Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Bulletin 4:10 - Special Issue: SOVA '09 Report

Expand Messages
  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 4, No. 10(91), 10 March 2010 - Special Issue: SOVA 2009 Report “Under the
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 11, 2010
    • 0 Attachment
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 4, No. 10(91), 10 March 2010 - Special Issue: SOVA 2009 Report

      “Under the Sign of Political Terror. Radical Nationalism and Efforts to Counteract It in 2009”
      By Galina Kozhevnikova. Edited by Alexander Verkhovsky
      SOVA Reports and Analyses, 10 March 2010

      C O N T E N T S

      I Manifestations of Radical Nationalism
      I.2 Violence
      I.3 Public activity of ultra-right groups
      I.4 Xenophobic propaganda and elections
      I.5 The expansion of nationalism into public life
      II Counteraction to Radical Nationalism
      II.1 Legislation
      II.2 Criminal proceedings
      II.3 Civil and administrative proceedings
      II.4 Federal list of extremist materials

      Appendices: Crime and punishment statistics

      [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.]


      2009 was a year of significant change in terms of activities of radical nationalists and efforts to counteract the manifestations of racism and xenophobia in the country [1].

      The main outcome of 2009 was a clear reduction in the number of victims of racist and neo-Nazi motivated violence for the first time in six years of observation conducted by SOVA Center. To some extent, credit should go to the law enforcement agencies who suppressed the largest and most aggressive ultra-right groups in the Moscow region in the second half of 2008 and in 2009. However, despite all efforts, xenophobic violence remains alarming in its scope and extends over most of the Russian regions, affecting hundreds of people.

      2009 saw an unprecedented growth of racist vandals' activity. Vandalism in 2009 was primarily ideological, rather than (anti-)religious in nature.

      The ultra-right groups are actively and deliberately switching to anti-state terrorism. Their objectives are to destabilize the government, to increase public distrust of the government, and to paralyze civil society organizations working to counteract racism and xenophobia. Apologists of the ultra-right terror see their ultimate goal in provoking 'a nationalist revolution' and establishing a neo-Nazi regime in Russia.

      The public activity of ultra-right groups changed noticeably in 2009. They increasingly abandon their explicit racist propaganda in favor of pro-social rhetoric and mimic the official patriotic propaganda with its slogans of fighting alcoholism and promoting sports and athletics, while explicitly racist propaganda is often restricted to private events and discussions. New activists are recruited through symbolic and subcultural (particularly concert and performance-oriented) activities.

      Attempts to realize 'a Kondopoga scenario' (i.e. use everyday conflicts to provoke inter-ethnic clashes) failed in 2009, and we expect the scenario to be dropped altogether soon.

      Russki Obraz (RO) and the Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) were the two most prominent competitors among legally operating nationalist organizations in Russia in 2009. Today, DPNI presents itself as an oppositional movement, while Russki Obraz claims being an ally to the government.

      The expansion of nationalism into public life continues along the same lines as before. Xenophobic propaganda is consistently used in election campaigning by most political parties (including United Russia and Fair Russia). Pro-Kremlin youth movements continue to adopt the slogans of ultra-right groups. Government officials at various levels (especially law enforcers), in addition to using xenophobic rhetoric in public, have initiated a number of discriminatory campaigns. However, it should be noted that these trends established in previous years were significantly weaker in the second half of 2009.

      In 2009, legal enforcement against right-wing radicals noticeably changed. Gradually, if slowly, relevant legislation is updated and improved - in particular, a few issues with anti-extremist warnings to mass media were addressed and settled in 2009.

      Prosecution of racist violence became vastly more active while its quality improved as well. In a growing number of proceedings, violent racist gangs are brought to justice. Virtually all relevant provisions of the Criminal Code are used in bringing charges against perpetrators of violent crimes. Courts deliver fewer probationary sentences for violence and punish xenophobic vandalism more often.

      At the same time the authorities hardly ever impose custodial sentences for racist propaganda, which is not associated with violence.

      Problems with the prosecution of ultra-right offenders remain largely the same as in previous years. The prosecution of racist propaganda is not improving (with regard of individuals as well as publications and entities engaging in hate propaganda). A large number of really dangerous propagandists continue to enjoy virtual impunity. The authorities continue to focus too much on minor crimes and acts which hardly contribute to overall xenophobic attitudes and actions (e.g. prosecution of web trolls and graffitists, warnings imposed on libraries for possession of extremist materials, etc.) There has been little progress in terms of prosecution for extremist organizing. Some of the legal issues hindering the implementation of the ban on the distribution of extremist materials have not been resolved. These problems create ample room for abuse and discredit the current efforts to counteract hate crimes and racist propaganda.


      I.1 Violence

      The year 2009 was the first year in more than six years of our observations when the number of incidents of racist and neo-Nazi violence decreased significantly, even though it remains frighteningly high. According to preliminary data, in 2009 at least 71 were killed and at least 333 were injured in such incidents. In 2008, at least 109 people were killed and at least 486 were injured. [2] The past year's data are not yet final, but even now they clearly reflect a real change of the situation.

      In 2009, violent incidents were reported in 40 Russian regions (in 2008, they were reported in 47 regions). Most attacks were perpetrated by the ultra-right; however, as in previous years, a few attacks by nationalists from the Caucasus and a few episodes of grassroots xenophobic violence were reported.

      As before, most victims of xenophobic attacks were people from the Central Asia (29 killed and 68 injured) and from the Caucasus (11 killed, 47 injured), but almost anyone can be a target.

      As before, the hotbeds of violence included the Moscow region (city and metropolitan area), with 38 killed and 131 injured (in 2008, 60 were killed and 217 injured, respectively), and St. Petersburg and Leningrad region, with 8 killed and 36 injured (in 2008, 15 were killed and 39 injured, respectively). For the second consecutive year, Nizhny Novgorod and Sverdlovsk regions held the third and fourth places. In 2009 in Nizhny Novgorod at least 6 people were killed and at least 21 were injured (in 2008, two and 16 people respectively), and in Yekaterinburg and Sverdlovsk region one was killed and at least 21 people were injured (in 2008, four and 16, respectively). We are not surprised by the findings, since the ultra-right underground in these four regions is known to be sustainable and numerous. [3]

      When comparing violent crime statistics, we can see a reason why the number of victims nationwide had dropped by 1.5. The law enforcement authorities in Moscow had either dispersed or destroyed some of the city's highly organized and extremely cruel neo-Nazi groups (in particular, the entire network of the National-Socialist Society, NSO). Previously, these groups had systematically been involved in violent and terrorist activities. Each of the neo-Nazi gangs arrested in 2008 and 2009 had a track record of blasts, dozens of violent attacks and killings. The Moscow region saw a twofold reduction of attacks as a result, and the change affected the entire national statistics. We did not observe a significant change of the situation in other cities, though.

