THE SKINHEADS ARE COMING
Disastrous economic depression has left millions of Russians out of work since 1991. The education system collapsed. Between 400 and 450 schools have been shut down nationwide every year the last several years - for financial reasons only - and most their students found themselves unable to continue their education. According to the official data compiled by army enlistment and recruitment offices in Siberia, between 7% and 11% of conscripts were illiterate in 1997. Every third offender of high school age lacked even a basic education in spring 1999. Crime, alcohol abuse, and drugs have inundated Russia - and particularly its youths.
The new generation was an ideal target group for primitive ideologies based on violence and individualism - criminal and politically criminal (xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic).
Skinheads in Russia did not have a systematic ideology at first. They were but impromptu racists, xenophobes, macho, militarists, and anti-intellectuals. Constant propagandistic campaigns mounted one after another by ultra-right parties, however, are turning skinheads into conscious fascists, anti-communists, orthodoxfundamentalists, and anti-Semites. In fact, Russian skinheads were not extremely anti-Semitic at first. Their racism was directed against representatives of non-Caucasians - Negroes, mulattoes, Mongoloids. Attacks at Jews were infrequent. Brainwashed by the ultra-right, however, skinheads learned the major anti-Semitic myths - concerning the Jid conspiracy, Bolsheviks as agents of the world Zionism, and the Russian people oppressed by the Jids.
Russism, a fairly exotic ultra-right ideology, is quite popular with skinheads. Boasting of their Orthodox roots, Russism is fairly indulgent towards Aryan paganism (in the spirit of national socialism, that is) because "the race is above faith" and "blood unites while religions separate." Russism creates a bridge between pre-revolutionary Orthodox monarchism and national socialism. According to this ideology, there were two "great Aryan leaders in the 20th century" - Tsar Nicholas II and Adolf Hitler. Moreover, Hitler was an avenger for Nicholas II, "ritually sacrificed by Bolsheviks and Yids" and tried to bring "the Cross-Swastika into Yid-oppressed Russia." It should be noted that there are three major directions of skinhead movement in the world - neo-Nazis, communist skinheads, and traditional skinheads. Most Russian skinheads are neo-Nazis, while throughout the rest of the world the traditional ones prevail.
The first skinheads in Russia were teenagers aged 13 to 19, students of technical colleges, pupils of secondary schools, or unemployed. The situation eventually changed. Equipment alone with all necessary trimmings (boots, the bomber, stripes, tattoos, etc) costs approximately 15,000 rubles. The poor do not have this sort of money to throw around. A skinhead nowadays is frequently an owner of a pocket computer and cell phone. Skinheads form small groups, essentially gangs of three to ten men. On the average, such gangs last several years. There are, however, larger and better-organized structures.
Skinlegion and Blood & Honor - Russian Subsidiary (B&H) were the first to appear in Moscow. B&H is an international organization of Nazi skinheads outlawed in some countries as extremist or fascist. B&H - Russian Subdivision and Skinlegion included between 200 and 250 activists each. There was some sort of discipline in the organizations, hierarchy, etc. United Brigades 88 (UB 88), the third large organization, appeared in 1998, when fairly small White Bulldogs and Lefortovo Front merged. The name of the organization is quite revealing. The figure 8 stands for H, the eighth letter in the Latin alphabet - therefore 88 stands for HH or Heil Hitler! Hammerskin Nation appeared shortly afterwards - calling itself a subdivision of the namesake international organization.
Skinhead gangs appeared precisely in the largest and best developed cities - where social split of the population is particularly noticeable. "The second wave" has inundated small provincial townships as well.
No one fought the movement. OMON busy tackling residents of the Caucasus, skinheads "gallantly" chose their own targets - people from Central Asia or the Third World. Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod are known as the centers of skinhead movement in Russia. In Moscow, skinheads concentrate on Africans and Indians. St. Petersburg skinheads attack Africans, Nepalese, and Chinese. In Nizhny Novgorod, it is men from Central Asia (mostly Tajik refugees) who are in the focus of attention.
