My latest for Russia Magazine, “Did Vladislav Surkov Help Fund Neo-Nazis?“:
It’s long been rumored that Vladislav Surkov funded and directed football hooligans and Russian nationalists to attack Russian oppositionists. But there has been little direct proof to pin on the Grey Cardinal of the Presidential Administration (PA). It was all just rumors, albeit believable ones. The truth, however, might be coming out. Since last May, the security services have been collecting information on Surkov’s connections with right-wing groups, particularly in the formation and funding of the neo-Nazi group Russkii obraz. The significance of this possible connection is big. Russkii obraz is where Ilya Goryachev got his start in the neo-Nazi business. Goryachev is currently on trial for masterminding several murders as the leader of the Military Organization of Russian Nationalists (BORN) between 2007 and 2010. Goryachev was extradited from Serbia last November to stand trial in Russia. BORN’s kill list includes Federal Judge Eduard Chuvashov, antifascist activists Ivan Khutoskii and Ilya Dzhaparidze, Thai boxing world champion Muslim Abdullaev, the lawyer Stanislav Markelov, and Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova. If Goryachev’s alleged links to the Kremlin implicates in several murders. And Goryachev’s connections to the Kremlin are coming from an unlikely source: Nikita Tikhonov, a former compatriot of Goryachev and co-founder of BORN. Tikhonov is serving a life sentence along with Yevgenia Khasis, who’s serving eighteen years, for Markelov’s and Baburova’s murder in 2011. Tikhonov is providing testimony in Goryachev’s upcoming trial, and some of the transcripts point to a link between neo-Nazis and the PA. Is Tikhonov testimony true? Is there a deeper meaning behind outing Surkov and his allies’ connections to neo-Nazis?
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- By Sean — 11 years ago
The Moscow Times reports that the Russian government published its blacklist of books, articles, pamphlets, films and records in Rossiiskaya gazeta on Saturday. The list includes 14 works that the Putin government says incites racial and political hatred. Sergei Vasil’ev, the Head of the State Registrar, told the state newspaper that “Russian citizens must know that displays are one of the sources for extremism that are dangerous enemies to society’s stability and well being.”
There are currently two statutes on the Russian Criminal Code that pertain to extremist speech. The first concerns calling out for or verballing inciting “extremist activities.” The other punishes the “agitation of hatred, animosity, or degradation of human dignity”. Conviction of either carries of a maximum prison sentence of five years.
The list consists of the following:
- “Music for White People,” The Order.
- Book of Monotheism, Muhammed idn Sulaiman al-Tamimi.
- Letters of the Kuban Rada of the Spiritual Ancestral Power of Rus’, N. M. Lezinskii, V. M. Gerasev.
- For Russian People, newspaper.
- The Eternal Jew (1940)
- Mother Earth: the Miraculous Miracle, the Marvellous Marvel. An Introduction to Geobiology , A. A. Dobrovol’skii.
- “Paganism as Magic,” A. A. Dobrovol’skii.
- “Who is Afraid of Russian National Socialism,” A. A. Dobrovol’skii.
- “The Judeo-Christian Plague,” A. A. Dobrovol’skii
- “Svatoslavie,” A. A. Dobrovol’skii.
- One Day We Will Come from Rotten Tomatoes, A. A. Nikolaevnko.
- The SS Knocked on Your Door, the Bastards . . ., A. A. Nikolaevnko.
- Fulfilling the Wishes of the Lord’s Thought, A. A. Nikolaevnko.
- The Most Constructive Party,” A. A. Nikolaevnko.
One can see from the list the targets are Neo-Nazism, Islamic fundamentalism, and radical Russian nationalism. Particularly cited are the works of A. A. Dobrovol’skii and A. A. Nikolaevnko. According to the Russian human rights group, Demos, the latter was convicted in July 2005 for the publication of his article, “The Most Constructive Party” in the newspaper Kurs. He was sentenced six months in a labor colony and deprived of practicing journalism for two years.