      While we do not deny the improvement of the situation in Moscow, we do not believe that the actual reduction in the number of attacks across the country is as striking as our statistics suggest. We described most of the reasons why we think so in our 2008 annual report.

      Firstly, we note a lack of reports of such incidents, especially in the regions. In some cases the lack of reports is due to restrictions imposed on the publication of this information, and partially it can also be explained by little media interest in hate attacks.

      Secondly, our statistics are increasingly affected by the limitations of our methodology. In many cases, we use circumstantial evidence to determine the hate motive and make sure not to include cases where we are uncertain of the motive. Traditionally, we have not included attacks caused by hooligan or mercenary motives or attacks involving the use of firearms/traumatic weapons or explosives, unless we have reliable evidence to consider them hate crime. Recently, however, explosives and firearms/traumatic weapons have increasingly been used, and racist attacks are often deliberately disguised as hooliganism or robbery.

      Terrorist activities

      In 2009, we observed a rapidly increasing use of explosives and arson, which in itself is a very dangerous trend. At the same time, the scale of ultra-right terror is such that the Russian government has publicly recognized this danger. A memo published by the National Anti-Terrorist Committee on 11 March described the ultra-right terrorism as the second biggest threat after the terrorism in the North Caucasus. [4]

      The neo-Nazi terror is gradually shifting from being purely racist (as in the Cherkizovo market blast attack in Moscow) towards being more politically-oriented and anti-state. Terrorists increasingly target government buildings, police stations, military draft offices, and the homes of law enforcement personnel. For example, in 2009 at least five arson attacks targeted the premises of law enforcement agencies (in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Cheboksary). In Novosibirsk, there was an attempt to set fire to the apartment of a police officer responsible for the investigation of racist crimes, and in Samara a traffic police post was blown up. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured in the above incidents. With a high degree of certainty, these attacks may be attributed to the ultra-right.

      A noticeable refocusing of the neo-Nazi violence can be explained by the fact that in 2008 - for the first time in many years â€" racists faced substantial and consistent pressure from the state as reflected in numerous detentions, arrests and trials (see below). The ultra-right who ignored the authorities or even expected some kind of support and cooperation from them before, now increasingly see the state as their main enemy.

      They use fairly basic methods to coordinate and summon their supporters to take part in scheduled violent campaigns by posting messages on popular neo-Nazi websites. For example, after the death of NSO leader Maxim Romanov (Bazylyov) in pre-trial detention, a few ultra-right websites explicitly called upon their supporters to engage in violence in his memory by announcing a so-called Day of Wrath on 5 May. In our view, the appeal was nothing but a smart PR strategy of a dwarfish neo-Nazi group. However, the Russian mass media gave the hypothetical action more publicity than the group could ever hope for. As a result, on and before 5 May at least four violent incidents were reported, probably involving some neo-Nazis. Members of various racist gangs claimed responsibility for virtually all violent attacks reported on that day, from criminal homicide clearly without racist motives to arson attacks, some of which may or may not have taken place in reality (at least ten incidents in total).

      Overall, in 2009 we recorded at least 20 terrorist attacks, in which at least one person was killed and two were seriously injured. Our statistics do not include cases where individual neo-Nazis resisted arrest. The most publicized incident of this sort occurred in early September 2009, when former NSO activist Sergei Marshakov shot down an FSB investigator who came to his home to apprehend him.

      In 2009, the ultra-right claimed responsibility for at least 50 arson and blast attacks and false bomb alerts. In a widely covered case, a group calling itself Combat 18 - Ingermanlandia claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Neva Express train on 27 November 2009, killing 26 people and injuring about 100. However, we reiterate that in a vast majority of cases, the ultra-right involvement in a certain violent incident - and whether or not the incident in question really occurred - is impossible to either confirm or deny.

      The ultra-right have switched to anti-state terrorism for various reasons. Some may have done so in revenge against the authorities, as in the mentioned Day of Wrath example. Some others use violence to step up pressure on the authorities, as was the case in late 2008, when a dwarfish ultra-right group killed and beheaded a native of the Central Asia, left his severed head outside the district council's office and circulated a letter with a photo of the head and threats to target the local officials unless they kept the immigrants away.

      And finally, the ultimate purpose of terror attacks may be to destabilize the state system and to cause panic in the Russian society, which the terrorist masterminds believe should lead to a neo-Nazi revolution and ultimately to the establishment of the ‘White power’. Such attempts at destabilization include various xenophobic provocations designed to appeal to anti-Caucasian and anti-Islamic sentiment in the Russian society. In early 2009, guidelines on how to stage such provocations were widely disseminated in the ultra-right segment of the Russian-language internet; according to proposed scenarios, the neo-Nazis would plant dummy explosive devices with attached fake messages, ostensibly left by Muslims or people from the Caucasus. The provocateurs expect such actions to trigger discriminatory security practices against natives of the Caucasus and Muslims (such as exceptional scrutiny of their businesses, arrests and searches). Racists also expect media to cover these developments and to perpetuate the anti-Caucasus/anti-Islamic stereotypes and hysteria. Such provocations are not a new development by far: over the past few years, we have consistently received reports of offensive graffiti designed to appear as if they were left by nationalists from the Caucasus or militant Islamists. However, it always turns out that such graffiti are left by the ultra-right in an attempt at self-promotion. Since January 2009 their guidelines on how to set up provocations of this kind have been widely distributed on the web together with calls to direct action. A few theoretical texts published by the ultra-right have described the planting of dummy explosives as a method of destabilizing the state system.

      Threats against public activists and participants of anti-racist trials

      In addition to the terrorist attacks, another element of anti-state destabilization involved death threats against community activists, government officials, representatives of the judiciary, and others.

      The year 2009 began with a double killing: prominent public figure, lawyer and anti-fascist Stanislav Markelov and Novaya Gazeta reporter Anastasia Baburova were shot dead in central Moscow on 19 January. The investigators immediately suspected neo-Nazi involvement. In November, the police arrested two suspects, Nikita Tikhonov and Eugenia Khasis. Both had been, to varying degrees, involved with Russki Obraz, the fastest-growing ultra-right group in 2009. N. Tikhonov was a co-founder of RO, and E. Khasis was on the staff of Russki Verdict, one of RO's projects (see details below). We cannot be certain that Tikhonov and Khasis were indeed the perpetrators of the double killing or that the ultra-right were implicated, but it was impossible not to notice the elation among the ultra-right in connection with Stanislav Markelov's death.

