Bulletin 3:18 (2009)
- THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN
A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
Vol. 3, No. 18(60), 8 August 2009
Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland
I NEWS: 16 - 30 July 2009
II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
III PRIMARY SOURCES
IV ANNOTATIONS OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS
[NOTE: When viewing an RNB issue in the Messages archive of the
homepage and the end of the text is truncated, scroll to the end of
the message and click "Expand Messages." Only then, the whole text of
the - otherwise truncated - issue will appear.]
I NEWS: 16 - 30 July 2009
First Soviet Union museum opens in Russia
RIA Novosti, July 16, 2009
NOVOSIBIRSK, July 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's first ever museum dedicated to life in the Soviet Union opened in the West Siberian city of Novosibirsk on Thursday.
Museum exhibits include Soviet-era paintings, photographs, sculptures, radios, teapots, irons, as well as posters of Soviet celebrities, including the first man in space, Yury Gagarin. Most of the items have been donated by locals.
The museum building is also an exhibition in its own right. Built in 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution, it was later used as a kommunalka, a Soviet-era communal apartment shared by six families.
The Soviet Union ceased its 74-year existence in 1991.
"For me the USSR was in no way an evil empire. I think people were much kinder then than now," a museum visitor said.
Novosibirsk Court Sentences Youths in Racist Attack
UCSJ, July 16, 2009
A court in Novosibirsk, Russia handed down three year suspended sentences to three youths who attacked a Chinese doctor, according to a July 13, 2009 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. In April 2008, the youths assaulted the victim and later claimed to the police that they were forced to do so by an older neo-Nazi whom police are still searching for. Sova criticized the lax sentences, pointing out that the motive for the attack was "obviously racist" but the prosecutors and the court nevertheless did not consider hate crimes charges.
Neo-Nazi March in Izhvesk
UCSJ, July 16, 2009
Neo-Nazis held a march in Izhevsk, Russia (Republic of Udmurtiya) last week, according
to a July 13, 2009 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. On the night of July 7, an activist from the Prikamsk Human Rights Center noticed the extremists marching
down a city street in full view of the police, who reportedly did nothing to stop them. The marchers screamed neo-Nazi slogans and made fascist salutes, all of which are prosecutable offenses under Russia's anti-incitement laws. There are no reports of any attacks in connection with the march.
Number of enchurched Orthodox Russians has twice increased since 1990-s
Interfax-Religion, July 16, 2009
Moscow, July 16, Interfax - Number of Orthodox Russians, living a productive church life, grows steadily, Chairman of the Synodal Information Department of the Russian Church Vladimir Legoyda has said. Speaking on air the Finam FM radio station, he said that about 80 percent of Russians call themselves Orthodox, though we often hear that the number of those who "really understand and accept Orthodoxy" is much lower. "Yes, indeed this number has been rather small so far, but it grows steadily," Legoyda said. According to him, it makes about 10 percent of those who consider themselves Orthodox.
The Department Head stressed that "in notorious 1990-s" the percentage of such believers did not exceed 3-5 percent. Legoyda reported this data was based on results of various polls.
Courts in Voronezh, Russia Take Up Two Hate Crimes Cases
UCSJ, July 17, 2009
Courts in Voronezh, Russia have begun preparing for trials in two hate crimes cases, according to a July 13, 2009 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. Although not mentioned in the Sova report, Voronezh has a reputation for active neo-Nazi gangs and, until a few years ago, the refusal of local prosecutors to bring hate crimes charges.
Three defendants face charges of "hooliganism motivated by ethnic hatred" and "assault motivated by ethnic hatred" in relation to a series of attacks in 2007-2009 against three citizens of India, an Iraqi, and a Kenyan. The second case involves a single defendant who in 2007 allegedly attacked a citizen of Georgia. He faces charges of "assaultmotivated by ethnic hatred." Perhaps coincidentally, at the time of the attack, the Russian government had launched an anti-Georgian campaign just a few months before that had included mass roundups and hysterical anti-Georgian reporting in the national media.
Antisemitic Vandalism in Syktyvkar, Russia
UCSJ, July 17, 2009
Someone shattered a window of a Jewish community center in Syktyvkar, Russia (Komi Republic) according to a July 16, 2009 report posted on Jewish.ru. The incident happened on June 30--a security guard noticed that someone had thrown a stone through the window, the second time this has happened in 2009.
After the first incident, Jewish community leaders reported the crime to the police, who classified it as "hooliganism" rather than a hate crime and did not find any suspects.
As a result, the Jewish community decided not to bother reporting the latest incident to police and information about it has only now come out in the media.
Orthodox activists announce contest for church project to replace Lenin's Mausoleum
Interfax-Religion, July 17, 2009
Moscow, July 17, Interfax - The Union of Orthodox Church Banner-Bearers announced a contest for the project of a Church of New Russian Martyrs and Confessors in the Red Square to replace Lenin's Mausoleum.
"Revival of Russia is impossible until the occult lab for destroying will and conscience of Russian people remains in the very heart of Moscow "the Third Rome." To this end, the Mausoleum should be destructed, body of the world proletarian leader should be taken away, this place should be consecrated and an Orthodox Church should be constructed at this place," the Union's Head Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich has told an Interfax-Religion correspondent on Friday.
He has already presented the first contest project and suggested building a small copy of Yekaterinburg Church-on-the-Blood erected at the site of the last Russian emperor's execution instead of "the main world Satan temple."
Simonovich-Nikshich said that the contest started on July 17 on the day of the 91st commemoration "of the ritual murder of the holy royal martyrs," thus the future church in place of the mausoleum should be consecrated in honor of "the assemble of new Russian martyrs and confessors suffered from atheistic rule."
"Sooner or later, God providence will destroy the Satan temple. Meantime, we should get ready for laying the first stone to the foundation of finally awaken Russia," he said.
The Union's website will present all projects for nation-wide discussions and due to the participants wish authors may comment them "for explaining their conception."
Jehovah's Witnesses in Rostov region accused of extremism
Interfax-Religion, July 17, 2009
Rostov-On-Don, July 17, Interfax - Members of the local Jehovah's Witnesses religious organization in the town of Novoshakhtinsk, Rostov region, could face criminal charges of extremism.
"Jehovah's Witnesses operating in Novoshakhtinsk are preaching in public places, propagating the exclusivity and supremacy of the Jehovah's religious doctrine above all others and promoting refusal from civil duty, voting at elections and serving in the army, which led to multiple complaints from the public and to a protest by local residents," the Rostov regional prosecutor's office said on Thursday.