Dobrovolskii is an advocate for neo-paganism which emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as the wave of “Third Russian Nationalism.” The publication of his articles have led to several convictions in local Russian courts.Tags: Russian nationalism|extremism|racism|neo-Nazism|antisemitism|democracy|human rights|journalism|Putin|Russia|terrorism
- By Sean — 3 years ago
Over 19 million Russians live in poverty, according to a recent article in Dengi. But how is poverty determined in the Russian context?
For Rosstat to categorize you as in poverty, you need to have an income lower than the subsistence minimum. For the majority of Dengi readers, this level is mockingly low: 9,452 rubles ($139) a month (10,178 rubles, $150, for an able bodied person, 7,781 rubles ($115) for pensioners, and 9,197 rubles ($136) for children according to levels the government set in the fourth quarter of 2015). There are many such people (19.2 million, or 13.4 percent of the country), and they are increasing (by an additional 3.1 million people last year).
This is, of course, higher than the index the World Bank uses to determine the poverty. Since 2015 it’s at $1.90 a day, that is about 4,000 rubles a month at the current exchange rate. However, here the word “poverty” (bednost’) is a translation of the English word “poverty” which more corresponds to the Russian word “destitution” (nishcheta). But apparently there are still quite a few of these in Russia, though there aren’t any accurate or up to date estimates. Rosstat data provides the best possible approximation: 3.3 percent of the population had an income below 5,000 rubles a month in 2014.
Poverty, as the Dengi article emphasizes, is also a subjective category. A person is poor if he or she feels poor. The article cites one Dengi reader, a businessman from Moscow who, before the recession, thought that an income of $10,000 a month was poor. Now this entrepreneur’s family of four lives off of $4000 a month, a bit more than Moscow’s per capita income of 60,000 rubles ($886) a month. Not exactly poor compared to many, many Russians but certainly poorer, a condition Dengi calls the “new poor.”
This “new poor” is arguably a bigger political problem than the 19 million Russians living under poverty. These people, after all, are the beneficiaries of Putinism—how could a guy who thought that an income less than $10,000 a month was poor not be—and having tasted the “good life”—vacations abroad, disposable income, and a decent level of conspicuous consumption—are now seeing it gradually whither under Russia’s recession. Other anecdotal evidence from Russia’s educated and skilled classes tell a similar story.
But it’s not just “Putin’s children.” Putin’s “silent majority” are also feeling the pains of recession. The subjective sense of impoverishment is a cross class phenomenon.
Indeed, a recent Levada Center poll revealed that Russians think the three most important problems in the country are rising consumer prices (77 percent), poverty (49 percent) and growing unemployment (43 percent).
There’s also been an increase in labor and social protest. The ongoing long distance truckers’ protest is the most visible manifestation of Putin’s “silent majority” becoming more vocal. And while most of these conflicts remain small and localized, they might prove trouble for United Russia in the upcoming local and parliamentary elections.
A new project by the Center for Economic and Political Reform (TsEPR) seeks to track and map labor protests in Russia. According to their first results, there have been 132 labor conflicts in the first two months of 2016. Over half of them have been over wage arrears (as of March 1 recorded wage arrears amounted to 3.3 billion rubles or $48.7 million). Here’s a map of what the TsEPR calls the “social and economic hot spots.” The provinces with the highest number of protests include Samara, Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, and Kirov regions. Interestingly, the poverty rates in these regions tend to measure below the federal average: Samara, 12.6 percent; Sverdlovsk, 8.3 percent; Chelyabinsk, 11.7 percent; and Kirov, 12.7 percent. Meaning that it’s not the impoverished who are protesting, but those trying to maintain their standard of living in rough economic times.
And this is all at a time when journalists are digging up real estate and offshore schemes linked to Vladimir Putin, his family, and circle, not to mention many others in the Russian establishment. But, sadly, Russia is no outlier here, only a symptom of a more widespread disease. It should be stressed that Putin’s people are using the very methods and institutions many of the world’s oligarchs, criminals and notables employ to secretly squirrel away their billions.