      The beginning of 2009 was marked by new death threats against the SOVA Center's senior staff; one threat letter said explicitly that random killings of ‘aliens’ were less effective in terms of media coverage and publicity than the killings of civil society activists and journalists. Since June 2009 numerous threats were received by Konstantin Baranov, leader of the Young Europe NGO in Rostov who had protested against music concerts planned by the ultra-right in Rostov-on-the Don. Baranov's NGO was targeted by provocations and attacks from the Rostov media on several occasions. In July 2009, Maxim Efimov, leader of the Youth Human Rights Movement (MPD) regional branch, was attacked in Petrozavodsk. The ultra-right continued to send threats to Sofia Ivanova, Head of the Ryazan School of Human Rights, and to Vadim Karastelyov, Director of the Novorossiysk Committee for Human Rights. In September, a threat letter was received by members of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights.

      However, civil society activists are not the only targets of such threats. Participants of the current Borovikov - Voyevodin gang trial in St. Petersburg have been repeatedly targeted by threats and insults from the neo-Nazis supporters of the defendants. At the time of DPNI leader Alexander Belov's trial, the ultra-right web forums actively discussed the possibility of physically assaulting the judge. In the case of Vladimir Makarov prosecuted and sentenced for a racist killing, some neo-Nazi websites published personal data of the jurors who had rendered a guilty verdict. We know of some other examples.

      Confrontation between radical youth groups

      As before, members of youth subcultures and leftist anti-fascist groups were particularly targeted by the ultra-right violence. In 2009, this category accounted for 22% of all known victims (five people were killed and at least 77 were injured).

      Note that very often the neo-Nazis do not differentiate their victims' political preferences and subcultures, but instead see them all as ‘traitors of the white race’ and ‘anti-fascists’.

      The concerts of music groups considered anti-fascist were consistently attacked by the ultra-right. It was most vividly illustrated by the evidence available from the North-Western region, in particular St. Petersburg, where witnesses noted the preparedness and coordination among the attackers, as well as their consistent use of traumatic weapons. Dozens of people were affected by such attacks. For example, on May 31, ultra-right football hooligans in Murmansk attacked some 30 members of the audience and performers during a concert in support of the Novosibirsk artist Artyom Loskutov[5]: exits from the room were blocked, empty bottles were thrown at the audience and tear gas was sprayed; people running for safety out of the building were attacked by numerous well-armed neo-Nazis. In Murmansk, a hand grenade was thrown at the audience of an anti-fascist concert; in Nizhny Novgorod, random onlookers were affected together with the audience of a punk concert. Overall in 2009 we documented at least 13 attacks against concert audiences in eight regions of the country, and it is probably a small fraction of the actual number of incidents.

      But of course, the killings of anti-fascist leaders were the center of attention. The neo-Nazi appeared to have moved from random attacks against individual anti-fascists to targeted terror. It was a logical continuation of repeated threats and publications of anti-fascists' personal data on neo-Nazi websites - a practice that the law enforcement authorities hardly seemed to notice for many years before the violence started. In 2009, prominent anti-fascist activists Ilya Dzhaparidze and Ivan Khutorskoi (Kostolom) were killed in similar circumstances. [6] The pattern of their killings is similar to the killing of Fyodor Filatov (Fedyai) in October 2008. The three victims were killed by hitmen waiting outside or in the entrance hall of the victim's home. The attacks were swift, using knives and/or traumatic weapons.

      The carefully organized killings were part of a street war, hidden but ongoing for several years, between ultra-right and anti-fascist youth groups in Russia. The killed anti-fascist activists used to be prominent figures of this street war. We have not seen any effective measures taken by the authorities to mitigate the confrontation. Both sides blame the authorities for siding with their enemy, but as far as we can tell, the situation is not symmetrical. As a minimum, anti-fascists will find it much easier than their opponents to quote specific examples of official patronage over ultra-right activists, and sometimes even examples of direct collaboration, as well as instances of excessively harsh measures to suppress any left-wing and antifascist activity. [7] It is difficult to say whether or not the observed asymmetry in the authorities' response to different radical groups is a conscious policy, but in any case this policy has contributed to the confrontation.

      Religiously motivated violence

      As before, religiously motivated violence is far less common than other forms of hate crime we have documented. Violent incidents of this type are rare and their rate has not increased. In 2009, we documented a few death threats and attacks against Jehovah's Witnesses, affecting at least two people. In summer, during an ‘anti-sectarian’ rally in Rostov region, the crowd consisting mainly of Cossacks and an official from the local administration attempted to storm the building of a Witnesses' prayer house. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the fence around the building was broken. Such incidents are certainly part of an organized campaign targeting the Witnesses' followers throughout the country.

      The most high-profile crime likely to have been motivated by religious hatred was the killing of Orthodox Priest Daniil Sysoyev in Moscow, who was known for his missionary outreach to Muslims and his uncompromising polemic against Islam. The crime occurred on 19 November: a masked man entered the church and asked the congregation to identify Daniil Sysoev; then he shot point-blank, killing the priest and the regent of the church. Just three weeks later, another priest of the same church was severely beaten.

      Grassroots xenophobic violence

      We traditionally know little about grassroots xenophobic violence by people who do not obviously belong to any ultra-right groups. This is not surprising, since such incidents hardly ever come to the attention of the media, except when they result in criminal proceedings, and occasionally this information is available from private sources. That said, we are confident that the rates of such violence have not decreased. Every year, we document about a dozen violent grassroots incidents obviously motivated by racism. In February, passengers from Congo were attacked while riding a public mini-bus in Moscow; they were talking to each other in French, when a passenger demanded they speak in Russian and started a fight.

      Traditionally, many violent incidents occur on 2 August, the official Navy Day in Russia, when drunken veteran paratroopers occasionally start mass brawls, including explicitly racist attacks. On 2 August 2009, at least one person was reported killed and six others injured, not including casualties of the two mass fights in Nizhny Novgorod and outside Moscow.

      But xenophobic attacks by racist police and the military are not limited to the Navy Day. In July 2009 a military officer went on a racist rampage in response to a remark made by a store owner in the suburbs of Sochi, and in September several police officers in Moscow attacked an Armenian and yelled racist insults while beating him.


      As before, vandalism was a usual attribute of xenophobic ultra-right activities. [8] Similarly to violent crime, the pattern of vandalism had changed significantly compared to previous years. In 2009, we recorded at least 141 acts of vandalism in 50 Russian regions (in 2008, 87 incidents in 41 regions were reported). The growth was unprecedented in all years of observation.

