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Researcher Says Nationalists in Cahoots with Authority

Published: April 9, 2014 (Issue # 1805)




  • Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

More than 20 nationalist and extremist organizations are active in the city and comprise around 1,300 active soldiers, St. Petersburg police chief Sergei Umnov told the Legislative Assembly when he presented his report for 2013 on Apr. 2.

Dmitry Dubrovsky, a researcher at the Russian Museum of Ethnography and an expert on nationalist groups, said the numbers sounded as if they had been minimized. He added that the terms used by Umnov were too vague.

Its not clear how they count these individuals because it became evident in 2011 and 2012 that this bunch could easily mobilize 5,000 to 6,000 people at any given time, Dubrovsky told the St, Petersburg Times via Skype from Amsterdam this week.

It looks like [the police] seriously think that [these types of people] carry membership cards and pay dues. [Umnov] does not know what identity means. Apart from that, its not clear what Umnovs definition of extremist groups is either because theres an interesting difference [in his report]. Hes talking about around 1,000 nationalists and around 1,300 extremists. Who are the remaining 300? Are they football fans or anti-fascists whom they also see as extremist?

Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced anti-extremism legislation in 2008. Since then, it has been criticized as being a means to fight political opposition, while counter-extremism police units launched the same year that are known as Center E were dubbed Putins political police by the opposition.

Just about anything can be classified as extremism in Russia, Dubrovsky said.

As [film director and human rights activist] Alexei Simonov put it, Extremism is disagreement with superiors, expressed bluntly. Thats why they are earnestly following anti-fascists and young liberals that dont belong to officially recognized organizations. So I would treat these numbers [with caution], I truly dont understand how they arrive at them.

Police chief Umnov explained that the increase in nationalist sentiment stemmed from a rise in immigration levels and an increase in crimes committed by immigrants. In such situations, any spark, any conflict can provoke large-scale clashes, Umnov was quoted by the BaltInfo news agency as saying. What it may lead to was shown by the events of the past autumn.

On National Unity Day on Nov. 4, 2013 a national holiday introduced by the Kremlin in 2005 as a replacement for the main Soviet holiday, October Revolution Day marked on Nov. 7 an outbreak of ethnically-motivated violence took place.

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