Wednesday, March 04, 2009



The situation of migrants may be dire anywhere in the world, but, of 'developed countries" that of migrants to Russia may be one of the worst. In addition to the usual anti-immigrant agitation there are numerous racially motivated murders. This, however, doesn't go unopposed, and anarchists are in the forefront of fighting the fascists who thrive on this xenophobia. Here, from the English language section of the Russian anarchist news site Avtonom, is a recent interview with two Russian anti-racists conducted by a Swedish activist. The following has been slightly edited for English grammar and spelling.

Interview with Russian anti-racists:
Recently Swedish activist Etranger questioned two Moscow activists, Utka and Igor, on the state of anti-racist movement and activities of anti-migrant groups. The Swedish version of the interview was published in In this interview, Utka and Igor represent themselves and not any particular group.

How many anti-migrations groups are involved in the movement against migrants? What is the strategy of these groups?

Utka: Still you hardly can speak about a common movement against migrants. There are several groups and some of them started to cooperate.

The main anti-migration organisation is the DPNI (Movement against illegal immigration, founded in 2002). The main purpose was to create a modern right wing movement in the style of Le Pen or Joerg Haider. They have strong groups in some bigger cities and the leader of the DPNI, Aleksandr Belov, is involved in some building business, where the most of the workers are foreigners from the CIS countries. The DNPI is very close to the neonazi organisation Slavic Union (SS) of Dmitry Demushkin. Especially, the DPNI works on a strategy to show, that the whole Russian people fight against foreigners, and not only right wing movements. The DPNI inflates conflicts at participation of non-Russians and submits them in an absolutely other key, that means as ethnic conflicts even if they are not ethnic.

Only in 2008, when during the economic crisis discussions about “illegal” immigration became more important, did some pro-Kremlin youth organisations supporting the government raise the item of “illegal immigrants” . One of them is the Young Guard, the youth organisation of the party United Russia.

Some years ago the organisation was not very active - especially if you compare it with other pro-Kremlin youth organisations (for example, the movements "Going Together" and "Ours"). Feature the Young Guard (MGER) in comparison with "Ours": "Ours" basically are careerists not from exclusive layers; the active part of the Young Guard are mainly children of members of Putin's power structure.

Under the slogan “Our money for our people” members of the Young Guard, the youth organisation of the Kremlin party United Russia, held anti-foreigner demonstrations on 1 November (and again on 8 December) in several big cities.

In particular, they took pages out of the DPNI’s tawdry book, by demanding a halt to the migration of foreign workers to Russia, the deportation of migrants without proven residence status and offered themselves for street patrols to seek out illegal foreigners.

A few days later, the Young Guardists and their fellow pro-Kremlin activists of Mestnye (“Locals”) signed an agreement to coordinate their activities in the fight against “illegal migrants.” Letting the cat out of the bag, Mestnye leader Sergei Fateyev also announced his readiness to work together with the DPNI.

Away from the courts, Russki Obraz (RO – Russian Kind), one of the fascist outfits that co-organises the so-called “Russian Marches”, has been trying to raise its public profile as a rival in xenophobia to front-runners like the Movement against Illegal Immigration and the Kremlin-linked youth organisation, Young Guard.

On 11 December, about 30 RO supporters gathered in the centre of Moscow to demand changes in the law to limit the number of migrant workers in the ongoing economic crisis and to have the term “ethnic crime” written into the penal code. This latter demand is likely to find misguided support amongst many people because hardly a day passes without the Russian media reporting on minor crimes committed by foreign workers hit by the crisis and deprived of basic rights.

The RO has already found ready listeners in the Russian parliament, the State Duma. The day before its Moscow rally, it held a round table on “The Migration of Labour in Times of Crisis: Threats and Challenges.” Alongside some of the usual suspects from the far-right, Maxim Misshenko also took part.

Misshenko, 31, is not only an MP for prime minister Vladimir Putin’s party United Russia but also heads another Kremlin-linked group, Rossia Molodaya (Young Russia), and is frequently present in the media. As well as lending RO his presence, Misshenko added to its credibility by receiving a petition outlining a raft of racist legislative proposals.