      In 2009, most acts of vandalism were of ideological nature; they targeted World War II memorials and monuments to Lenin and included coordinated neo-Nazi graffiti-painting campaigns, among other things - a total of 76 episodes. In 2008, there were just 26 incidents of this type. We did not include statistics on individual cases of swastika graffiti being found on buildings or fences. Jewish sites were the second largest target of vandals' attacks, with 22 incidents (in 2008 there were 24 incidents). They were followed by Orthodox sites, with 15 incidents (compared to 20 incidents in 2008), and Jehovah's Witnesses with 12 acts of vandalism (in 2008 there was just one incident[9]). Muslim sites accounted for seven incidents (six were reported in 2008); four Armenian and four Protestant buildings were attacked (in 2008, two and six incidents, respectively), and in one case a Catholic church was vandalized.

      Comparing recent vandalism with previous years, we note a sustained increase since 2007 of neo-Nazis' large-scale well-coordinated graffiti campaigns. In 2009, these included mainly the graffiti and sticker campaigns organized by Russki Obraz and its close associates Roman Zentsov's Soprotivlenye (Resistance) (see below). They accounted for approximately one half of all graffiti/sticker campaigns in about two dozen Russian cities. For example, on the night of 31 May to 1 June, Russki Obraz organized graffiti campaigns in at least six regions. Even though it was announced as an anti-abortion campaign, many of their slogans were explicitly racist. We observed a drop in anti-Semitic vandalism and no increase of anti-Islamic activity for a third consecutive year.

      We also observed lower intensity of vandalism motivated by religious hatred. A vast majority of attacks against religious sites consisted of graffiti-painting, vandalized graves and smashed windows. In 2009, there were 12 blast and arson attacks against religious worship facilities representing 21% of the total cases of religiously motivated vandalism. In 2008 there were 19 arson and blast attacks, representing 31% of the total number of attacks against religious sites. Perhaps this is due to the fact that ‘bombers’ switched to government buildings in 2009. Vandals were particularly aggressive towards Orthodox churches, with five arson attacks and one attempted bombing (in December, an improvised explosive device was thrown through the window of an Orthodox chapel in Vladimir).

      The geography and intensity of vandalism largely coincided with the geography and intensity of racist violence. Regions with the largest number of vandal attacks were almost the same as regions with the highest rates of hate-motivated violence in 2009, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg (eight incidents in each region). However, there is no strict correlation; sometimes random factors determined the local rates of vandalism. For example, Tver had one of the highest rates of vandalism in 2009, with at least nine incidents, six of which were probably committed by the same person and involved systematic attacks against Jewish graves in a local cemetery over a period of several months. Vandals were very active in Kaliningrad (at least five incidents reported); the city is home to a number of standalone neo-Nazi groups associated with R. Zentsov's Soprotivlenye.

      I.2 Public activity of ultra-right groups

      The public activity of ultra-right groups was a continuation of the ongoing crisis which had resulted in a split of the Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) back in 2008.

      For obvious reasons, the following overview of the ultra-right activities does not include standalone groups, which probably constitute the bulk of Russian right-wing radical activists. Meanwhile, the number of ultra-right standalone groups is growing, while their subcultural preferences evolve: for example, Straight Edge supporters increasingly compete (and even engage in physical fights) against Nazi-skinheads. [10] Organizations operating in the legal field and familiar with the real situation among the ultra-right must respond to the changes.

      New rhetoric and tactics

      It is now clear that key ultra-right ideologists and groups are adopting new rhetoric and tactics in an effort to avoid being marginalized in the current context, when a new generation of the Russian ultra-right are much more radical than their predecessors who had come to the scene in early 2000's or even in the 90's. The ‘veterans’ understand that the ultra-right scene is changing rapidly, and this understanding was clearly expressed by NDPR's ex-leader Alexander Sevastyanov in March 2009 in a publication that can be described as an apology of the ultra-right terror.

      But the ultra-right ideologists are limited in their actions by today's political environment and by increasingly real threat of criminal prosecution for xenophobic and/or anti-state propaganda; thus they are forced to seek new forms of public and legally permitted activity.

      In 2009, this trend was clearly reflected in the activities of Russki Obraz, joined towards the end of the year by Soprotivlenye in St. Petersburg, led by Roman Zentsov, a well-known mixed martial arts fighter. To develop successfully, they needed connections with high-status politicians as well as ultra-right groups. Russki Obraz (RO) had both. [11] Consequently, the organization's public spokespersons made ‘patriotic’ statements in line with the official propaganda, while on the subcultural level, they organized ultra-right concerts, presentations, massive graffiti campaigns, and xenophobic rallies, and established strong connections with the most radical groups, including the Nazi Straight Edge.

      RO's union with Soprotivlenye was a good tactical alliance. Zentsov had long been known on the ultra-right scene as a coach and supporter of Dmitry Demushkin's Slavic Union (SS). However, until recently he was little if at all known outside the scene. His title of ex-world champion served as a good reference for officials who knew little about his views and history[12] - so they endorsed the competitions he organized, particularly because these events were held under the slogans of fighting alcoholism and promoting healthy lifestyles, i.e. in line with the official anti-alcohol campaign. The ideological component of these activities remained behind the scenes.

      Zentsov is an excellent recruiter for ultra-right organizations, since he appeals to young people of every persuasion. His statements may appear on the pages of NBP's newspaper and on the website of United Russia's Young Guard (MGER).

      The RO-Soprotivlenye alliance allows the organizations to operate under different brands depending on the circumstances. For example, after the arrest of N. Tikhonov and E. Khasis who were closely associated with Russki Obraz, Soprotivlenye came to the fore. Absence of competition between Soprotivlenye and the Movement against Illegal Immigration (while competition between DPNI and RO was intense) allowed the supporters of both Soprotivlenye and RO to take part in the Russian March in Lublino.

      The number of RO's and Soprotivlenye's regional chapters is growing rapidly. Like DPNI in 2002-2004, their growth is due to migration of activists from other organizations or accession of entire groups, rather than emergence of new supporters (except a natural succession of generations). Today, RO has to make more of an effort to attract supporters than DPNI once had to do, because DPNI had grown amidst a complete collapse of other ultra-right organizations, while RO has to compete against DPNI and SS. In particular, their repeated, lengthy and massive sticker/graffiti campaigns, in addition to spreading their messages, also encourage people to visit the organization's website.

