James Casteel is an assistant professor of German, Russian, and Jewish history in the Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at Carleton University. His research interests include transnational relations between Germany and Russia, nations and empires in central and eastern Europe, and diasporic cultures and belonging. He is the author of Russia in the German Global Imaginary: Imperial Visions and Utopian Desires, 1905-1941.
Fugazi, “Long Division,” Steady Diet of Nothing, 1991.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
“Football stands have turned into mass media,” writes Yabloko youth leader Ilya Yashin in his article, “Ku-Klux Fans” in Novaya gazeta (A rather crude English translation can be found here). “It all started under a sports’ “rubric”: banners and slogans. Then it spread to politics. And now it’s radical. In the last few weeks there have been several incidents involving Nazi football fans: flags with Hitler, effigies of lynched blacks, and masquerades as the Ku-Klux-Klan.”
One recent incident Yashin cites occurred at a match between two amateur teams, Alliance and Makkabi, in the city of Vnukov. A group of Alliance fans wished the players from Makkabi, which is a team from the local Jewish community, “a happy holocaust.” On 9 August, at a match between Vologda Dynamo and Cherepovets Sheksna, a group of fans dressed in Ku-Klux-Klan outfits waved a large flag with Hitler’s picture and unfurled an enormous banner showing noosed black man kneeling before a Klansman. A wooden Klan cross towers over them. The banner’s image was reenacted by the hanging of an effigy of a black man by the fans. The Klan sheets seem to be a new fan fashion. When Russia played Poland in Moscow on 22 August, a group of about twenty Russian fans wore Klansmen hoods.
The prevelance of racist and fascist fans at football games shouldn’t surprise anyone. There is a long tradition of violence, hooliganism, and racism at football games. The spectacle of sport, with its emotionally driven crowds, united around one team, lends to the fascist aesthetic. I have always been struck by the crowds’ collective willingness to join in mass chants and salutes, not to mention the obnoxious “wave”. And its not that I’m above it either. Not participating in the collective adulation for your team and univocal condemnation of the opponent feels almost abnormal. When violence and racism are inserted into the mix, the situation becomes quite volatile.
Yashin notes that the “football fanatic movement is one of the few organized forces in the country outside of the state’s control. More and more often fans stage political actions at the stadiums. In fact, the stands have been a rostrum for sounding off the most radical political slogans for a long time now. The groups within the fanatic movement united not only around the team colors, but also around political principles. And the majority of these groups share a nationalist ideology.” True enough. But the main question is not whether they are organized. It is if they can be mobilized.
Sports have long been viewed a means to reinforce the dominant ideology as well as a safety valve for releasing public frustration. But there is no reason to think that these two processes are contradictory. The emotional fervency for a team can easily be displaced into other areas. Witness how celebrations of the home team winning the championship can quickly slip into riots that lead to attacks on the powerful and powerless alike. While the carnivalesque does act as safety valve, it also creates a moment where all hierarchies are flattened.
And it appears that tapping the nationalist fervor of at least the hardcore of Russian football fans has been considered. In the wake of Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution,” Nashi leader Vasili Yakamenko boasted that he could tap football fans as shock groups against “orange forces” in Russia. Alexandr Shprygin, the leaders of the Dynamo fan group, was quoted saying in 2005 that “Nashi’s leader, Yakemenko, has said that if force is needed, he will provide it. He was referring to the football fans. It is known that Spartak fans were responsible for the attack on the National Bolshevik headquarters.” It is also been suggested that Nashi’s security force, the DMD, is mostly comprised of football hooligans.
But if the Kremlin thinks it can use football fans as some sort of populist instrument, hubris is more pervasive that I’ve thought. Yes they can light the fuse, but once that bomb explodes, who knows where the shrapnel will fly.Post Views: 623
By Sean — 2 years ago
Anne Garrels is a former foreign correspondent for National Public Radio and the author of Naked in Baghdad which chronicled the events surrounding the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Her most recent book is Putin’s Country: A Journey into the Real Russia.
Aesop Rock, “No Regrets,” Labor Days, 2001.Post Views: 3,326
By Sean — 5 years ago
This week’s Russia! Magazine column, “Mainstreaming Russian Nationalism,” was posted a day before the Levada Center released a poll on the popularity of the Russian March. The march is scheduled for Monday, on so-called Unity Day. According to the poll, support for the Russian March is growing: 40 percent of respondents support the idea in varying degrees. While such polls should always be taken with grains of salt, it does suggest that the idea of a rally in support for Russian rights is gradually gaining steam. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to include this survey in the article.
On 26 October about 5-10 youths of “Slavic appearance” attacked a Moscow-Dushanbe bound train as it sat at Ternovka station in Voronezh province. Yelling nationalist slogans, the gang smashed about 20 car windows with rocks. Passengers received minor injuries. “I can’t exactly say why a group of people attacked our train,” a source from the Tajik Railroad toldGazeta.ru. “It’s possible that it’s connected to the intensification of anti-migrant sentiment in the Russian Federation.”
This incident is the latest in a series of nationalist inspired attacks on migrants in Russia. While commentators sought to identify the reasons for the Biryulyovo race riot, little attention has been paid to the apparent increase in nationalist activity since the government’s anti-migrant campaign in early August. True, while many nationalist attacks are not connected to any organization (the Russian nationalist movement is variegated, decentralized and often spontaneous), there has been an uptick in organized activity. Indeed, two weeks prior to the Biryulyovo riot, the nationalist gangs Moscow Shield and Stop Drugs stormed a migrant dormitory in Moscow’s Kapotnya District. The raid, part of which you can view online, saw of youths roaming floor to floor wielding clubs and traumatic weapons to root out illegal migrants. But migrant raids are only one form of nationalist activity. The Sova Center, which monitors extremism, has recorded a number of incidents in which nationalists declared “white” only buses and trams, staging “people’s assemblies” to protest migrant crime, and individual physical attacks on non-Slavs. In its September report on racism and xenophobia, the Sova Center stated that “the public activities of the far-right are notably higher than in the summer.”
What is important about Russia’s far rights, though, isn’t just its increase in public activity. More telling is that this activism comes alongside a concerted effort to move nationalism into the political mainstream.Post Views: 985