From Wed Feb 9 11:00:10 2005
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2005 21:59:12 -0600 (CST)
From: “Michael Givel” <>
Article: 204210
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Russian skinheads 60 years after Hitler's defeat

By RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov, 2 February 2006

8/2/2005—Skinheads are part of Russia's youth subculture, as sociologists believe about 55,000 young people in the country see themselves as neo-Nazis. Crime reports after skinhead attacks are filled with references to foreigners. An Indian woman miscarried after being assaulted by skinheads on the central Moscow street of Arbat, while a nationalistic gang, Russkaya Tsel (Russian Goal), left William Jefferson, a black US embassy guard and former marine, in hospital. Something similar happened to Peter Taaffe, the general secretary of the British Socialist Party. Russian sociologists are positive that this is Nazism and not banal youth crime. The far-right press engages in the ideological brainwashing of Russia's young people. Magazines include the likes of “Pod Nol” (Shaved Head), “Beloye Soprotivleniye” (White Resistance), “Ya—Bely” (I Am White), “Stop” and the Streetfighter, a notorious international racist publication accurately translated into Russian. They promote xenophobia with elegant flexibility, disguising it as patriotism so that the law-enforcers do not shut them down. A number of right-wing radical political parties exploit the ranks of the neo-Nazi movement. The Russian National Union, the National Power Party, the Party of Freedom and other nationalist organizations see the army of skinheads as their reserves. The latter, in their turn, stand up for their independence, uniting into larger groups like St. Petersburg's Russky Kulak (Russian Fist) with about 400 fighters or Nizhni Novgorod's Sever (North) with over 300. Veterans of foreign neo-Nazi groups take persistent care of their Russian brothers. Instructors from the Ku Klux Klan and from banned organizations in Germany, such as Viking Youth and Steel Helmet, regularly come to Russia. According to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, Western tutors have managed to establish a channel to deliver neo-Nazi literature, audiotapes and outfits to Russia via ultra-right organizations in Latvia and Estonia. This powerful outburst of Russian skinhead activities has resulted in a gloomy paradox. In the run up to the 60th anniversary of Victory in World War II, Russia, which played a major part in securing this victory, has realized it has also caught the Nazi germ. Alongside a war veteran ornate with medals and orders, there is now a skinhead with a stripe on his jacket reading “White Power”.

This contrast astonished President Putin so much that, in a speech at recent ceremony to mark the liberation of Auschwitz, he confessed he felt ashamed for this part of the new Russia's history. Yet in 1992 no one had such bitter feelings. Skinheads were then a rarity: there were about a dozen in Moscow, and five at most in St. Petersburg. But they have multiplied manifold over the last 13 years. So what has changed? In short, a great deal. It is generally referred to as the process of market reforms. The immediate transition from a centralized economy to a market system, albeit a wild one at the beginning, led to a serious economic slump and left millions unemployed. Parents, overwhelmed by the need to survive, neglected their children's upbringing. Family problems left 4 million children and teenagers on the streets—the number of homeless adolescents was just a third less than in the Soviet Union after the 1918-1921 civil war. Russian streets were filled with “children of reforms”—a bewildered, psychologically confused, uneducated young generation, receptive to any primitive call for violence. Gangs appeared everywhere, and teenagers were held together by one primitive idea—dislike for “foreigners”, even if they were from the next building, particularly if these people were of different color. These sentiments were bolstered by the attempts of new liberal enlighteners to all but rehabilitate Nazism. The great victory of the Red Army in WW II was excluded from school textbooks, because this victory allegedly led to “the enslavement of East Europe by the Soviet Union” and “slowed down Russia's economic progress.” If the Red Army had been defeated, Russians would have begun drinking wonderful Bavarian beer decades earlier, the theory's advocates told schoolchildren. Newsstands offered cheap editions of Hitler's Mein Kampf and Mussolini's Doctrines of Fascism, while it was impossible to find any anti-Nazi literature as it seemed too far to the left. Alexander Tarasov, a prominent sociologist specializing in youth problems and the Russian skinhead movement, points out, “As textbooks are one of the main sources of information for schoolchildren… some teenagers have concluded that ‘Hitler is better than Stalin’ and that ’Hitler was right’.”

So the skinhead phenomenon appeared, accumulated energy and grew to an alarming scale. To a large extent it was fed by anti-Caucasian sentiments caused by a decade of Chechen crime in Russian cities and the war in Chechnya. Meanwhile, the authorities became aware of the new and, it would seem, unthinkable threat for Russia. They understood that inter-ethnic hatred and the ideology of white supremacy could seriously hinder the creation of a civil society in Russia to protect human rights. They declared war on skinheads. In summer 2002, the State Duma adopted a law on counteracting extremism. The police and prosecutors received a tool to prosecute skinheads if they took to knives and metal rods. In 2004, 60 criminal cases were opened against all kinds of xenophobes, including skinheads, and at least ten fighters were convicted. The national police database includes 457 leaders and activists of skinhead groups that are under surveillance. The Press Ministry closed 12 racist newspapers; unfortunately, most of them immediately reappeared under new names. However, the guys in black with bars have reached the provinces as well. Sociologists predict a second skinhead wave. Human rights advocates are urging the authorities at all levels and all of society to repulse this threat. There is a hope that the forthcoming celebrations of the victory over Hitler will help vaccinate young Russians against the skinhead epidemic