      RO follows the path trodden by DPNI and predecessors in other respects as well. For example, the RO/Soprotivlenye alliance tries very hard to be perceived as operating under direct patronage of government agencies (although the real situation is somewhat more complex). In particular, RO actively advertises every event attended by public officials and/or law enforcement officers which involves RO's activists in one way or another. Their biggest success, both in terms of PR and communication with authorities, was the permission to organize a concert of Kolovrat group in the center of Moscow on 4 November. [13]

      In a similarly careful manner they build PO's image as an organization that provides legal and financial support to neo-Nazis under investigation or in custody. [14] This is what the project Russian Verdict is about. A review of Russian Verdict's practice reveals that they are not effective. However, informational support of their cases, ‘leaks to the media’ organized with the help of friendly reporters and similar tricks have made it possible so far to conceal that their project is ineffective from the legal perspective.

      RO's competitors faced a worse situation in 2009, precisely due to their lack of such flexibility. Groups like DPNI, SS or their collaborators never fully recovered after the confrontation with authorities during the 2008 Russian March and continued to hold on to their image of persecuted and marginalized groups. They faced a series of criminal trials and an increasing shortage of human resources (e.g. they lost some people to RO).

      Their attempts to change tactics and slogans, particularly noticeable in the second half of 2009, were inconsistent and unsuccessful.

      Throughout the year, SS was trying to organize a public relations campaign in support of Mitino police officers. [15] The group offered support to the police officers since the latter were "suffering at the hands of people from the Caucasus," while the real purpose of the campaign was to establish a relationship with the law enforcement officers and disseminate neo-Nazi ideas among the police. However, the initiative does not appear to enjoy broad support among the ultra-right, because, as noted above, the main trend now is opposition to the state in general and to police in particular. Moreover, the group's support of police added fuel to a long-standing debate on whether SS leader Demushkin might be an undercover security agent.

      Similarly, their attempt to modify and ‘radicalize’ the group's messages also failed. They began by posting increasingly explicit anti-state texts on their website and then moved on to public statements. During the Russian March in Lublino on 4 November, Demushkin made a speech virtually calling for an armed uprising against the regime. It is not clear whether he had hoped to have criminal proceedings initiated against him (which might have given him the ‘aura’ of a political prisoner) or to win the loyalty of the more radical activists. Whatever the motives, his tactic failed to produce any tangible results or publicity.

      Similarly ineffective was an attempt made by a DPNI-led coalition to take advantage of a local crisis caused by the Moscow authorities' ill-conceived decision to close down the Cherkizovo market. DPNI was the first political group which almost immediately began to play up the sentiments of Muscovites concerned about the migration of the ousted Cherkizovo traders to other markets in Moscow.

      The protest of local residents clearly had nothing to do with xenophobia - rather, the community was annoyed at the noise and congestion caused by the incoming cargo vehicles and traders. However, DPNI attempted to use their tried and tested tactic of channeling social protest into an ethnic conflict: there were rumors of massive rapes of ‘Russian women’ by ‘migrants’, warnings of ‘the Chinese threat’, etc. Rallies and other protest actions - invariably involving mobilized DPNI activists and Nazi-skinheads as well as local residents - occurred almost daily in late summer and early autumn of 2009. However, after the city council banned wholesale trade in the local Moskva Market in Lublino, the number of community rallies dropped, while the initiative group representing local residents publicly declared that their cooperation with the ultra-right had been useless and a mistake. Then the DPNI-led ultra-right coalition had to work hard to keep up panicky sentiments among the local residents for a while, because they needed a crowd for their already scheduled Russian March in Lublino in November.

      Towards the end of the year, DPNI repeatedly tried to provoke conflict in the guise of protest against the revival of Cherkizovo market in other areas in and around Moscow, but their attempts failed. Sometimes the local people just would not come to a rally, and where the local communities were indeed concerned, they immediately and vocally refused to cooperate with the ultra-right and denounced their acts of provocation.

      Public events and efforts to provoke conflicts

      It became evident in 2009 that the ‘Kondopoga scenario’ no longer works to provoke riots. In 2008, we observed such provocations getting progressively less effective mainly due to the fact that they are no longer unexpected and ways to respond to them are well known.

      In 2009, there were several attempts to provoke conflict, but they all failed. The most prominent attempts involved rumors about an alleged interethnic clash in Znamensk, Astrakhan Region, and a letter allegedly written by ‘Russian soldiers’ from the Aleisk Division who had complained about the bullying they suffered at the hands of recruits from the Caucasus. Even though the two texts were widely disseminated on the internet, there was no follow-up. One can assume that in 2010 the use of this technique will come to naught.

      Similarly, public events organized by the ultra-right groups were not very successful, with the only exception of yet another countrywide and massive Russian March, which in 2009 involved at least 12 regions â€" but again, at least 19 regions hosted the march in 2008. In Moscow, about 3.5 thousand people took part in the march and about 2 thousand spectators came to Kolovrat's concert in Bolotnaya Square, but the numbers do not add up, because some people attended both events. So even though its overall geography had shrunk, the Russian March in Moscow attracted a significantly (approximately by 30%) bigger audience than before for the first time.

      Most rallies and pickets organized to mark a few less significant events in Moscow or other cities did not attract many participants or publicity. The only exception was the countrywide 1st of March celebration. In Moscow, a rally organized by DPNI and SS attracted about 200 to 300 people, and a march organized by RO on the same day attracted between 350 and 400 participants. The 2009 May Day rallies and marches were held in at least seven regions.

      The year 2009 saw a comeback of the countrywide "solidarity with political prisoners" campaign first held by DPNI back in January 2007 and never repeated on the same scale again after several unsuccessful attempts. RO managed to revive the campaign in a new format. On 25 July[16] 2009 the organization announced a day of solidarity with the right-wing political prisoners. Various campaigns, some involving violence, were organized by right-wing radicals at least in 12 regions. The campaigns were not designed to attract masses of people, but instead to demonstrate the ultra-right solidarity under the Russki Obraz aegis (by displaying graffiti and banners of solidarity with the neo-Nazi prisoners, collecting money, etc.).

      Political organizing

      It is clear that Russki Obraz and DPNI are the two key players among the legally operating Russian nationalist groups today, and political organizing/party building is unlikely to cause these or other groups to change their behavior in a radical way. However, we will describe a few political organizing campaigns - otherwise our overview of the ultra-right activity would have been incomplete. The year 2009 was rich in such activities (especially the autumn).

      For the first time since 2007, an attempt was made to create a formal political party of Russian nationalists. Currently, no such party exists in Russia since Baburin's Popular Union voluntarily renounced its status of a political party in December 2008.