Novoshakhtinsk prosecutors sent case files to an investigative body to consider a criminal prosecution of the local members of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization. Moreover, the regional prosecutor asked the Rostov regional court to order the closure of the organization in Taganrog for extremist activities, inciting religious hatred and human rights violations.
"For their part, prosecutors in Novoshakhtinsk and the Yegorlyk district issued a warning to religious organizations and to the chairman of the governing committee of the Administrative Center for Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia about the unacceptability of extremist activities," the Rostov regional prosecutor's office said.
Religious culture and secular ethics will be taught in Russian schools as experiment
Interfax-Religion, July 21, 2009
Barvikha, July 21, Interfax - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has offered the teaching of the foundations of religious culture, history of religion, and secular ethics in Russian schools as an experiment.
"I believe it is possible to hold such an experiment in some regions of our country. We are now planning to do it in 18 regions, but this figure may be discussed," Medvedev said at a meeting addressing the issues of teaching religious culture and secular ethics in Russian schools and the introduction of the institution of military and fleet priests in the Russian armed forces.
"Students and their parents should independently choose the subjects," said Medvedev. "It may be the foundations of Orthodox culture or the foundations of Muslim culture, Judaism, or Buddhism. Students and their parents should make independent choices," said Medvedev.
"Many people are likely to want to study all religious life in Russia in its entirety. For such students, a general course in the history of major traditional religions represented in our country may be developed," said Medvedev.
The president also said that people who are not religious should have a right to study the foundations of secular ethics.
Medvedev backs plan to start religion courses in schools, assign priests to armed forces
Interfax-Religion, July 21, 2009
Barvikha, July 21, Interfax - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has supported the idea of introducing a course in religious culture and secular ethics at general schools, and for assigning priests to the army and navy.
Medvedev said at a meeting on Tuesday that he had received letters from the leaders of Russia's main religions, proposing that subjects aimed at the younger generation's spiritual and moral upbringing be introduced at general schools, and priests attached to the army and navy.
"I have made up my mind to support both ideas - the idea of introducing a basic course of religious culture and secular ethics at schools. I also think it worthwhile to assign priests representing Russia's traditional faiths to the armed forces on a permanent basis," Medvedev said.
"I am ready to support both decisions," the president said.
An Antifascist from Rostov-na-Donu Faces Threats
SOVA Center, July 21, 2009
In July, 2009, Konstantin Baranov, the leader of "Young Europe" international organization, became a victim of neo-nazi threats.
Beside telephone calls and e-mails to Baranov himself, the "Young Europe" page on "Vkontakte" social network (Russian version of Facebook) faced a spam attack.
This threats were caused by Baranov's activity against ultra-rightwing and neo-nazi concerts organized in Rostov-na-Donu. This city often becomes a scene for music events which gather neo-nazi skinheads from all over the country.
In June and July, 2009, "Young Europe" have come out against neo-nazi concerts, and also filed petitions to the law enforcement bodies to initiate an investigation.
However, there was no investigation, but the information about Baranov's petitions to the prosecutor's office and his personal data became accessible to the neo-nazis themselves who didn't hesitate to distribute it on the Internet.
Baranov has asked the General Prosecutor's Office to investigate the alleged disclosure of his personal data by the Rostov-na-Donu prosecutor's office and to take measures to provide his personal safety.
Orthodoxy And Other Faiths To Be Taught In Russian Schools Voluntarily
Itar-Tass, July 22, 2009
MOSCOW, July 22 (Itar-Tass) -- Religion will be taught in Russian schools but not mandatorily and will cover not only Orthodoxy, but also other faiths, and chaplains will appear in the army. President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday put an end to drawn-out disputes over the introduction of the basics of religious culture in school and the position of chaplain in the army. He supported both ideas at a meeting with the heads of the main Russian confessions at his residence outside Moscow.
Schoolchildren will be free to choose whether to study history and the basics of culture of one of the traditional religions in Russia - Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism - or their general history. Finally, the children and their parents who flatly reject all forms of religious education will be offered a subject called "The Basics of Secular Ethics". Only secular teachers will teach these subjects.
The president emphasised that "the choice made by schoolchildren and their parents should be solely voluntary", but they will have to choose one of three subjects anyway. Analysts recall that the Russian Orthodox Church has long insisted that the "Basics of Orthodoxy" be taught in Russian schools compulsorily, while Imams from the very beginning advocated the study of different confessions. So, although official representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church welcomed the president's decision, it can hardly be considered to be their indisputable victory.
Medvedev placed a special emphasis on the voluntariness of the schoolchildren's choice. "Any coercion or pressure in these matters will be absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive," the head of state stressed and authorised an experiment to introduce "Spiritual and Moral Education" in the school curriculum.
The experiment will begin in 18 regions in 2010. If it proves successful, this practice will be extended to the rest of the country to cover 256,000 children. It is expected that the basics of religions will be taught to 4th and 5th graders (i.e. children aged 10-11) two times a week.
"Spiritual and Moral Education" may become a nationwide subject in 2012, if the state complies with all the parameters of the experiment, which the Vremya Novostei newspaper says "seem to be simply utopian today". For example, it has been proposed that even if only one pupil chooses to study the basics of Islam or Buddhism, he will be provided with a teacher to work with him individually.
Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko admitted that the introduction of the new subject in the school curriculum would cost dearly. According to his estimates, about 40,000 teachers will have to be retrained, which will require hundreds of millions of roubles.
The initiative has been supported by the clergy, and many politicians and public figures, although some of them fear that this will result in the Church's interference in the state affairs.
Like the president, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stressed the voluntary nature of the new subject. "A captive is not a pilgrim," the patriarch recalled a saying. "Experience shows that only voluntary perception of ideas, such as religious ideas, can be useful for people," Kirill said, adding that those who had forced children to study the law of God in tsarist times sawed the crosses off churches under Bolsheviks.
Russia's chief Mufti Ravil Gainutdin noted that the president's decision does not infringe upon "the rights of atheists" as it allows only "secular teachers" to teach religious culture.
Russia's chief rabbi Berl Lazar seems to be concerned most of all with "the problems of Xenophobia and extremism", which should be solved by "teaching children to understand religious culture correctly". He believes that the situation where schoolchildren will be able to learn about the culture of many confessions is "optimum".
