Starting 2005 the long-established October Revolution day (November 7), which had been celebrated by several generations of Soviet and post-Soviet people, was replaced in Russia with the Day of National Unity (November 4) to commemorate liberation of Moscow from the Polish invaders by Minin and Pozharsky in 1612. There are various explanations for why this change occurred in the first place, but the idea of a new state holiday was proposed by the Inter-confessional Religious Council of Russia in September 2004 (and the day coincided with the commemoration of the Kazan’ icon of the Virgin Mary. The new holiday was to become a commemoration of the unity of various peoples of Russia, who united to end troublesome times and managed to install Romanov family on the throne of Russian tsars. There were and continue to be doubts about this particular date, as it fails to have any significance to the majority of the Russian people. Whether it was due to ineffective policies of the state in promoting the new holiday or due to other reasons, but since 2005 November 4th became a date of the “Russian March”, a manifestation of nationalists of various kinds (and degrees of insanity), which doesn’t have any connection to the idea of “national unity”.
For the last nine years manifestations of nationalists are carried out on this day, which repeatedly feature Nazi salutes, chanting slogans “Russia for Russians”, “Stop feeding Caucasus”, “Russian authority for Russia”. Over this period of time the number of participants of the manifestation in Moscow oscillated and reached 6000 persons in 2013 (based on the statistics of Information and analytical center “Sova”).
In spite of the relatively low number of participants and marginal nature of these nationalist manifestations, which were legalized by the Russian authorities, it is not possible to deny negative consequences of this annual event. During this day the level of inter-ethnic violence always increases and the fact that these “legal” marches of nationalists have a connection to the number of hate crimes was admitted even by the law enforcement agencies. Thus, Saint Petersburg Investigative Committee stated that the murder of an Uzbek citizen on November 4, 2013 in Saint Petersburg was undeniably connected to the nationalist manifestation on the same date. According to the head of Saint Petersburg Investigative Committee Alexander Klaus, “seven youngsters, who had participated in the so-called “Russian March” had listened to the speeches of some well-behaved and supposedly intelligent people, who had spoken about their view of the problems. But they had perceived these speeches in a peculiar manner, took knives and screwdrivers and went to Nevsky district and killed a man there”.
One can assume that many of the other murders and violent attacks, where nationalistic motives were not found, were merely registered in the official police statistics as regular “hooliganism” and “murder”. It is likely that an attack on “non-Slavic looking people” on Udelnaya station and the murder of a Kirgiz citizen on November 4, 2013 were registered by the police as such.
Another serious consequence of legalized nationalist manifestations becomes involvement of minors into criminal activities, which in itself is a crime. If we look at the age profile of the participants of “Russian Marches” over these years, we can notice considerable increase in the number of teenagers marching with nationalists. But this doesn’t limit itself to mere marching. Out of the seven suspects in the murder of Uzbek citizen in Saint Petersburg, five were underage. It’s hard to say if the fact that nationalist manifestations become “younger” is due to the activities of the nationalists themselves or it is due to the general xenophobic policies of the state or the tactics of non-involvement (or sometimes even passive participation) in the spread of right-wing radical ideas in society. But it is obvious that the adults spreading or helping to spread these ideas or recruiting the young people for these manifestations should be held responsible for that.
It should be noted that in terms of logic the participants of “Russian Marches” contradict themselves. For example, the slogan “Stop feeding Caucasus” or the demand for separation of Northern Caucasian regions from Russia are in contradiction with the imperial white-yellow-black flags that they march under (because any empire strives to keep all its territories or expand them). And this obvious contradiction can lead to some consequences for nationalists: the fear created by the “Russian Marches” in Moscow fuels discontent in other regions, which are not so densely populated by “Slavic-looking people”. It is more often that we hear “Stop feeding Moscow” rhetoric coming from separatist-minded people in Siberia, which can eventually lead to final disintegration of the whole “empire”.
Other demands put forward by the participants of “Russian Marches” are also irrational and hard to understand. Restricting “illegal immigration” through introduction of visas for citizens of the CIS countries, special police raids and stricter immigration regulations lead not to lower immigration, but to increased cost of immigrant labor, as well as higher degree of corruption and xenophobia in society as a whole.
by Piotr Krasnov