      The intention was made public in May 2009. However, the preparatory period was long, and the founding congress of the ‘Party for Our Motherland’ was not held until 4 November. It appears that the ideological documents of the future party were based on the Russian Doctrine (its developers were included in the organizing committee of the would-be party). In addition, the fact that Mikhail Lermontov was appointed Chairman of the party's Election Committee suggests its ideological proximity to Oleg Kassin's Narodny Sobor (where Lermontov is deputy chairman). However, the most prominent people involved in the creation of the party - political analysts Valery Averyanov and Sergey Kara-Murza, film director Nikolai Burlyaev and others - were not included in the party's governing bodies. The would-be party does not seem to have a broad base of activists or any prospects of being formally registered.

      Held on 11 July 2009, the Second All-Russia Congress of DPNI revealed a dramatic reduction in the organization's membership. The congress formalized a recent change of DPNI’s leadership, since Alexander Belov had voluntarily resigned (in connection with criminal proceedings against him) and was replaced in the DPNI National Council by Vladimir Ermolayev - someone with no experience in public policy. Belov's resignation (even though merely formal) was a tangible loss to DPNI that is now facing difficult times. In fact, it is likely that DPNI's failure at provoking conflicts following the closure of Cherkizovsky market may have been caused by Belov's absence, since neither Vladimir Tor, nor Vladimir Basmanov, let alone V. Ermolayev could replace Belov in addressing public rallies.

      And finally in the fall, an unexplained surge of activity was observed among veterans of the Russian nationalist movement. The People's National Party (NNP) led by Alexander Ivanov (Sukharevsky) resumed its activities. Alexander Barkashov attempted to create a new organization by mobilizing the veterans of the October 1993 events. And finally, the Union of Russian People attempted to reunite, but split once again instead. [17]

      The ultra-right in search of coalitions

      In 2009, after a rather long break, open collaboration resumed between the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) - banned, but still very active - and the ultra-right organizations. So far, the collaboration is not systematic, but looks like careful probing of potential shared areas of activity. [18]

      On the one hand, NBP shows interest in cooperation with DPNI. NBP attended the congress of Belov's DPNI as guests in summer. In Nizhny Novgorod, National Bolsheviks, the local DPNI branch, and Straight Edge activists all took part in the May Day march and rally.

      On the other hand, NBP is clearly interested in maintaining contacts with Roman Zentsov's Soprotivlenye, because the latter group, as already mentioned, does not have a clearly expressed ideology, but instead promotes xenophobia in general and related opposition to the state. In summer NBP's website published a detailed interview with Zentsov, and in autumn NBP and Soprotivlenye held a joint picket in St. Petersburg to protest against the enforcement of art. 282 of the Criminal Code. However, it is yet unclear how sustainable the contacts between Limonov's NBP and the ultra-right are going to be.

      As in previous years, the ultra-right found a few allies among members of non-nationalistic political organizations, while the latter turn a blind eye to such alliances. As a notable example, Sergei Zhavoronkov, member of the Solidarity Movement Political Bureau, did not only express his support for DPNI, but took part in the 2009 Russian March. Another example is Denis Chukov, leader of the Solidarity chapter in Saratov, who has collaborated with the ultra-right groups (especially DPNI) for years, and since mid-2009 has been the official head of the Saratov chapter of Konstantin Krylov's Russian Public Movement (ROD). Zhavoronkov and Chukov may not be the only Solidarity activists close to the ultra-right groups. [19] It is implicitly confirmed by one of ROD's leaders, Natalia Kholmogorova, who describes as a potential ally the part of Solidarity Movement where Zhavoronkov is a member. [20]

      I.3 Xenophobic propaganda and elections

      Xenophobic propaganda continues to be used in election campaigns. The ultra-right organizations, aware that ‘non-system’ candidates stand no chance of being elected, use election campaigns as a major PR opportunity. At the same time, those candidates and political parties who really aspire to be elected use xenophobic propaganda to build up popularity.

      The ultra-right in elections

      The right-wing made a noticeable, though unsuccessful, attempt to run for the Moscow City Duma on 11 October 2009. Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov and DPNI’s formal leader Vladimir Ermolaev were not allowed to register as candidates. S. Baburin's Russian People's Union (ROS) attempted to register a party list for the Moscow City elections, but the attempt did not make sense and predictably failed, because the organization was not a political party in the first place. Their claims at being victims of political persecution were nothing but an ill-conceived PR strategy. [21]

      The ultra-rights used election campaigns as a pretext for self-promotion in other Russian regions as well. The most notable, perhaps, was the campaign of the Slav Union of the Far East (SSDV). On the eve of elections to the Vladivostok City Duma[22] their activists wearing T-shirts with symbols of the United Russia Party put up posters advertising the organization all over the city. SSDV had declared its intention to nominate candidates for the elections, but did not.

      The ultra-right's greatest loss was the failure of the Russian National Union (RONS) leader Igor Artemyev to be re-elected to the Legislative Assembly of Vladimir region, [23] where he had served for many years. It was not clear whether his failure was due to administrative pressure or maybe Artemyev had finally lost his popularity in the region.

      The ultra-right's electoral cooperation with the Communist Party helped the former achieve more than they could have achieved on their own. At least some of the right-wing activists were registered as candidates. In particular, at least two DPNI activists ran on the Communist Party lists in local elections in St. Petersburg[24] (DPNI in St. Petersburg claimed they had 20 candidates running for the local legislature).

      The Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) registered two openly ultra-right candidates running for the Moscow City Duma - Alexei Ivanov, a radical neopagan, and Sergei Ivanov, a former member of the State Duma who had openly collaborated with Dmitry Rumyantsev from NSO. [25]

      None of the ultra-right candidates were elected, but the mere opportunity of extensive election campaigning was important to them under the current circumstances.

      Xenophobic propaganda of political parties

      Xenophobia is a traditional election campaigning tool for the Liberal Democrats and Communists, and 2009 was no exception, in particular the elections to the Moscow City Duma. [26] In the case of the Communist Party it is perhaps worth noting that "poor understanding of the Russian question" was quoted as a major reason for replacing the Head of the St. Petersburg City Committee of the Communist Party Vladimir Fyodorov in January 2009, i.e. before the elections. Overall, the Communist Party increasingly refers to the ‘Russian question’ and has integrated it in the Party's new draft policy documents. [27]

      The electoral competition in other regions and municipalities was less noticeable, but it is worth noting the use of xenophobic rhetoric to promote the United Russia and the Fair Russia parties. Just two electoral scandals may be worth mentioning since they ended up in court.