According to Kommersant, first deputy chairman of the Communist Party's Central Committee Ivan Melnikov fears that priests will replace secular teachers over time. "We are against the interference of the Church in the activities of society," he said.
Orthodox priest Mikhail Ardov told Ekho Moskvy radio that the president's proposal is just the "Kremlin dreaming". "As for the teaching of these subjects in school, this is just the Kremlin dreaming. Who will teach it, what textbooks will be used, and who will write them?" he asked.
The experiment to introduce the basics of ethics and morals will also take place in the Armed Forces. If more than 10 percent of the personnel in a brigade, division or military school are of the same faith, they can expect a clergyman of their faith to be hired. However naval and army chaplains will retain their civilian status. Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said the institute of chaplains would be introduced in three stages. By the end of this year, one chaplain will be assigned to each formation in the North Caucasus Military District and outside the country. At the second stage, clergymen will start working in the main military units and military bases in Russia. And they will appear in all military districts, fleets and military schools during the third stage. The minister said, "The average salary of chaplains cannot be lower than that of the brigade deputy commander for education and training". All in all, about 200,000-250,000 chaplains will be employed in the Armed Forces.
According to the Defence Ministry's statistics, 63 percent of military personnel are believers. Eighty percent of them profess Orthodoxy, 13 percent Islam, 3 percent Buddhism, and 1 percent Judaism and other faiths.
The decision has been ardently supported by the Orthodox and Muslim communities in Russia. The country's chief Mufti Ravil Gainutdin believes that the presence of chaplains in the army will enhance patriotism among the troops.
Medvedev himself is known to be a religious person who regularly goes to the Orthodox Church. At the same time, he respects other traditional confessions as well. Last week alone, he visited Moscow's jami and plans to visit a Buddhist temple shortly.
Ryazan Police Pressure Jewish Community Not to Report Antisemitic Vandalism
UCSJ, July 22, 2009
After the Jewish community center in Ryazan, Russia was vandalized for
the second time in a month, local police pressured community activists
not to file an official report of the crime, according to a July 14,
2009 report by the Regnum news agency. The first incident involved the
painting of a swastika on the center's doors. Police took several days
before they investigated that crime, and assured community activiststhat they would find the culprits. However, no detentions were
reported in connection with the crime. On July 13, someone chiseled
several deep holes into the placard of the community center. Police
came a full day after being called and then allegedly pressured
community activists not to file an official report. No arrests have
been reported in connection with that incident either.
St. Petersburg Policeman Terrorizing Jewish Neighbor Says Local Ombudsman
UCSJ, July 22, 2009
Igor Mikhaylov--the human rights ombudsman for St. Petersburg,
Russia--is urging criminal charges against a police officer who has
allegedly terrorized his Jewish neighbor over the course of the last
several months, according to a July 21, 2009 report posted onJewish.ru. Mikhail Kantor alleges that his communal apartment
neighbor, police inspector Viktor Vashchenko, locked him out of their
apartment, and when he showed up with a court order demanding access
to his home, Officer Vashchenko let him in but subsequently assaulted
him on several occasions. The first attack allegedly took place on
November 10, the professional holiday of Russia's policemen, after
which Mr. Kantor was taken to the hospital with a broken nose, a
concussion, and other injuries. He stated that the police officer
didn't like the fact that he is an observant Jew and has a criminal
record. Ombudsman Mikhaylov has in his possession photographs of the
injured victim and called for the "severe punishment" of the officer.
It is not clear from the report if any charges have yet been filed in
relation to this incident.
Moscow Mayor Chastises Police for Covering Up Hate Crimes
UCSJ, July 22, 2009
Moscow's mayor Yuri Luzhkov publicly chastised police and prosecutors
for covering up hate crimes, according to a July 22, 2009 report by
the Sova Information-Analytical Center. Speaking on July 21 to his
cabinet on the topic of extremism and local youths, Mayor Luzhkov
characterized the situation as "unsatisfactory" and "getting worse"
with the number of hate crimes taking place in Moscow increasing byseveral times previously recorded levels. "We need to oppose this with our will
and our work," the mayor stated.
Turning to a group of police officials and prosecutors, the mayor for
the first time directly addressed a problem that human rights and
minority community activists have complained about for years--law
enforcement agencies covering up hate crimes by reporting them as
ordinary assaults, murders, or incidents of "hooliganism." "Everyone
knows that you often don't register crimes motivated by fascism,
racism, or ethnic animosity, preferring instead to hide them amidst a
mass of other, ordinary crimes," the mayor chided. "This is
Although not noted in the report, Moscow's former police chief
Vladimir Pronin, who was fired earlier this year for unrelated
reasons, had a long record of denying that neo-Nazi gangs even exist
in the capital. However, local and national law enforcement officials
have started to be more honest about the scale of the problem, which
grows year by year.
Xenophobia Against Foreign Market Traders Rising in Moscow
UCSJ, July 22, 2009
In the wake of the well publicized closing of a large open-air market
in Moscow by local authorities, residents of the capital's
south-eastern district wrote an open letter to President Medvedev
protesting the presence of large numbers of foreign market traders in
their neighborhoods, according to a July 22, 2009 article in the
national daily "Vremya Novostey." The government recently closed the
Cherkizov market, Moscow's largest, on the basis of contraband
charges. Several Chinese and Vietnamese citizens who worked at the
market were subsequently deported. Now residents of several
neighborhoods near the Sadovod market and the Moskva trading center
signed a letter complaining of the presence of foreign market traders
there, which has been illegal since the passage of a widely
un-enforced and blatantly racist law in the wake of the anti-migrant
Kondopoga riot in 2006.
"We ask that you do not allow the seizure of these markets by illegal
foreign traders, nor the transformation of south-eastern Moscow and
the adjoining parts of the Moscow region into a new Cherkizov market,"
the letter states. "Civilized, clean markets where one could buy
decent goods have already been transformed into a garbage-strewn 'New
Cherkizon' filled with crates of low-rate goods."
One of the signers, Tatyana Rybakova, told "Vremya Novostey" that she
has witnessed, "Crowds of Chinese who have pushed out even tradersfrom the Caucasus, with filth and unsanitary conditions everywhere"
along with criminal gangs. The "Chinesefication" of the region, the
letter warns, threatens to turn that part of the city into "a real
ghetto" filled with "citizens of foreign countries that have
completely different ways of life and mentalities than Russians."