And, as if that were not enough, three hundred right-wing extremists staged an authorised march on Russia’s Constitution Day, 12 December in Moscow where they heard speeches by members of the Nazi Slavic Union, the Russian National Bolshevik Front and the DPNI. The event was used as an opportunity by mob of Nazi boneheads to give Hitler salutes, actions likely to be repeated when the far-right stages its next “Russian March” in March.

Grabbing even more publicity, however, for its xenophobic campaigns has been Young Guard, the youth organisation of Russian premier Vladimir Putin’s United Russia, which, on 19 January organised rallies against migrant labour at the railway stations of several Russian cities. In Moscow, about 50 Young Guard members showed up to dish out their leaflets to passengers newly arrived from Tashkent and to wave placards with the slogans “If you want to work, pay your taxes” and “Illegal = thief”.

This performance drew some resistance from anti-fascist anarchists who held up a banner with the slogan “No human being is illegal” and pelted the Young Guard members with eggs. It was the first action against these kind of official meetings. I might become the beginning of a more organised struggle against the anti-migrant groups. There were some efforts to organise migrant groups, but they are directed at trade-union activity. Russian NGO’s condemn the the anti-migrant groups, but they don’t have any activities to stop them. The official migration authorities condemned the efforts of the Kremlin youth organisations, saying they are stupid.

The Young Guard has his own security. It is not clear, whether it consists of official police employees or former police employees. But at least the police know them, as far as I understood during the action on 19 January.

Igor: One pro-Kremlin youth organisation campaigned against migrants already in autumn of 2006, that is "Locals" - on dubious legal grounds they raided marketplaces in Moscow region, looking for illegal migrants and beating up some of them.

Utka: Yes the “Locals” organised campaigns against migrants on a local level, but now it seems, that the campaigns are becoming more organised under direct instructions of the head of the party.

Is there any self-organized resistance or other kinds of resistance against theses groups?

Utka: I think, that actually in Russia there is no anti-racist movement at all. There is a lack of knowledge and resources as well as a lack of understanding on which level it makes sense to fight racism.

Igor: In terms of when it comes to groups other than small anti-fascist and anarchist groups (such as Autonomous Action), I think these come down to three - "Civic Action" of Svetlana Gannushkina, which does humanitarian work for refugees and also speaks against racist violence in media. Their website apparently only has materials in Russian. They help both refugees from outside of Russia and from conflict regions inside of Russia.

There is also "Tadzhikistan Fond", a support structure for migrants from Tadzhkistan. Other diasporas have similar structures.

Utka: The “Tadzhikistan Fond” is very special. Unlike other structures of diasporas it somehow may rely on official representatives of the Tadzhikistan embassy in Moscow, which a least makes efforts to avoid deportation of Tadzhik migrants etc.

There is a trade union of legal migrants in Moscow and other regions. It was founded two years ago. In fact it works not really like a real trade union, because it seems to work more as an labour recruitment agency. The organizing of illegal workers is much more difficult. At the moment in Moscow a small initiative is starting to work, which should fulfill the function of a trade union, mainly concerning the non-payment of salaries. One of the main problem is how to put pressure upon small firms which exist today, but tomorrow they don’t. The point is, that in these cases the legal way to demand money from the head of the firm doesn’t help, you need to find more effective ways to deal with it.

What do you think is the most important issue for the anti racist movement in Europe and how we can help each other in our struggle?

Igor: I think this depends a lot on the local situation. For example in many European countries there is a danger of rising populist parties, but that is not the case in Russia as its undemocratic system (which is of course a problem in itself) does not give a chance for such parties. As a result, the frustration of nationalists creates terrorist violence, and the number of recorded racist murders around Russia already reach several hundreds. Thus in Russia there must be more focus on the extreme violent fringe of the ultra-nationalists, which consists of only a small part of the anti-migrant movement.

But really, there is not yet such a thing as "anti-racist" movement in Russia. There are several actors in the anti-racist area and contacts abroad (for example many Russian radicals have joined anti-border camps in Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Poland and Finland), but not any common efforts to coordinate work. Counter-demonstrations against racists are rather weak, although occasionally there have been some successes, such as dispersion of the racist picket of DPNI in St. Petersburg in September of 2006. In my opinion, the anti-racist movement in Russia is in a serious need of strategical approach; currently focus is on tactics only.

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