Rally Shows Rise of Nationalist Sentiment
Published: November 6, 2013 (Issue # 1785)
Thousands of Russians poured into the streets of dozens of towns across the country Monday to voice nationalist sentiments on a holiday that was established by the government in 2005 to celebrate the unity of Russia’s diverse population.
Nationalism has been on the rise in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with both the state and numerous civil society organizations trying to pigeonhole it within formalized limits, but it has come to a fever pitch in the aftermath of ethnically charged riots in Moscow’s district of Biryulyovo on Oct. 14.
The riots, triggered by the killing of a young Russian man, allegedly by a migrant worker, led to numerous public calls to toughen the country’s immigration legislation, apparently emboldening many nationalists.
The task of keeping nationalism contained has proved to be a tough challenge for authorities, as radical nationalists are still able to attract many young people to their cause by providing what many say the nation as a whole lacks: a guiding ideology and a sense of purpose in life.
In a sign of the intensified nationalist atmosphere ahead of Monday’s Russian March, the country’s biggest annual nationalist rally, the Nazi flag was displayed during a football match Wednesday between Spartak Moscow and Shinnik Yaroslavl.
On Monday, crowds made up mostly of neo-Nazis put their discontent into words, chanting various slogans, perhaps the least inflammatory of which was: “Stop taking it and take up arms!”
Other slogans insulted Islam and urged violence and drastic measures against minorities.
The crowd, which according to police amounted to 8,000 people, consisted mostly of young men in tight jeans and black jackets. They marched across the southeastern Lyublino district, with a nationalist thrash metal band, Kolovrat, performing at the end.
The organizers claimed that at least 20,000 people attended the march.
“Who are we?” one of the ringleaders kept asking participants, with the crowd shouting “Russians!” in response.
The march was escorted by a helicopter and hundreds of policemen. Thirty people were detained for covering their faces and shouting Nazi slogans, police reported.
“There is no doubt that the Russian nation is in danger today,” said Gleb, 32, who declined to give his last name in order to conceal his identity. “People are losing patience — this is exactly what you see here,” he said.
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