Racist Violence, Rhetoric Plague Russia

Last summer found globetrotting hate-monger David Duke in Moscow again, flattering an audience of local white supremacists with crude anti-Semitism and shameless displays of racist Russophilia.

Russia, gushed Duke, was the historical defender of white Europe, its capital host to the largest concentration of white people in the world. He exhorted his racist comrades to keep it that way.

It's possible that Duke's audience included members of the Moscow-based Action Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), a hate group that later in the summer would turn words into action.

In September, DPNI members traveled north to the city of Kondopoga, near the Finnish border. There they linked up with local extremists and helped ignite a Sept. 2 pogrom against the largely Chechen immigrant community. The racial violence, sparked by a bar fight that left two ethnic Russians dead, was widespread. According to Reuters, "2,000 locals attacked businesses and property owned by Caucasus natives. They ripped market stalls apart, stoned migrants' homes and burned and looted the Azeri restaurant where the Russians were killed."

When the nightlong spasm of violence was finally quelled with the aid of police reinforcements from the regional capital, nearly all of the town's 150 Chechens had been driven out. Fifty who fled the violence were placed in an old sanatorium nearby, guarded by Russian special forces.

Less than two weeks earlier, two Moscow University students belonging to a small racist group were arrested after detonating a homemade bomb in a market in south Moscow popular with Asian merchants. The blast killed 10, including five Chinese nationals and one Vietnamese. Prosecutor Yuri Syomin said the pair carried out the attack because they thought there were "too many people [there] of Asian background, towards whom they experienced bad feelings."

The Kondopoga and Moscow attacks were only the most spectacular events in a summer of almost daily racial violence in Russia. Current trends continue to reinforce the findings of an Amnesty International report released in May, "Russian Federation: Violent Racism Out of Control." The report concluded that racist attacks and murders occur with "shocking regularity" in that country and called for stronger state action against extremist individuals and groups.