But, hey, this is all part of a Western smear campaign to discredit Russia before the elections, right?
Well, tell that to the 19 million Russians living on less than $139 a month.
- By Sean — 8 years ago
I have little love for Russian liberals. Readers of this blog probably know that well. Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov in particular, as one can sense from my take down of their 2008 anti-Putin screed for the now defunct and sorely missed The eXile. I even giggled when Nashi threw piss in Nemtsov’s face.
The dynamic duo is back with a new Putin obsessed treatise, elegantly entitled Putin. The Results. Ten Years. So much for creativity. It is sure to get more media attention than it deserves. I have yet to read it, and probably won’t. I’m sure my eXile piece applies just as well to this one. According to reports in the Russian media, the text evaluates Putin’s decade long run and the tandem’s two year performance. Vedomosti writes that Nemtsov characterized the text this way on his blog:
In Russian society there are persistent myths imposed by official propaganda. There are many: the myth that Putin pacified the Caucuses and defeated terrorism, the myth about the increased birth and decreased mortality rates, the myth that he defeated the oligarchs and successfully solved the social problems of society. In our report all of these false claims are debunked with figures and facts from available sources.
Boring. Somehow I can’t help thinking that I’ve heard this song before. But, hey, I’ll let you be the judge. A million copies have been printed up and shipped off to Moscow and Petersburg.
Well, make that 900,000 copies. The Russian news is reporting that police seized a shipment of 100,000 copies in a traffic stop in St. Petersburg, for, get this “irregularities in the documentation for cargo.” Reports Gazeta, citing the police:
A truck with the MAN make with Smolensk plates was stopped by traffic police at 9:30 am on Shpalernaya Street (a Yabloko branch office is located there). The cop issued a ticket for the violation of the article 16.12 of the Administrative Code (the violation of traffic signals or road markings): Heavy vehicles are prohibited from entering the center of St. Petersburg without the proper permits,” the police department stated. “When the inspector went to check the load, it became clear that the invoice on the copies stated a Smolensk printing press, while the publishers imprint on the actual books was a the Moscow press. The goods will be temporarily detained and checked.
Not sure why the discrepancy between the invoice and the copies matters. Nevertheless, it was enough for the cops to pinch it. I can see tomorrow’s headlines: “Putin Impounds Critics.” Yep, because no one gets pulled over for traffic violations in Russia. Or harassed for not have the million stamps and forms needed to do anything. And, well, opportunists always have their shit together because they are, like, honest and principled just like us in America. One would think they would have their papers in order considering the big target Russian liberals have on their back. They do, after all, live in Russia. Despite how silly all of this sounds, we should score one for Nemstov and Milov. The cops just gave them the best advertising in town: claims of repression.
It’s funny how things become clearer in just a few hours. Now Gazeta.ru is reporting that the cops have finished their check of the 100,000 copies of Putin. The Results. Ten Years and dutifully shipped them off to the MVD’s Center “E” for inspection. For those who don’t know, Center “E” is the outfit devoted to combating “extremism.” Nemtsov and Milov may be a lot of things, but being extremists is definitely not one of them.
This means that my above cynicism is now dashed, making me actually think that something is indeed rotten in St. Petersburg. I hate it when the Russian authorities’ sheer idiocy and paranoia make me sympathize with the liberals. I just hate it.
And if you need more proof that this seizure is convenient, not to mention downright suspicious, check this out: It comes a mere day before the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Over the next few days, Medvedev is set to hobnob with businessmen from around the world to ensure them that Russia is worth their bucks. Apparently the chance that one of Nemtsov and Milov’s pamphlets falls into an unsuspecting businessman’s hands and they learn there’s mass corruption (shock!) in Russia is just too risky. As Dr. Smith used to say in Lost in Space, “Oh the pain. The pain.”
This whole incident also proves that Nemtsov can be right every once in a while. “In his opinion,” says Gazeta, “now the report will be read by more than a million people.” All too true. Score: Team Solidarity 2 : 0 Putin.