The police were always unbelievably indulgent. In Nizhny Novgorod, Tajiks feared going to the police because every such approach inevitably ended in their own arrests (with traditional references to "illegitimate presence on the territory of the Russian Federation") with the following extortion of bribes or - whenever there was nothing to be extorted - a beating and deportation. Feeling impunity, skinhead movement grew up fast. These days, there are 50,000 skinheads in Russia. Between 5,000 and 5,500 skinheads live and operate in Moscow and the region, up to 3,000 in St. Petersburg and the environs, over 2,500 in Nizhny Novgorod, more than 1,500 in Rostov-on-Don. There are over 1,000 skinheads in Pskov, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg, and Krasnodar each, and several hundred in each of the following cities - Voronezh, Samara, Saratov, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Omsk, Tomsk, Vladivostok, Ryazan, Petrozavodsk. Back in 1992, there were just a dozen skinheads in Moscow and five or so in St. Petersburg. Skinhead gangs exist in approximately 85 Russian cities nowadays.
Ultra-right and nationalist parties and organizations view skinheads as their potential recruiting pool. In Moscow, the Russian National Socialist Party (Russian National Union before 1998) was the first to turn its attention to skinheads.
Liberty Party (Russian National Republican Party before 2000) handles skinheads in St. Petersburg, and Russian National Unity and the Russian Guard (a splinter group) in the Trans-Volga region and Krasnodar.
It should be noted as well that most ultra-right parties began working with skinheads only when advised to do so by their Western counterparts. Emissaries of neo-fascist groups have been regularly coming to Russia since 1997 from the United States, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria. They came with recommendations on how skinheads should be handled, The United States for example was represented by KKK, Germany by Viking Youth (banned in Germany itself), German People's Union, Steel Helmet (also banned), National People's Front, Right Union, etc. Fascist emissaries know no visa barriers.
Skinheads feel at home in most Russian cities. The police and the authorities are clearly on their side. Choi Yun Shik (President of the Association of South Korean Students studying in Moscow) and Gabriel Kotchofa (President of the Moscow Association of Foreign Students) claim that the Moscow police refused to press charges against skinheads in literally hundreds episodes. Colonel Mikhail Kirilin of the Public Relations Center of the Federal Security Service and Vladimir Vershkov of the PR Department of the Moscow Municipal Internal Affairs Directorate told The Moscow Times that these services do not regard skinheads as something dangerous. Perhaps, existence of the skinhead movement is even beneficial to some because they are someone on whom blame for the crimes committed by others may be pinned. The raid to the camp of Tajik refugees in the Moscow region in 1997 (when an infant was murdered) was pinned on skinheads, but it was clear from the very beginning that the operation was much too professional.
There are numerous reports that Nazi skinheads are encouraged, organized, and used by ruling circles of Russia. There were the reports in the past that the Nazis had the protection of the regional authorities (Krasnodar and Stavropol territories, Pskov region)and law enforcement agencies (Saratov, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod, Volgograd, Samara). It was established in 2002 that Nazi skinheads were trained at the camp of the Moscow OMON. It would have been impossible without permission from the upper echelons of the federal Interior Ministry. In fact, close contacts between the Moscow police,Russian National Unity, and skinheads were exposed in November 2001 when racist policemen Adanjaev and Yevdokimov were facing trial.
Dismissed by the authorities and ignored by the media, skinheads progressed to pogroms. The first pogrom took place at the Vietnamese hostel near Sokol metro station in Moscow on October 21, 2000. The authorities and the media kept the matter under the lid, and skinheads smashed up the Armenian school on March 15, 2001. The police - when they came - merely dispersed skinheads. Not a single arrest was made. Ignoring protests of the Moscow Armenian community and official structures of the Republic of Armenia, city fathers did not lift a finger to do anything about it.
A pogrom at the marketplace in Yasenevo was next. It was too serious an incident to keep under the lid. Six skinheads were eventually brought to trial.
The following pogrom began at the marketplace near Tsaritsyno metro station and ended by the Hotel Sevastopol where Afghans reside. At least 300 skinheads participated. Over 80 people were injured, 22 ended up hospitalized, 4 were killed (a Moscow Armenian, citizen of India, citizen of Tajikistan, and a refugee from Afghanistan). A public outcry followed. Moscow authorities were forced to set up a special division to fight youth extremism. The Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed a lack of any information on the problem and was very uncooperative when approached for help.
Only five skinheads faced trial.
Yasenevo and Tsaritsyno pogroms set the example. A wave of pogroms swept the country
Before "the second wave," skinheads in Russia numbered between 35,000 and 40,000. When the wave is finally over, they will number between 75,000 and 80,000. And since youth subcultures never disappear in Russia completely (not like in the West), it is reasonable to assume that skinheads are here to stay.
SOURCE: Russkii Kurier, June 18, 2004, pp. 12-13
What the Papers Say. Part B (Russia)