By Christoph Schultz
On November 4, Russia’s radical nationalist movement came together to celebrate the annual “Russian March” in Moscow. The event attracted an estimated 10,000 people – a mixture of neo-Nazis, Orthodox Christians, monarchists, and anti-immigrant activists.
The motto for this year’s march was “14 words.” The code refers to the creed of American nazi-terrorist David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”
Many protesters showed the black, yellow, and white banner of the Tsarist era, neo-Nazi symbols, and shouted slogans like “Russia to the Russians, Europe to the Whites.” The march had a strong anti-immigration and anti-Muslim focus. Many marchers demanded for the country to end support for the north of Caucasus, a region with mainly Muslim inhabitants. Speakers presented a catalogue of fourteen demands, among them being an obligational visa for people from Central Asia and the Caucasus; the right to bear arms; and for a “healthy lifestyle.” Around 600 march participants rallied in an explicit “national socialist block,” set up mainly by a group called “Wotan Youth.”
At the end of the Moscow march, the local neo-Nazi band, “Kolovrat” (translated: “Swastika”), played a concert and presented a new hymn dedicated to the march.
As extreme as this may sound, the “Russian march” itself and the demands raised there are not quite at the fringe of the political spectrum in contemporary Russia. A recent polls by Levada Center shows that 40 percent of the Russian population support the deed of the Russian Marches. In Moscow’s mayoral election this summer, “illegal immigration” was a main talking point. A mere seven percent of the Russian population express respect and compassion for people from the Caucasus. Only 15 percent of Russians favor legalizing migrants, while 73 percent want a drastic deportation policy (more poll data discussed here).
This political atmosphere is fomented by an alarming number of racist attacks. According to the most recent data from the monitoring organization “Sova,” there were 18 racist murders from January to October this year.
The march was organized by groups like the National Democratic Party, a year-old nationalist political outfit, and the ethno-political association, “The Russians.” Both groups can be seen as successors to recently banned organizations like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, and the Slavic Federation.
Alexey Navalny, a prominent opposition leader and critic of President Vladimir Putin, called on his supporters to participate in the march, but eventually didn’t take part personally. Citing his “own political failures,” Navalny said “the march has not transformed from a ‘gathering of marginal characters and sieg-heiling schoolchildren’ into an ‘ordinary procession of conservative citizens.’”
The “Russian March” demonstration celebrates a day of national unity, which was introduced by Putin in 2004. The date was chosen to remember Moscow’s victory against Polish and Lithuanian enemies in the 17th century.
Around 100 “Russian marches” with smaller turnouts were held on the same day in nearly 100 other Russian cities. In Moscow, about thirty participants were arrested.