The article concluded with a short item from Interfax reporting that
the huge Izmaylovsky market was also shut down and that 14 Vietnamese
market traders working there now face deportation.
While the basis for the letter writers' complaints may in some
instances be justified, the use of language characterizing migrants as
dirty and totally alien is clearly xenophobic, and in line with
growing anti-migrant feelings among a large segment of the Russian
public. According to a July 22 report posted on Jewish.ru, 62% of
Muscovites report feeling antipathy towards migrants, a sentiment that
the local and central government sometimes cater to for crassly
Facing Neo-Nazi Threats, Rostov Anti-Fascist Organization Accuses Prosecutors of Leaking Personal Data
UCSJ, July 22, 2009
In the wake of multiple murders and assaults on anti-fascist activists
throughout Russia in recent years, an anti-fascist organization in
Rostov-na-Donu is calling for an investigation into how neo-Nazis
acquired the home address of its leader, Konstantin Baranov, according
to a July 17, 2009 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center.
Mr. Baranov's address has appeared, along with several threats against
his physical safety, on neo-Nazi web sites in recent weeks. The
threats probably stem from the fact that his organization, Young
Europe, has filed official complaints three times this summer against
the organizers of neo-Nazi rock concerts in the city, which has become
a hot spot for far-right music. Local authorities, however, have
reportedly done nothing to stop the concerts, and either through
neglect or some other motive, most likely leaked his home address to
local extremists. In recent years, Nikolai Girenko, an anti-fascist
campaigner, was murdered inside his St. Petersburg home, and Dmitry
Krayukhin, an anti-extremist advocate, also has received multiple
threats and had his address and phone number posted on neo-Nazi web
Voronezh Court Sentences Man on Hate Crimes Charges
UCSJ, July 24, 2009
A court in Voronezh, Russia sentenced a man on hate crimes charges,
according to a July 24, 2009 report posted on the news web site
newsru.com. Vyacheslav Brusentsev, age 24, was found guilty of
assaulting a youth from Azerbaijan in an attack motivated by ethnic
hatred and sentenced to three years in prison. He has been a member of
a local far-right group for over ten years in a city that has become
notorious for its highly mobilized neo-Nazi gangs. The court
established that in July 2007, the defendant and other still unknown
people beat up their 16 year old victim on Democracy Street, and that
Mr. Brusentsev yelled "Get out of Russia!" during the assault.
After years of denying the scale of the problem, Voronezh prosecutors
have recently been actively prosecuting hate crimes cases, including
two earlier this month.
MEDVEDEV PROMOTES RELIGION IN HIGH SCHOOL AND ARMY
Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 9, Number 29, July 24, 2009
On July 21, President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to support the study of religion in high schools and hiring chaplains for the military in what "could pose a major challenge to the constitutional separation of religion and state," "The Moscow Times" reported. He spoke at a meeting with top religious and government officials. The "traditional" Russian confessions affected are Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. Medvedev said he based his decision on suggestions sent to him by religious leaders.
Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko said that only secular teachers would conduct classes on the history and culture of religion, which will require training for 40,000 people and hundreds of millions of rubles. The first classes on religion will start in several regions in March, he said. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that the Armed Forces will hire up to 250 clerics and pay their salaries.
Citing the constitutional separation of church and state, critics have raised questions about the legality of the Defense Ministry funding, according to "The Times." The newspaper called the two initiatives "among the most debated and controversial in Russian society" and quoted critics to the effect that the Orthodox Church is significantly better prepared than other faiths to place its priests in schools and garrisons. According to "The Times," teaching religious classes may degenerate into propaganda, while nonbelieving and non-Christian soldiers who do not want to attend
religious services could be put at a disadvantage.
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, praised Medvedev's decision. Itar-Tass quoted Chief Mufti Ravil Gainutdin as saying that Medvedev's decision does not infringe upon "the rights of atheists" as it allows only "secular teachers" to teach religious culture. Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar expressed concern with "the problems of xenophobia and extremism."
Russian Patriarch calls for unity with Ukraine
By: MARIA DANILOVA
AP, July 27, 2009
KIEV, Ukraine The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church led solemn prayers in Kiev on Monday, the first day of 10-day visit aimed at reasserting Moscow's dominance over church leaders in Ukraine.
Patriarch Kirill led the service on the sacred St. Volodymyr Hill in central Kiev near the statue of prince Volodymyr, who launched the Slavic world's conversion to Christianity in 988. Kirill then called for friendship, brotherhood and unity between the two tense Orthodox neighbors.
"We will pray for the good and prosperity of Ukraine, for the peace and accord among its citizens ... for our unbreakable spiritual and church unity," Kirill said.
The statement appeared to be a reference to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's efforts to establish an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kremlin leaders strongly oppose.
Currently, Ukraine's main Orthodox church answers to Kirill, but a breakaway church that has proclaimed itself independent from Moscow in the 1990's has been gaining popularity and political support in this predominantly Orthodox country of 46 million.
Yushchenko, who has sought to break free from Russia's centuries-old political dominance and integrate with the West, has appealed to the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox believers, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, to recognize a local Ukrainian church that would be independent of the powerful Moscow patriarchate.
Bartholomew, who visited Kiev last summer, has not given a clear response.
Kirill is to meet with Yushchenko later in the day. He told reporters after the prayers that he had no immediate plans to meet with the representatives of the breakaway church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate.
Kirill is to visit a number of Ukrainian cities during a prolonged visit that his office says is devoted strictly to pilgrimage. But observers note that his trips to such strongholds of pro-Russian support as the eastern coal-mining city of Donetsk and the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula have clear political undertones.
Before Kirill led the prayers, a group of nationalist activists shouting "Moscow priest get out!" briefly scuffled with his supporters near the St. Volodymyr Hall. The scuffle was promptly cut short by police.
No extremist websites left in Russia - expert
Interfax, July 27, 2009
Krasnodar, 27 July: There isn't a single extremist website set on Russian internet servers, according to Aleksandr Gostev, director of global research and analysis team at the Kaspersky Lab (computer security) company. "As of today law-enforcement agencies have succeeded in 'clearing out' Russian servers of all such websites. On the other hand, there is no point for extremists to reset their websites on Russian territory. We have very strict legislation in this respect," Gostev told a news conference at the Interfax press centre in Krasnodar on Monday (27 July).
According to him, at present most Russian-language extremist websites are based on the servers of Turkish internet providers.
