Russian Antifa, what happened to you?
03 Oct 2010 19:10 GMT
What happened after Khimki? Two Antifascists are under arrest currently, but what happened to the rest of the Russian Antifa since the government directed special attention to the group? Vanja is going on a drive in the suburbs of Moscow ...
The gun he is wearing under his sweater hampers him to sit comfortably in the driver´s seat but he would not take it off. I settle in the front passenger´s seat next to him and we drive through the suburbs of Moscow in his rattly Soviet Lada.
Somehow I did not expect him to be so young, but no one is over 24 in the whole Russian Antifa, as I will find out later. “It is not an old movement in this country. Not like in Europe where anti-fascists confronted the far right from the 20ies onwards.” – he tells me. At this point I should invent some assumed name for him. Let´s call him Vanja.
The Russian Antifa was formed in 2000 and the following nine years of its existence it would attract a thousand supporters whose main occupation it was to attack and beat up Fascists and occasionally get beaten up by them. Constantly flirting with anarchist ideology and dedicated to the battle against racism and xenophobia, that is widely spread in Russia, the young Antifascists found a way to escape the boredom reigning over the vast grey suburbs of Moscow and happily engaged in the feuds between Skinheads, Fascists and Anti-Russians. It seemed that all issues regarding the Antifa and its opponents would stay on the level of a street fight largely ignored by the authorities until January 19th 2009. This is the day when Stanislaw Markelow, who had advocated the cause of the Antifa in front of national courts, and the activist and journalist Anastasia Baburowa were killed. Things considerably worsened for the Russian Antifa ever since. On November 26th 2009 Iwan Chutarskoj was shot in the back of the head when entering the staircase of his house. He was known for excessively campaigning against Fascism and organizing direct actions. The killings did not resemble methods usually applied by Fascists when confronting their enemies; they made the impression of accurately planned actions aiming at the erasure of antifascist spearheads. All three victims had been speaking out in public.
“But the worst happened after the Khimki action.” – Vanja states and drives to a car park next to a big supermarket. “Yes”, I say, “in Europe everyone knows about Khimki. You went there hooded and attacked the building of the city administration in order to demonstrate resistance against deforestation. And everyone knows about Maxim and Alexey being under arrest now.”
“That is still not all that happened afterwards.” – Vanja says gloomily. “Didn´t you wonder why it was hard to get in contact with us? Almost all of the guys left the country or are hiding away… because it was not simply ‘violence against objects’. In the eyes of the Kremlin it was a pogrom on one of its administrative buildings. Not simply throwing stones into windowpanes, but an organized attempt to undermine their power.”
And the Kremlin reacted. It is difficult to say who or what is taking decisions when talking about “the Kremlin”, but it must be people with power over the “oligarcho-KGB structure replacing democracy”, as Vanja puts it.
After Khimki Antifascists were getting calls on their home numbers. “You are invited to have a chat with us.” – they were told by representatives of the regional department of internal affairs (UVD). Most Antifascists understood that it was time to disappear into thin air for a while. But the UVD got not only hold of private phone numbers, they also visited the families and homes of Antifa members and searched their apartments. Vanja is suspecting the governments newly founded “Center for the fight against extremist collectives” having access to social networks, too. Recently him and his friend also detected a spy in their own ranks: an underage girl paid by the Milizia for pointing out the Antifascists whereabouts.
“And what about being beaten up and forced to sign some papers?” – I ask Vanja. “I have heard there are two people who ended up in hospital.”
“Two? Hang on, there are many more. Alexander Pachotin was the most prominent one because he was beaten up so heavily and later spoke to some journalists. Few days later there was Nikita Zernobaew who also got a surprise visit from FSB (Federal Security Service).“ Vanja goes on with more and more stories. He tells me about a mutual acquaintance whose younger brother almost got shot when stepping out on the balcony of his older brother´s flat and about another Antifascist from Pushkin town who was subject to a violent police questioning. He could go on and on.
There is no more actions against Fascists at the moment. Just surviving and hiding away, not attracting attention, not going home too often.
A totalitarian government got scared after seeing itself confronted to a young, angry and organized group of networking Antifascists who attempted to harm the smallest branch of it´s huge power apparatus. It will not forgive. So the times when Fascists were the Russian Antifa´s only problem are gone a long time ago.
“We would need some good lawyers now.” – Vanja sighs. He turns on the engine of his Lada and we drive towards the city center.