. Moscow
Several news organizations have decried Nashi’s tactics. The Moscow Times called the attempted assault on Kaljurand a “radical departure from the group’s origins” of defending
’s sovereignty. Their tactics were now wholly offensive. Moscow Human Rights activist Alexandr Bord told Moskovskii Komsomolets that “Nashi is much more dangerous that skinheads and nationalists.” Writing in Novaya gazeta, Andrei Ryabov argued that there was no doubt that Nashi’s activities are intimately tied to the Kremlin’s policies. So much so that “if Nashi and the rest receive different orders tomorrow, or if their funding is cut, the wave of turbulent protests by “Russian society” would quickly evaporate.” Russia
Therefore the question is who is control of Nashi. There is some speculation that the Kremlin is trying to bring Nashi to heel after the embassy fiasco. In an interview with Moskovskii Komsomolets, Vasili Yakemenko admitted that Nashi “made certain mistakes” adding “and we have apologized for them.” When pressed as to what those mistakes were, he said,
I don’t think we should have obstructed Marina Kaliurand’s car, not even for 15 minutes. That happened on the first day of the picket, when the crowd outside the embassy included a few dozen people who had nothing to do with the Nashi movement. I intervened in that situation, and the car was allowed to proceed on its way. Second point: what happened to the Swedish ambassador’s car. That was unacceptable, and we have sent our apologies to the ambassador. Third: we shouldn’t have torn down the flag from the Estonian Embassy. I released an official statement from the Nashi movement, expressing deep regret about this and saying that we don’t approve or support the behavior of the activist who tore down the flag. He will certainly be punished. He might even be expelled from the movement. In other words, in each of the abovementioned situations, I considered such actions unacceptable.
Nikolai Chaplin, the Komsomol General Secretary for most of the 1920s, couldn’t have said it better. When the Komsomol unleashed its rank and file on Soviet society, activists more often than not went beyond the prescriptions of their leaders. Local activists translated “cultural campaigns” into beating up and terrorizing citizens, ransacking churches and mosques, and expropriating property. While Nashi’s leash is nowhere near as long and wrath nowhere near as violent, one wonders if the Kremlin’s two pincer strategy (that is authoritarian from above and populist from below) will one day get the better of them. Controlling power from above is easy. Letting loose young rank and file activists from below always produces excess. As the Nashi’s recent excesses show, sometimes the tail can threaten to wag the dog, if not urge the dog to chase its tail.Tags: Komsomol|Nashi|Putin|Russia|Estonia|Bronze Statue|WWII|Soviet Union|youth politics|nationalismPost Views: 55