"These servers are the jurisdiction of a foreign state, so Russian experts cannot ban them independently. In their turn, foreign providers are reluctant to close down such websites," he explained.
According to Gostev, the main criterion the owners of foreign servers apply when setting and maintaining an extremist website is financial interest.
"The more popular such websites are among the internet audience and the larger the number of visitors they have, the more money the provider can make on traffic," Gostev said.
Patriarch Kirill Says 1932-1933 Famine Common Tragedy Of Ex-Soviet Union
Itar-Tass, July 27, 2009
KIEV, July 27 (Itar-Tass) -- Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said mass famine in the former Soviet Union in the 20th century was a common tragedy of the whole country.
"The terrible famine caused by absolutely specific political factors and exacerbated by natural cataclysms resulted in the death of a large number of people in Ukraine, the Volga region, the North Caucasus, the South Urals, Western Siberia, and Kazakhstan," Kirill said after laying flowers at the monument to the famine victims in the Park of Eternal Glory in Kiev on Monday.
"This is a common tragedy for our people that lived in an undivided country at that time. And it's not surprising that we pray for the innocent victims," the patriarch said.
He said the tragedy of 1932-1933 had affected his family as well. His grandfather, who had spent many years in labour camps, was arrested at that time. During the arrest in the Volga region, his wife cried and said,
"Who will take care of us? We will starve to death."
"But my grandfather said: I will suffer for Christ and not a hair shall fall off your head," the patriarch recalled.
After his grandmother had baked the last bread for seven children, she did not know any more what to do. But in the morning someone knocked on the door and said, "Lady, take the supply". When she opened the door, there was no one there, only a sack of flour on the doorsteps, Kirill said.
"We pray for those who died and we pray to never again see anything like that" and "for no fratricidal history of the Church to arise out of those traffic circumstances ever again", he said.
He urged the believers to "pray and work together to make the world better and improve the life of peoples".
Famine that began in 1932 in eastern and central regions of Ukraine claimed, according to various estimates, 5-10 million lives in two years. The United Nations recognised that period, also known as Holodomor, as a tragedy of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.
In October 2006, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree proclaiming November 25 Remembrance Day for the victims of mass famine and political repressions.
On November 2, 2006, Yushchenko asked the parliament to recognise the events of 1932-1933 as genocide against Ukrainians and introduce a penalty for the public rejection of the Holodomor.
However most people in the country do not think those events were genocide against ethnic Ukrainians. A poll conducted by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology across the country shows that 60.8 percent of respondents all people in Ukraine, irrespective of their ethnicity, suffered from famine.
Famine also swept the Saratov region, the North Caucasus, the Volga region, the Black-Earth zone all the way to the Urals, and even Kazakhstan.
In April 2006, the Council of the CIS Foreign Ministers rejected Ukraine's proposal to consider the question of the Holodomor of 1932-1933 because no consensus had been achieved.
Russia believes there are no reasons to regard the tragic events of 1932-1933 in Ukraine as ethnic genocide.
It is quite often stated that famine in that period "was deliberately provoked by the leadership of the USSR and aimed precisely against the Ukrainian people," the Russian Foreign Ministry noted.
"The existing archival materials indicate that the mass famine of the early '30s indeed largely stemmed from the policy of the Soviet Union's leadership," the ministry said, adding, "It is quite clear, however, that the policy was not based on the nationalities principle."
"We all should take a more balanced attitude to such complicated and sensitive matters of our common history, and not to allow for their politicisation," the ministry said.
The ministry recalled that "at the 58th session of the U.N. General Assembly in 2003 most of the CIS countries, including Ukraine and Russia, as well as many other states, adopted a joint statement expressing deep grief over the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, Russians, Kazakhs and people of other ethnic origin claimed by famine in those years."
"However tragic those events were, there are no reasons to define them as genocide for ethnic reasons," the ministry stressed. "This statement was circulated as an official document of the United Nations."
Russia "has a grievous memory of the tragedy that took the toll of millions of lives of Ukrainians, Russians, Kazakhs, and people of other ethnic groups in the Soviet Union," the ministry said.
"This is our common grief and common memory," the ministry said.
As a result of three tragedies resulting in mass famine in the 1920s-1930s and after the war, 15-20 million people died in the former Soviet Union. Historians say bad crops in those years were exacerbated by a poorly considered policy of the leadership of the country. In 1921-1922, the Volga region, many regions of the South Urals and Siberia, northern parts of Kazakhstan, the Crimea, Ukraine and several other regions were hit hardest.
According to some estimates, about 30 million people starved and 5-7 million people died. The famine of 1932-1933 was even worse. Official statistics say that about nine million people died. Unofficial estimates put casualties at 13 million people.
In 1946-1947, a draught in the southern regions of the country affected Moldova and Ukraine.
Rebel cleric says Patriarch Kirill plots to merge Ukraine, Russia
RIA Novosti, July 27, 2009
KIEV, July 27 (RIA Novosti) - The leader of the schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate has accused the Russian patriarch of pursuing a "political project" to deprive Ukraine of its sovereignty, the UNIAN news agency reported.
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, arrived in Ukraine's capital on Monday for what he called a "pilgrimage" to the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy.
"He arrived to promote a political project of integrating Ukraine into Russia, to promote unity under the Kremlin leadership, from which Ukraine, by God's blessing and on people's will, got rid in 1991," said self-proclaimed Patriarch Filaret, who was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church in mid 1990s.
"This political project could have various tags: 'The Holy Russia - Russia, Ukraine and Belarus,' 'historical Russia,' 'eastern Slavic civilization' or 'the unity of Orthodox peoples' but in essence it is aimed at depriving Ukraine of its sovereignty," he said.
Patriarch Kirill told thousands of believers after leading a prayer by the statue of Vladimir I of Kiev, who converted to Christianity in 988 and baptized the medieval state of Rus, that he came "as a pilgrim...to touch the 1,000-year old history of our Church." He added that Kiev was like Jerusalem to Russia and Ukraine.
Ukrainian Orthodoxy has split in three with Ukraine's Moscow Patriarchate becoming a self-governing but subservient part of the Russian Orthodox Church, which remains the largest church in Ukraine with 10,000 parishes. The rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate, formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union, is not recognized in Eastern Orthodoxy. The third church, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, originally formed in 1920s, and operates almost exclusively in the western part of the country.
Filaret blamed Patriarch Kirill for the ongoing split and for the fact that "structures of Ukraine's Moscow Patriarchate are used as instruments of Russia's state policy."
