21.09.2005 | Bohdan Chervak

What is going on in Russia?


It is considered that people in our country are well-informed about what is happening in Russia. This stereotype is widespread as a result of the domination in Ukraine of Russian media outlets, which allegedly provide objective coverage of what is happening in the neighbouring State.

It is, however, no secret that the majority of Russian media outlets are under the total control of Putin’s regime, and by virtue of this fact provide neither comprehensive, nor objective information about the socio-political life of the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile events are taking place in Russia which require serious analysis, particularly within the Ukrainian political sphere, a significant part of which does not focus on the so-called “eastern vector” as it perceives the Russian Federation to be a “friendly” and democratically disposed State as far as Ukraine is concerned.

There are today all grounds for asserting that Russia is in the grip of a wave of xenophobia, and that a large number of Russian politicians seriously believe that all their problems can be resolved with the use of force. Such a conclusion is fostered by Russian sources of information which demonstrate a significant strengthening in influence of so-called “patriotic forces” which have set about creating military units and do not hide their wish to seize power in Russia.

For example, according to data from the Moscow Office for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, 15 thousand teenage skinheads possess weapons and are joined in various military units, which have already carried out several pogroms and terrorist acts. The intensification of Russian “militarism”, human rights activists are convinced, began in the winter of 2005 and was linked to attempts to stifle the mood of protest which had arisen as a result of the abolition by the Russian government of concessions for pensioners. In a human rights report published on 15 August this year, specific facts are cited which confirm the rise in militaristic efforts amongst Russian politicians.

Back in February 2005, the “Military-State Union of Russian which is headed by a retired general, Leonid Ivashov, and “The Movement against illegal migration” announced the creation of “a people’s militia”. With this aim it is planned in Russia to create a network of conspiratorial groups along the principle of “dense area residence and having a car”. A call was made to Russians to equip themselves with permitted weapons by the leader of the organization “Slavonic Union”, Dmitry Demushkin. A Russian organization with the telling name “Brown time”, which was created towards the end of 2004, has declared its objective to be a military coup. “Give us a pretext and we will organize it" – it says in one of the resolutions of this particular organization. In June, in the Vladimir region, the “Russian All-National Union” carried out a training session for its members including training in hand-to-hand fighting, methods of survival in extreme conditions, Divine Law and “the fundamentals of national self-awareness”. Activists of the well-known organization “Russian National Unity”, which is suspected of having planted the bomb on the train “Grozny - Moscow” are presently distributing leaflets with the call to buy and keep weapons.

An expert from the Moscow Office for Human Rights, Semyon Chary states that at the overall federal level in Russia, there are seven parties or movements which would not be averse to “shaking their weapons about”. In addition, in Russia separate “patriotic” regional associations are active, the so-called Cossack organizations, the overall number of whose military wing human rights activists estimate at comprising 15 thousand fighters. These formations have made themselves known through their pogroms of Roma people and Armenians. In particular, in the Novosibirsk region forty homes of Roma people were burned, while in Novorosiysk “Cossacks” destroyed several homes of Armenians.

It is interesting that quite a few of the Russian organizations mentioned above publish their “blacklists”, to which they add well-known liberal politicians, journalists and human rights activists.

A separate social phenomenon of life in Russia has become the activity of the movement of skinheads. They number between 10 and 50 thousand. The centres of these skinheads are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Voronezh. It is in these cities that not a week goes by without an attack on people with a “non-Slavonic” appearance. According to estimates from the Moscow Office for Human Rights in the first half of 2005, skinheads were responsible for the murders of 10 people, and for crippling more than 200 of their victims.

Obviously one should avoid demonising Russian extremists, let alone exaggerating the “militant spirit” in Russian society. Incidentally, this is not done by official Russian authorities who in the main call members of militarized formulations “gangs”. At the end of the day, the war in Chechnya has shown how weak not only the “Russian military machine” is, but also the will of the Russian “hawks” who have proved incapable of countering the resistance movement in the Caucuses.

In the given situation it is something else that really staggers, and that is the readiness of average Russians to support the ideological strivings of these extremists. According to statistics of Russian sociologists, 43% of Russians believe that Russians should have more rights in Russia than other nationalities. 23% do not hide their negative attitude to people of other nationalities. It is believed that in Russia more than 60% of Russians are for a limitation on immigration into Russia since they consider that newcomers could take their jobs or lead to a rise in crime.

The examples cited above lead to the conclusion that a sober look is needed with regard to “democratic” Russia and a “sister nation”. Finally, those who still today call on people to build the future of the Ukrainian State “together with Russia” need to come to their senses. On the background of the Orange Revolution which organically bound together national and democratic values, it becomes ever more apparent that the roads of Ukraine and Russia do not meet. For this reason one should not dramatize the situation, but do only what has not thus far been done: establish relations of parity with Moscow based on a principle of strict assertion of national interests.

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