      Vitaly Ustimenko of the Fair Russia Party running for the office of the Head of Administration in Tuchkovo (Moscow Region) [28] used extensive and explicit anti-Armenian propaganda in his campaign. The matter went to court when his opponents demanded that the candidate should be banned and criminal proceedings should be initiated against him under article 282 of the Criminal Code. The complaint filed with the court cited two meetings with the voters where Ustimenko had accused Armenians of pedophilia, corruption, drug trafficking, etc. However, neither the court nor the prosecutor's office found the alleged statements to be illegal. A local newspaper received a warning from Roskomnadzor for an anti-Armenian publications in support of Ustimenko; however, the warning did not mention xenophobia but focused instead on the fact that the paper ... “indicated a place where drugs may be purchased” (i.e. the de facto the authority agreed with the xenophobic statements). [29]

      Just a few months before, an election scandal had been reported in the Volgograd region. Alexey Gavshin, a United Russia candidate to the Kalach-on-the-Don Head of Administration issued a campaign leaflet saying that if elected, his team “would consist of local people of indigenous [i.e. Russian] ethnicity” and he would never allow building a mosque in his jurisdiction (Mecheti net i ne budet - No Mosque and Never Will Be). [30] His competitors from the Fair Russia Party immediately took the case to court asking to ban Gavshin from the elections, but to no avail (though Gavshin lost the elections anyway). However, United Russia made some revealing comments on the scandal. They claimed that the leaflet was not xenophobic, but rather it was a response to the Fair Russia's allegations that “Gavshin, if elected, would build a mosque and give all offices in the local administration to non-Russians.” This example from Kalach-on-the-Don reveals that both pro-presidential parties tried to appeal to the voters' xenophobic sentiments in their competition for local offices.

      I.4 The expansion of nationalism into public life

      Activities of pro-Kremlin youth groups

      Since the Russian society does not see the activities of pro-Kremlin groups as independent initiative, people perceive their anti-immigrant and other xenophobic actions and publications as part of a populist trend in the public policy.

      In 2009, pro-Kremlin youth groups continued their attempts started in 2007 and 2008 to adopt the ultra-right slogans. Such attempts were controversial and in some cases even scandalous, which seems to have forced the leaders of such groups to adjust their policies in the first half of 2009.

      The first of these scandals erupted in February when MGER's (Molodaya Gvardiya Edinoy Rossii - Young Guard of United Russia) official portal published an article about the Holocaust revision. Its author was Nikita Tomilin, a well-known ultra-right activist who had joined MGER[31] and had already published a few explicitly xenophobic articles on the same website in support of Young Guards' anti-immigrant campaign titled Our Money for Our People. [32] Tomilin's revisionist position was clearly shared by a few MGER's activists, because comments supporting and justifying his position kept appearing on the website for a few days until the moment when the article about the Holocaust and the entire discussion around it were removed from the website.

      The Our Money to Our People campaign came to a halt in early 2009, although it was not officially abandoned. Moreover, in March 2009 MGER's activists said that they were prepared to continue their cooperation with the FMS. [33] The last burst of the campaign's activity was reported on 19 January, when the Young Guards held anti-migrant pickets at railway stations in a number of cities, meeting the trains from Central Asia with posters which read, among other things Illegal [Migrant] = Thief. The campaign's first announcement back in the autumn of 2008 called to expel all labor migrants from Russia, regardless of their status[34] (some anti-fascists attempted a protest against MGER's campaign, but were dispersed by police in Moscow).

      The second scandal erupted in Khabarovsk after the prosecutor's office paid attention to the activities of MGER's local chapter. Back in 2008, MGER attempted to disrupt a festival of Indian culture by distributing anti-Krishnait leaflets which we find extremely xenophobic. The proceedings to find the leaflets extremist are ongoing, [35] but MGER faced other consequences as well. Firstly, their chapter in Khabarovsk received what we believe was a totally appropriate anti-extremist warning from the prosecutor. And secondly, a criminal investigation was opened into their xenophobic messages and revealed that some MGER members in Khabarovsk also belonged to ultra-right organizations.

      In the autumn of 2009, the Nashi Movement attempted to steal the Russian March brand. Their idea was to hold a non-xenophobic rally under the same name as an alternative to the ultra-right action. But the outcome was not as intended. The anti-fascist activists expressed their outrage at the pro-governmental group's attempt to legitimize the Russian March, while the ultra-right were jubilant, since the Russian March organized by Nashi was perceived as recognition of ethnic nationalism as the dominant public attitude. Besides, the ultra-right expected to take advantage of the artificially massive pro-Kremlin event. To avoid further scandal, Nashi renamed the rally into Vse Svoyi [No One is Alien], and under this name the rally was advertised in the media. (Although ultimately a Russian March banner was displayed on the stage alongside a Vse Svoyi banner). Anyway, they received little media publicity and could not compete with DPNI and Russki Obraz events.

      Mestnye (The Locals) movement did not stop their anti-migrant campaigning outside Moscow, even though their activities had triggered numerous complaints to the prosecutor who was urged to prosecute Mestnye activists, in particular for racism. [36] In 2009, all references to their xenophobic campaigns were removed from Mestnye's official website. [37] All reports of their campaigns have been moved to blogs set up to cover Mestnye's anti-migrant projects. The content of blogs is virtually the same as DPNI's news feed: they selectively publish only those crime reports which mention the offender's presumed ethnicity.

      Mestnye did not refer to DPNI as their ally; however, they mentioned Russki Obraz as their sole informational partner in one of their ‘patriotic’ projects designed to oppose “latent forms of customs inconsistent with the traditions of our (meaning ethnic Russian â€" G.K.) people.” [38]

      Due to the past years' scandals, Mestnye now carry out their anti-migrant campaigning using not-so-explicit symbols whose xenophobic meaning is not obvious unless one knows the context. For example, their banners reproduce a famous racist election poster of the Swiss People's Party, featuring three white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag. The style of their anti-migrant stickers resembles a fantasy war against aggressive space monsters (apparently representing illegal immigrants). These stickers first appeared in Moscow in December 2009 and triggered yet another complaint against Mestnye to the prosecutor's office, this time filed by the Yabloko Party. [39]

      Xenophobic rhetoric of law enforcement agents

      Certain statements made by government officials legitimize xenophobia to an even greater extent than the campaigns of pro-Kremlin youth groups. In 2009, such statements were made by law enforcement officers in particular. We have repeatedly emphasized that we do not find most of such statements made by police and other security officers to be ideologically motivated; instead, we believe that they reflect a lack of competence and thought. However, it does not cancel their negative impact.