Kiev Patriarchate officials have recently stepped up contacts with the Church of Constantinople, also known as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order "to return Ukraine to the Mother Church." The drive has been actively backed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and other top officials against a backdrop of tensions in relations with Russia.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, who visited Ukraine last summer to attend celebrations on the 1020th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus, made no statements on whether the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate should be recognized, but said the country had the right to have a national church.
The Russian church leader and Yushchenko met on Monday in the president's official residence. The president said he planned to discuss his plans for a national church independent of Russian Orthodoxy with the Russian patriarch.
Teenage Skinheads Found Guilty of Racist and Antisemitic Graffiti in Birobizhan
UCSJ, July 27, 2009
A court in Birobizhan, Russia found two teenage neo-Nazis guilty of
painting racist and antisemitic graffiti and gave them suspended
sentences, according to a July 24, 2009 report by the SovaInformation-Analytical Center. The youths received one and two year
sentences respectively, plus a mandated curfew after being charged
earlier this year. Neo-Nazis are uncommon in the remote city of
Birobizhan--a swampy patch of land near Mongolia designated by Stalin
as the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region, which nevertheless is
home to relatively few Jews. Local prosecutors determined, however,
that the defendants were members of "the skinhead subculture" in that
city, a sign that the neo-Nazi movement, or at least the ideas it
espouses, are finding fertile ground in even the most obscure corners
of contemporary Russia.
The Moscow Patriarchate stresses Russian Church is not Church of the Russian Federation only
Interfax-Religion, July 28, 2009
Moscow, July 28, Interfax - Canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church spreads far beyond Russia's boarders and includes Ukraine as well, the Moscow Patriarchate representative has stated.
"When factor of political self-identification, party membership, nationality becomes the most important in religious field, it's very bad. The Russian Orthodox Church is not the Church of the Russian Federation only. The word "Russian" doesn't refer to ethnicon "Russian" or "Great Russian," Head of the Synodal Church and Society Department Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin told the participants in TV-bridge between Moscow and Kiev on Tuesday.
He explained that the word "Russian" in the name of the Church refers to "Rus," "and is historical, referring to the spiritual unity of people belonging to various nationalities who feel unity in frames of the Holy Rus, which originated from Kiev and took in many nations under Kiev's spiritual guidance."
"We turn our message of friendship and unity to all, in particular to those who yesterday and today cried out "Down with Moscow pope" near the Kiev Monastery on the Caves. We'd like to see these people in the unity as well, not in administrative unity, but in spiritual unity, in shared cultural space," the priest said.
Swastikas Painted on Muslim Gravestones in Kstovo, Russia
UCSJ, July 29, 2009
Someone painted swastikas on five Muslim gravestones in Kstovo, Russia
(Nizhny Novgorod region) over the weekend, according to a July 27,2009 report by the Blagovest news agency, which covers religious
affairs in Russia. So far, police are investigating the incident as a
case of vandalism, not a hate crime.
Patriarch Kirill hopes Day of Russia's Baptism to become state holiday in Russia and Byelorussia
Interfax-Religion, July 29, 2009
Kiev, July 29, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia welcomes announcing the Day of Russia's Baptism a state holiday in Ukraine and hopes that Russia and Byelorussia will adopt the same decision.
"The day of the Holy Equal-to-the Apostles Prince Vladimir is becoming a great feast of our whole Church. We should remember this event as it is our cradle that gave birth to a powerful original civilization with great intensity of religious life," Patriarch Kirill said on air of the Inter Ukrainian TV channel.
He also urged to think why only Rus (Russia) was called the "Holy" in historical tradition, though Western Europe built as many churches and monasteries in the Middle Ages.
"Russia is holy because holiness was people's ideal, the whole nation tried to achieve it. People didn't seek only prosperity and success though they didn't reject it. However, holiness, sanctity was a national ideal and it influenced our history and helped escape horrific atheistic devastation," Patriarch Kirill said.
Rostov School Teacher Wins Libel Suit After Paper Accuses Him of Recruiting Children to a "Sect"
UCSJ, July 31, 2009
A teacher in Rostov-na-Donu, Russia has won a libel suit against the
local supplement to the national daily "Komsomolskaya Pravda" after a
court found that an article that publication ran defamed him with
baseless accusations that he was recruiting his students into a
"sect." According to a July 29, 2009 report by the Slavic Law Center,
an NGO that specializes in legal defense mostly for minority
Christians and provided lawyers for the teacher, Valentin Shulgin won
50,000 rubles in compensation for his damaged professional reputation.
The paper ran its article ("Preachers Invited to Russian Language
Classes at Rostov School #46") on December 12, 2007, accusing Mr.
Shulgin of "recruiting Rostov schoolchildren into a sect"--a commonly
used pejorative in Russia often used to describe both genuinely
dangerous cult organizations and long established minority Christianconfessions. As a result of the article, he started having trouble at
work, and the local prosecutor's office started an investigation.
However, the investigation turned up no evidence that the allegations
of illegal activity described in the article were true.
The Russian press regularly prints articles defaming minority
Christians as "sects" who zombify their followers, steal their money,
and even supposedly serve as tools of foreign intelligence agencies.
Christian groups and some human rights NGOs have in the past linked
the publication of these articles to the de facto state religion--the
Russian Orthodox Church--or to the FSB.
HUGE MOSCOW MARKET SHUT DOWN; 60,000 CHINESE TRADERS LOSE JOBS
Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 9, Number 30, July 31, 2009
On July 28, more than a hundred merchants protested the closure of Moscow's Cherkizovsky Market, after the country's top investigator called it a "snake pit" and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered a crackdown on smuggling and convictions of the smugglers, "The Moscow Times" reported. Reportedly, the government seized about $2 billion in contraband goods from China and an unspecified number of Chinese and Vietnamese are in the process of being deported. One of the largest shopping pavilions in Eastern Europe, Cherkizovsky was closed by police on June 29, citing sanitary and safety violations.
Last week, Chinese officials, led by Deputy Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng, flew to Moscow to request that the city help traders stripped of their goods and jobs. Chinese state media reported that about 60,000 people from China worked at the market. According to "Vedomosti," 80,000 Chinese lost their jobs because of the closure and about $2 billion worth of goods have been confiscated. But Mayor Yury Luzhkov announced that finding space for the Chinese traders is "not our job." Both Putin and Luzhkov stressed that space will be found only for Russian vendors selling Russian-made goods.
