By Maria Rozalskaya
On December 5th in Volgograd (Southern Russia), an 18 year-old African American was stabbed. Stanley Robinson came to Russia to participate in a student exchange program. On a Volgograd street he ran into a group of local teenagers who picked a quarrel with him, as a result he was hospitalized with two knife wounds. His mother who spoke with him by phone said they are sure it was racially motivated.
This case is one of hundreds occurring every year in Russia. According to the statistics gathered by a Moscow based NGO “SOVA Center for Information and Analysis”, by December 1st there were 83 people murdered and 365 injured. These figures are far from being correct; the real number of violent hate crimes is much higher. The majority of crimes go unreported both by police and mass media.
However, the statistics mentioned above do help to monitor hate crimes to a degree. Although the incidence of racist violence is not increasing dramatically every year, they are becoming more and more cruel, making such cases as Robinson’s appear quite lucky.
One of the last high profile cases is the one of a 20 year-old guest worker from Tadjikistan who was murdered and beheaded by neo-nazis in Moscow. His head was found in another district, placed stealthily next to one of the Moscow municipality offices. The case stands out not only because of the gruesome particulars, but also because it was a clear terrorist act: before the head was discovered, neo-nazis sent e-mails to several NGOs and media outlets taking responsibility for the action, and announcing that the head was placed in the same district where a few months before a Russian girl had been raped and murdered, allegedly by an Uzbek man.
Anti-fascists and human rights defenders often become victims of hate motivated violence or death threats themselves.
On June 19, 2004 in St. Petersburg, Nikolai Girenko, an expert on right-wing extremism, was gunned down in his apartment. On November 13, 2005, 20-year-old human rights activist and musician, Timur Kacharava, was murdered and his friend Maxim Zgibai stabbed in St. Petersburg. On April 16, 2006, in Moscow, Alexander Ryukhin, a human rights activist, was stabbed to death on his way to a concert. On December 22, 2006 in Moscow, Tigran, also an activist, found a bomb on his staircase and on March 27, 2007, in Izhevsk, Stanislav Korepanov, a supporter of human rights, was beaten by nazis and died from his injuries a few days later. On July 21, 2007, 21-year-old Ilya Borodaenko was stabbed to death during the attack of a group of neo-nazis at an ecological camp in Siberia. On March 16, 2008, in the center of Moscow, 20 year old Alexey Krylov was stabbed to death on his way to a human rights concert. On October 10, 2008, in Moscow, 27-year-old Fyodor Filatov, one of the leaders of the human rights movement, was stabbed to death as he was leaving his home.
Photos, home addresses and telephone numbers of human rights defenders repeatedly appear on hate websites with calls for violence against them.
The response of the law enforcement is not satisfactory, though it is slowly improving, with more and more neo-nazis convicted for committing crimes with a hate motive. Law enforcement tends to prosecute singular and low profile individual nationalistic statements rather than to fight with popular and influential hate websites and to detect and put on trial perpetrators of violent crimes. Moreover, in a number of cities, there is a strong suspicion that many police officers sympathize with neo-nazis and not only avoid investigating hate crimes, but also help neo-nazis by criminalizing human rights activists and leaking their personal data to the right wing websites.
As for Stanley Robinson’s case, two 17 year-old neo-nazi skinheads have been detained and confessed to the attack. Stanly was moved from Volgorgad to a hospital in Helsinki for recovery. He is in grave, but stable condition.
Maria is a researcher at the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Moscow, Russia), and a volunteer with several antifascist and refugee aid projects.