      Many statements were in line with the anti-immigrant campaign started in October 2008 in connection with the economic crisis. Some of the ‘law enforcement experts’ making such statements - for example, the Chief of the Russian Border Service Major-General Valentin Letunovskiy - were not in a position to discuss general crime statistics. [40]

      Some indications that the intensity of xenophobic rhetoric might eventually decrease appeared in the early months of 2009, when spokesmen of law enforcement agencies (mainly the FMS) began to criticize inappropriate crime reporting in the media and to remind that the overall proportion of crimes committed by foreigners in Russia does not exceed 3-4% of the total. But the change of rhetoric was not sustainable or consistent.

      A media interview with the Prosecutorial Investigative Committee Chief Alexander Bastrykin can be described as the peak of anti-immigrant rhetoric heard from the law enforcement officials. The interview given in May was subsequently reproduced by the Russian media on numerous occasions. In his interview Bastrykin referred to isolated and apparently exotic criminal episodes involving foreign nationals in Russia, but presented them as a coherent, dynamic, and almost apocalyptic picture of ‘migrant crime’. [41] However, since the summer of 2009 there has been less anti-immigrant rhetoric from the law enforcement agencies.

      As a separate case, we should mention anti-Roma campaigns initiated and encouraged by the law enforcement agencies in several Russian regions. In May, a series of anti-Roma publications appeared simultaneously with an information campaign announcing the opening of a Regional Center for Drug Trafficking Analysis (a subdivision of the Drug Control Office) in Rostov Oblast. In November, regional police departments in Kirov and Moscow regions distributed formal statements that explicitly linked fraud as a type of crime with the Roma. [42] In Kirov, these statements triggered an outburst of anti-Roma propaganda in the media. [43]

      Other Developments

      As always, the facts of direct communication or cooperation between government agencies and ultra-right activists or the cases of well-known xenophobes being admitted to high-status (even if formally non-governmental) positions continue to attract public attention.

      Unfortunately, it is fairly common for the ultra-right to offer their services to the State as voluntary vigilantes [druzhinnik]. It almost impossible to tell when ultra-right activists serve as vigilantes if they volunteer as private individuals. But sometimes this type of cooperation is formalized. For example, in late June 2009, Rubezh Severa, an ultra-right organization in the Komi Republic, announced their intention to patrol the streets of the regional capital Syktyvkar as vigilantes pursuant to their agreement with the local authorities.

      The Moscow police's plan to set up a ‘youth’ section within their Public Council and include, among others, some representatives of openly neo-Nazi groups, such as SS, aroused strong public feelings, which may have been the reason why the plan was eventually shelved.

      From time to time, xenophobic (particularly anti-Semitic) textbook scandals were reported. In 2009, it happened with a textbook by Vassily Drozhzhin titled History of the Domestic State and Law in 1985-1991 used in the Ministry of Interior University in St. Petersburg.

      In some cases, government officials either provoke aggressive outbursts by their careless conduct or even take part in the attacks. After the mayor of Zlatoust (Chelyabinsk region) verbally attacked the Jehovah's Witnesses, repeated vandal attacks against the Witnesses' Kingdom Hall (prayer room) occurred. In Novocherkassk, Deputy Head of the City Administration Demchenko personally took part in the storming of a building owned by the Witnesses.

      But, of course, the most scandalous episode in 2009 was the cooperation between the ultra-right Russki Obraz and State Duma MP and Young Russia leader Maxim Mishchenko. After a radical change of the Russian parliament membership, he remained the only federal-level politician who did not hide his connections with the ultra-right and openly lobbied for RO's initiatives. [44] However, the broader public paid attention to this cooperation only after certain RO's activists became suspects in the murder of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. In November 2009 the Young Russia's office was attacked by radical anti-fascists, who justified their attack by referring to contacts between the YR leader and the ‘fascists’ (the attackers erroneously assumed that YR's office hosted some kind of reception desk for RO). Mishchenko stopped his public contacts with RO in mid-November.


      II.1 Legislation

      The year 2009 was not rich in anti-extremist legislative initiatives. Most legislative proposals were repressive and, fortunately, most were rejected. To give the reader an idea of the quality of proposed anti-extremist legislation, we will describe just two high-profile bills of the year.

      In March a bill was introduced in the State Duma on amending the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offenses; the bill was initiated by Rustem Shiyanov, member of the Federation Council. The bill would criminalize Nazi propaganda and public display of Nazi symbols (today these are administrative offenses under art. 20.3 of the Russian Administrative Code). However, neither the current administrative law, nor the proposed bill specify the context in which any Nazi symbols may or may not be used. Anyway, in October 2009, R. Shiyanov's bill was rejected "for failure to comply with the State Duma's Rules of Procedure." [45]

      On 6 May, shortly before the WW2 Victory Day, a group of United Russia MPs led by Speaker Boris Gryzlov proposed a bill to amend the Criminal Code (by establishing criminal liability for "attempts to distort the historical memory regarding the events that occurred during the Second World War"). The proposal also included criminal liability for "rehabilitation of Nazism," but the latter was defined so vaguely that adding it to the Criminal Code would effectively ban any debate about the historical controversies of the WW2 period. The bill was introduced amidst resumed verbal disputes with the former USSR and socialist camp countries over the Soviet (and especially Stalinist) period. As a result, the bill had been sitting in the Duma for a while, and in January 2010 received a negative opinion of the Government, following which the United Russia parliamentary party said it would prepare a better draft.

      Perhaps the single most important and, for that matter, effective bill that made it into a law was the one that added "restriction of freedom" (the so-called house arrest) as a potential punishment for minor crimes. [46] It means, in particular, that house arrest may be used as the main or additional penalty for virtually all hate offenses in the Criminal Code. (Restriction of freedom was available as a punishment under the Criminal Code prior to the amendment, but not for any of the ‘anti-extremist’ offenses).

      In addition, supreme courts rendered two decisions of fundamental importance in 2009.

      On 9 June 2009, the RF Supreme Court issued a ruling in connection with the case of Pamyat - Novosibirsk newspaper; the ruling limited the possibility of undue anti-extremist pressure against mass media. The Supreme Court noted that the second warning (leading to liquidation of the paper) was issued for a publication which preceded the first warning, meaning that the paper did not have the time to correct its act in compliance with the first warning (the court did not question the legality of the warnings, though). The court proceeded from the premise that a warning is a preventive measure, which is not intended to facilitate liquidation of a media outlet, but rather to point out any deficiencies that the editors are presumed to ignore, and to discourage further violations. Thus, the second warning should be considered not just a second consecutive warning, but a warning triggered by any materials published after the editors received the first warning and had an opportunity to make adjustments, but failed to do so.

      This ruling of the Supreme Court will put an end to arbitrary imposition of several warnings in a row, a practice openly used to exert political pressure on the media (in particular, three consecutive warnings were issued in this manner to Nov<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.