"Thousands of people, many of them Russian citizens, lost their jobs and learned once again that they live in a country that doesn't observe the rule of law," said Yevgeny Gontmakher, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Center for Social Policy.
RUSSIAN PATRIARCH CALLS FOR `UNBREAKABLE UNITY' WITH UKRAINE
Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 9, Number 30, July 31, 2009
Kirill, the recently elected head of the Russian Orthodox Church, urged a breakaway group in Ukraine to reunite with the Moscow patriarchate, reaffirming his rejection of an independent church in Kiev, the Associated Press (AP) reported on July 28. In Ukraine for a ten-day visit he called a spiritual pilgrimage to the origin of Russian Christianity, Kirill declared that his presence in Ukraine is intended to demonstrate unity between church leaders in Moscow and Kiev.
After leading prayers marking the 1,021st anniversary of what he called the Slavic world's conversion to Christianity, Kirill exhorted the worshipers of the breakaway church to "return to the father's house and unite with us." At a service in Kiev at the monument to St. Vladimir on the banks of the Dnepr River, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill declared: "We will pray for our unbreakable spiritual and church unity."
While President Viktor Yushchenko reiterated his call for a self-governing church in Ukraine, Kirill quickly dismissed the idea, saying that the dominant, Moscow-aligned Ukrainian church is the only legitimate Orthodox church in Ukraine.
The leader of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Filaret of Kiev, charged that Kirill's visit was intended "to promote a political project of integrating Ukraine into Russia, to promote unity under the Kremlin leadership, from which Ukraine, by God's blessing and on people's will, got rid in 1991." Filaret accused his Russian colleague of pursuing a "political project" to deprive Ukraine of its sovereignty, Ukraine's Unian news agency reported.
Yushchenko, who met with Kirill, leads a campaign to win recognition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a legitimate independent church which is not subordinate to Moscow, the AP reported. He has sought support from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople but has received no clear response. The Moscow Patriarchate and Kremlin leaders are in agreement to oppose such efforts, as they seek to retain religious and political influence over Ukraine's 46 million people Yushchenko is seeking to integrate in the West, the AP noted.
Echoing the Kremlin's position on an increasingly sensitive subject, Kirill called the 1932-1933 mass famine "a common tragedy for our people living in the undivided country at the time." He sharply disagreed with Yushchenko and other Ukrainians who charge that the famine was in fact genocide. "The terrible famine caused by absolutely specific political factors and exacerbated by natural cataclysms resulted in the death of a large number of people in Ukraine, the Volga region, the North Caucasus, the South Urals, Western Siberia, and Kazakhstan," Kirill said after laying flowers at the monument to the famine victims in the Park of Eternal Glory in Kiev.
II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
Nationalism in Russia
PutinWatcher, November 3, 2007
A recent informal political debate that was supposed to pit an SPS member (Maria Gaidara) and a United Russia representative (who never showed up) devovled into violence at the end. A member of Yabloko (Apple), the liberal political group was shot in an ensuing fight. This incident suggests a dangerous trend in Russia: the growing alliance between ultra nationalist groups and the "liberal" opposition to the Kremlin. See the following report from the anti-nationalist group Sova .
Another disturbing tendency - suggesting some sort of «the Kondopoga effect» - was a lack of uniform position among the liberals concerning "acceptable boundaries of xenophobia.» So for example, in September, the Karelia branch of Garry Kasparov's United Civil Front (UCF) ex-pressed virtual solidarity with perpetrators of pogroms in Kondopoga by praising their actions as a "manifestation of civic self-government." Notably, the UCF leaders - even though civil society ac-tivists specifically tried to draw their attention to unacceptability of such pronouncements - failed to respond to, or denounce, the statement of their members in Karelia.
In November, a scandal broke out involving Alexei Navalny, a leader of the Yabloko Party Moscow branch who reportedly attended a meeting of the Russian March organizing committee as an observer. While there is nothing wrong with «observing» any phenomena, Navalny also said publicly that he did not denounce any of the Russian March slogans. And while Deputy Chair of the Yabloko Party Sergey Ivanenko responded with a critical statement, his promise to «look into» the incident remained a mere declaration.
The Yabloko leadership also failed to respond to the ads Russia for [ethnic] Russians! and For Democracy! For the Power of [ethnic] Russians! posted by Vladimir Abrosimov, their regional party leader in Krasnoyarsk, on an office building in the city.
Admittedly, the argument about the extent and forms of patriotic and nationalist slogans (with the boundaries between them often unclear) acceptable to liberals is far from new. But the Russian March brought these debates to the foreground. In particular, there was an ambivalent re-action to the fact that SPS leader Nikita Belykh finished his address to the anti-fascist meeting on 4 November with words Long Live Russia!
Equally debatable and relevant in the context of increasingly active nationalism is a question about boundaries and principles concerning relationships with nationalists of various types. This question was actively discussed following A. Belov's participation in political debates organized by the Democratic Alternative and chaired by the mentioned A. Navalny.
Nonetheless, on 20 November, a round table on Civil Society and Protection of Russian People's Rights held in the Realists Club attracted leading representatives of democratic forces, such as Alexander Auzan and Georgy Satarov, who came to mingle with right-wing radicals rang-ing from Dmitry Rogozin to Andrei Savelyev and Alexander Belov. UCF leader Garry Kasparov sent a welcome letter to the participants of the roundtable, while other public figures, such as Lyudmila Alexeyeva, third co-chair of the Other Russia and the All-Russian Civil Congress, re-fused to attend a meeting with Rogozin.
Russian Nationalism on the March
By Alvaro Vargas Llosa
RealClearPolitics, August 13, 2008
WASHINGTON -- In "Rebuilding Russia," published as the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote that the "awakening Russian national self-awareness has to a large extent been unable to free itself of great-power thinking and of imperial delusions ... it has taken over from the communists the fraudulent and contrived notion of Soviet patriotism." As all prescient statements, it was a shrewd reading of the present, not the future. The Russian invasion of Georgia is a powerful confirmation of Solzhenitsyn's words.
Of course, one could reverse his argument: Soviet imperialism was a continuation, not an antecedent, of Russian nationalism. Vladimir Putin and his stooge, President Dmitry Medvedev, have revived a tradition of Russian expansionism that dates back to Ivan the Terrible. The invasion of Georgia echoes Russia's annexation of that country in 1801 and again in 1921, when the Soviets crushed a short-lived Georgian independence.
