One year ago, an assassin in a ski masked shot anti-fascist lawyer Stanislav Markelov in the back in the head near Kropotkinskaya metro. The killer then shot Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova as she went after him. She died in a hospital shortly thereafter. Both were well known antifascists.
Two suspects, Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgeniya Khasis, alleged former members of the fascist group Russian National Unity, were arrested in November in the killing, a rarity in Russia. They’re being tried for murder in Moscow’s Basmanny court.
The memory of these two figures, however, not only reminds us of the plight of human rights activists and journalists, but also the specter of Russian fascist violence.
In his report on the Markelov and Babunova‘s murders in Novaya gazeta, Sergei Sokolov addresses two myths worth remembering about Russian fascists:
First myth: Russian fascists are shaved young morons in shitkickers and bombers who attack immigrants. There are those. But these are simple skinheaded young morons: without a particular ideology, purpose or a brain. They, in essence, are the most ordinary skinheads. Among the majority of the real fascist underground are young (under 30) people with a higher education, generally in the humanities: very many journalists (like Khasis), historians (like Tikhonov), political spin doctors, political scientists, sociologists . . . There are those who have combat experience in Chechnya. They study the experience of past underground organizations (their structure, conspiratorial methods, technology for carrying out terrorist acts), criminology, knives and guns, and arduously engage in special physical training . . .
Second myth: Russian fascists are crazy for Orthodoxy and are Russophiles, and their main enemy is the non-Russian who holds a different faith. On the contrary, you can find Georgians, Tatars, and Jews among Russian fascists. Orthodoxy is significant in their environment, but no less that paganism. (Tikhonov, for example, is neo–paganist). For all intents and purposes, for them the murder of “beasts” (zver’ki, that is Africans, Caucasians, Central Asians in their lexicon) is either public relations or a way to attract supporters from their many young imbeciles. “Zver’ki” are not people, their life, as well as death, do not have significance for the achievement of a real purpose: for the creation of a state and society based on ubermensch.
This is not all, of course. People like Markelov and Baburova hold a special place in Russian fascist world.
There are particular enemies for Russian fascists: journalists, lawyers, human rights and social activists, anti-fascists, employees of law enforcement and security organs, businessmen and state officials, who in their opinion, hamper the creation of the “real Russia” in one way or another.
The past few years have seen nothing less than an uptick in fascist terror.
On June 28, 2009, antifascist Ilya Dzhaparidze, who had promoted anti-racism among football supporters, was murdered near the entrance to his own building. On November 16, 2009, Ivan Khutorskoi, a leader and founder of the street-level antifascist movement in Moscow, was shot and killed in the entryway of his own home. This was the second attempt to murder Ivan there; the first such attack took place in 2005. On the morning of October 10, 2008, antifascist Fyodor Filatov, a friend of Ivan Khutorskoi, was killed as he left his home.When we talk about attempts on the lives of antifascists, we should remember a series of attempted bombings. On December 22, 2006, a homemade bomb went off in the entryway of a residential building in the southwestern Moscow suburb of Lyublino; several police officers who were attempting to defuse the bomb were seriously injured. The device was attached to a radiator near the door of an antifascist’s apartment, and a swastika had been drawn on the wall near the bomb. On October 13, 2007, three neo-Nazis attempted to set off an explosive device containing the equivalent of 200 grams of TNT and packed with bolts and bits of glass at the Roks Club in Petersburg, where an antifascist concert headlined by a Swedish band was taking place. No one was injured thanks to the swift actions of security guards.
Another widespread misconception is the notion that the only people who are in danger are those in the so-called risk groups: people of non-Slavic appearance, active antifascists or members of subcultures. This is not the case. In recent years, “random” people have more and more often been the victims of Nazi terrorism.
On January 16, 2009, an attempt was made to blow up the McDonald’s on Zelenodolskaya Street, near the Kuzminki metro station. Black smoke began to issue from a bag left behind by one of the customers, and then a loud bang was heard. FSB bomb technicians who arrived on the scene discovered that the bag contained an explosive device that for reasons unknown did not go off. Members of the neo-Nazi group NS/WP turned out to have organized the unsuccessful blast. This same gang was responsible for blowing up spur tracks near the Tsaritsyno station on October 5, 2008, and the main tracks of the Paveletskaya line near the Bulatnikovo station on November 4, 2008, as well as the explosion at the Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra Church in the Biryulevo–Zapadnoe district on November 30, 2008. The members of this gang who were arrested had committed almost two dozen attacks on passersby, people they regarded as non-Russians. All these crimes took place between November 2008 and January 2009. For example, on January 1, 2009, the gang murdered an Uzbek and a Dagestani on Biryulevskaya Street. On December 6, 2008, these same criminals attacked an ethnic Russian whom they mistook for a priest because of his thick beard. One of the leaders of the gang was 17-year-old Muscovite Yevgenia Zhikhareva, a student at the Water Transport Academy who personally participated in the murders. The terrorists were aided by 29-year-old Pyotr Bashelutskov, who worked in Moscow as a departmental head in the Russian Federation Ministry of Tourism, Sports, and Youth Policy. Investigators suspect that this government official provided the fugitives with money and fake passports.
For a complete chronicle of similar incidents I refer you to the January 19 Committee.
Despite sporadic indications that the Russian government is finally going to take a heavy hand against the radical right, the reality is, as Boris Kagarlitsky notes, that “the regime’s aversion to any form of the leftist ideology is getting more noticeable. All the left-wing and anti-fascist organizations are regarded as extremist ones, though they always observe laws.” Take for example, the recent attempt in Samara to deem Pavel Bardin’s excellent skinhead mockumentary, Russia 88, extremist. Thankfully, the Prosecutor’s Office withdrew their idiotic case before a court got a chance to review the film for extremist content. According to the Sova Center, the attempt to ban the film wasn’t political, but just plain human stupidity. “The prosecutors were unable to differentiate reality from the film.” Stupidity, indeed.
So hopefully on this day, one year since Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were gunned down in broad daylight by a fascist thug, they won’t be remembered so much as a lawyer and a journalist. To really do justice to their memory, they must be remembered as antifascists before anything else. That is what they were killed for.