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Fascism - A Threat to Russias Future

This was the subject of a recent conference held by a number of Russian organizations, including the Moscow Helsinki group, the human rights orgnisation Memorial, the Union of Right Forces and the opposition bloc Yabloka. The conference took place on 14 May in Moscow at the Kosmos hotel. The main task of this conference was the: The Development of a Common Strategy to Oppose Fascism in Russia and to discuss Concrete Mechanisms and Steps for the Creation of a Popular Antifascist Movement. Specific details of the participants and the program were not made public, highlighting the sensitive nature of this issue at present.

Two hundred people from different regions of the Russian Federation were invited to the conference, which was opened by the director of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Ludmila Alekseeva. Dear friends and supporters, I can address you as such because no one is in this hall by chance. We all struggle against fascism. After the opening there was a ceremony in which awards were given to journalists whose writing has helped in the fight against racism.

Later in the day a speech was given by Marietta Tshudakova of the Literature Institute. We express the opinion of the majority, she declared. Ask any mother and she will tell you that she does not want her son to become a fascist. Emil Pain, head of the Center for Prevention of Extremism from the Sociology Institute of the Russian Academy of Science was less optimistic: The rate of growth of xenophobia in Russia is unprecedented, he noted. It is extinguishing democracy and freedom. The appearance of a new army of bureaucrats creates the conditions not only for corruption, but also for xenophobia. The Congress of Peoples Deputies is only intended as window dressing, it hasnt created organizations or structures that are useful to society. In a country, where according the vice speaker of the State Duma Zhirinovsky, should not be xenophobia. Thus Pain has emphasized that when receiving absolute authority, the authority itself simultaneously becomes a target for various forces. For example, there were leaflets about non-Russian governments Fradkova, Nurgalyeva, Zurabova, Miller, etc.

According to the director of the Center for Prevention of Extremism, there is a unique way of opposing racism within the country - the creation of a network of organizations supporting democratic values. In all other parts of the world fascism is a radical phenomenon of the right wing. In order to fight against fascism, a cooperation of all the liberal forces is necessary.

Boris Dubin representing the Levada-Center has conducted the following interesting data. According to research of the Levada-Center, 82 % of the population believes that in the former countries of the USSR Russian rights are abused. At the same time almost 90 % think that in these regions there are no ethnic problems. It is even more interesting that it appears that 60 % consider the slogan Russia for Russians in itself does not harbor any danger. When in 1995 only 45 % believed that Russia has enemies, today 77 % believe this. It is characteristic, that in 1995 only 15 % believed, that an iron fist is necessary to rule the the country - now 42 % believe this. Most remarkably however is, that 62 % of the Russians truly believe that representatives of national minorities are guilty of humiliating, offending and damaging Russia. Boris Dubin has noted an interesting phenomenon in the Russian society: the mass indifference of the following kind we are here, who cares about anywhere else. Disconnect the TV or close the curtains and everything else on the other side and it does not concern you any longer. On the other hand our people have feelings of vulnerability from terrorists, gangsters, officials and from all the others.

Boris Dublin has agreed that the activity of the Russian authorities does not generate, but promote an increase of xenophobia. In fact, a modern society can break up due to many reasons, and fascists in their own way unify a society. In the end the lecturer declared something that sounded like a verdict in relation to the main task of the conference. Only 10 % of all Russians know about the Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial, or other organizations; and only half of them, as the lecturer nicely put it, are loyal to these organizations.

The other lecturer, Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the center Soba has noted, that over the last ten years the amount of xenophobic material in the mass-media has sharply increased. And neo-Nazis now avoid direct appeals to pogroms and are very cautious, one might even say devious in promoting xenophobic ideas.

Georgii Satarov, former advisor to the previous president has in turn declared, that within the Russian society the syndrome of a loss of a social immunodeficiency may be observed. An artificial life is very easy to represent. According to Satarov under Yeltsin it was a fruitful chaos.

Leonid Gozman, representing the Union of Right forces, began his speech with skinheads will not let people with mixed ethnic backgrounds come to power. According to him the country is threatened by other dangers, and as a result the freedom will be lost. Neo-Nazis are not hindered by authorities. In fact they want to look more decent for them. It is simply not true that Russians are special people who do not love freedom and democracy, but only dream of a new and wise tsar. Leonid Gozman declared that if such a conference had taken place 20 years ago and if the statement and the program (participants found the program for the project described on five pages) had been accepted, it would have been accepted as an act of civic courage. Now this resolution is possible. Now we do write declarations, which however are not read by anyone else except for us and which therefore have no benefit. The problem is, that we are getting further away from the real problem.

Other statements made include:

Power and anti-western sentiments have cultivated a greedy, totalitarian regime. Many Russians are looking for those responsible for the collapse of the USSR. Ten years ago it was the democrats, now it is non-Russians.

The antifascist pact devised by the United Russia party (Putins party) is a sham

Everyone talks about combating fascism, but nothing actually happens

Before declaring a break for a dinner, Andrei Yurov, from a youth rights protection movement in Voronezh reminded participants that he would give an after-dinner speech on the his experiences of fighting fascism. He made clear that the second and third parts of the conference would have crucial importance as speakers would be describing practical results.

The Center for Interethnic Cooperation has held conferences and workshops with the leaders of ethnic communities in 16 cities of the Russian Federation. When the center organizes such activities outside Moscow, we generally carry out a detailed analysis of the situation within the region so that we are aware of who is working there and in what areas. However there seemed to be no reason to pursue the second part of the program on Sunday, as participants seemed to have neither the desire nor the time to listen to our unique experiences, such as carrying out workshops with militia and various authorities, the successful website we have set up devoted to the problems of ethnic minorities and the friends we have made among leaders of ethnic organizations in many regions of Russia.

Unfortunately I have no confidence that there will be a self-organizing antifascist movement what has been termed the program for civil action against fascism. Despite the fact that the proposal for this program contained a great deal of information, those present at the conference did not receive a copy of the proposal beforehand, but only during the conference. This precluded the possibility of the program being properly discussed at the conference.

I am concerned that the proposal for this program appears to be nothing more substantial than an application for a large grant. And I am afraid that further down the line, particularly once the money has been received, the interests of certain people within the organization may become more important than the struggle against racism. This has occurred so many times in the past.

Some right-wing participants of the conference have noted that the struggle against fascism has already become a political tool for making decisions in other areas. As if to prove the truth of this statement, a group of young people organized a protest in front of the Kosmos hotel holding placards which read: You are not anti-fascists, you are terrorist sympathizers.

Although the number of organizations and movements struggling against racism is constantly growing, the number of Neo-Nazis is growing even faster. The vice president of the Union of Russian Armenians Gegam Khalatyan made a grave statement to the officials of the Council of Europe: In the past they only beat us, but now they are starting to kill.

Ashot Ayrapetyan


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