This has little to do with protecting South Ossetians, who a few years ago were vying for independence from both Georgia and Russia. And it has little to do with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's obvious miscalculation in responding to South Ossetia's latest provocation by trying to assert military control of that region. Russia had been planning this for some time, as demonstrated by the awesome efficacy of the assault, targeting areas well beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another rebellious region, and mobilizing its Black Sea fleet.
It would also be a gross mistake to think that the casus belli can be traced to Western actions such as the recognition of Kosovo's independence to the detriment of Russia's Serbian allies or NATO's push for an anti-missile system in Central Europe. Those moves, however imprudent given the psychology of Moscow's leaders, did not precede the emergence of post-Soviet nationalism in Russia. Quite the opposite: Moscow's foreign expansion is the logical continuation of authoritarian rule at home, which Putin has been consolidating for some time with the help of abundant oil and natural gas money.
First, Putin made sure his country's feeble democratic institutions were replaced with autocratic rule. Most checks and balances were neutered: the judiciary, political parties, local governments, the media, private corporations, separatist regions. The security forces, the Orthodox Church and the energy industry became the pillars of the new regime. The first two, already steeped in Russian nationalism, required little purging. The energy sector needed some work, which is why the giant Yukos firm was broken up and its oil subsidiary gobbled by the government, as was Gazprom, the world's largest producer of natural gas.
Once the Kremlin's control was established, there was little anyone could do about Russian expansionism. Europe imports vast amounts of natural gas and oil from Russia. The threat to reduce or cut off supplies, for instance by ceasing shipments through Ukraine, a major transit route, served to blackmail the European Union.
Russia would like to get its hands on everything that lies between the Baltic and the Caucasus (beyond that, its big southern neighbor, Kazakhstan, ruled by a tyrant sitting on oil, is already a friend of Moscow's). But there are some hurdles, including the fact that the Baltic and most of the Balkans are part of the European Union and NATO. Which leaves Georgia and Ukraine, whose revolutions in 2003 and 2004 were seen as a powerful assertion of Western values in a region that Russia considers its backyard, as the easiest targets.
Russian nationalists, who are impetuous but not crazy, know well that Central Europe is beyond their reach, but they could seriously undermine those nations if they controlled their next-door neighbor, Ukraine. And Georgia would give them control of the transit route between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, which is to say the Mediterranean.
What we have seen in Georgia these past few days is nothing less than the perfectly rational decision by Russia to take that country's born again nationalism one step forward. It is important to understand this reality now that the debate about whether to isolate, engage or ignore Russia is about to begin in earnest in the West.
In 1990, Solzhenitsyn, who was himself a Russian nationalist of sorts, wrote that "it must be declared loudly ... that ... Transcaucasia ... will be separated off unequivocally and irreversibly" from Russia. I wonder what he would think of his friend Putin's decision to prove him wrong.
Copyright 2008, Washington Post Writers Group
The rise and rise of Russian nationalism
Long tolerated by the authorities, right-wing groups are now being seen as a serious threat to national security.
By Shaun Walker
The Independent, 3 May 2009
There have been a number of threats to Russia's security in recent years, from Chechen terrorism to the country's worrying demographic decline. But according to sources close to the Russian security services, what the authorities fear most in these times of economic crisis is the very thing that many Russians see as the country's saviour nationalism.
Amid a dizzying array of May Day marches, featuring various groups from across the political spectrum, all eyes were on the nationalists. They gathered around a metro station in north Moscow, as well as in other cities across the country, calling for all immigrants to be deported and a "Russia for the Russians". In the event, the Moscow meeting passed off peacefully; police arrested a few demonstrators for the possession of knives, and the rest dispersed without incident. But with a huge migrant population, poverty and unemployment among locals, and with the high oil prices that fuelled the economic boom of the past few years a fast-receding memory, many feel the time for Russia's nationalists to take the political initiative is coming soon.
Then there's Alexander Belov, Moscow's answer to the BNP's Nick Griffin. Dressed in a sharp black suit, the light of a Bluetooth receptor constantly winking over his left ear, he fingers a set of Orthodox Christian prayer beads and sips a freshly squeezed orange juice, looking like one of the thousands of well-to-do businessmen who have made decent money as Russia boomed over the past decade. But as well as being successful in the construction industry, Mr Belov is also Russia's most famous racist. He believes that the time for the nationalists to take the limelight is coming soon.
"What I want is very simple," he says, in a quiet and measured voice. "I don't want parts of Moscow to be ghettos. This city is already full of places where Russians aren't welcome, and it's unacceptable. This is a Russian city and should remain that way."
An erudite and self-assured man who heads a group of skinheads with a reputation for violence, he leads the Movement Against Illegal Immigration the DPNI, as it's known by its Russian initials one of Russia's largest far-right groups. One of its main policies is that Russia should introduce a visa regime for migrants from the former Soviet republics, sending most of the millions of Gastarbeiters (Russians use the German term to refer to guest-workers) back home.
Talking to Mr Belov and his DPNI associates is alarming. One minute they are complaining that the Russian government is corrupt, and that under Vladimir Putin civil society has been muffled and the people should be given more chance to express their democratic will (words that could come straight from the mouths of liberal opposition politicians such as the former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov). The next minute, they are suddenly talking about cleansing Moscow of anyone who doesn't have white skin, and ranking races according to their "cultural level".
"Migrants should only be allowed if they are in the interests of society; if they have a particular skill that no locals possess, which is very unusual," says Viktor Yakushev, a giant man with a shaven head, who claims to have two higher degrees and is the DPNI's chief ideologue. "There's no denying the fact that different races have different cultural levels. You just have to look at how many black people are in prison in America, and that's after all these years of positive discrimination. Here, take Azerbaijan, for example, from where we have a lot of migrants. The society is feudal. They are unsophisticated people; they don't understand European civilisation."
The rhetoric is unpleasant, but it finds resonance among great swathes of Russian society, which is notoriously racist towards anyone with non-Slavic features. These xenophobic leanings can manifest themselves in an ugly and tasteless way, such as the tanning salons that employ African students to stand outside wearing grass skirts and holding signs that read: "I got my tan here." There is also a more sinister side to Russian racism, as evidenced by the multitude of attacks on immigrants in Moscow and across Russia.
According to Alexander Brod, the director of the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights and one of Russia's leading anti-racism campaigners, racist attacks have risen fourfold in the past five years, and<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)