Call for Antifascist Demonstration, January 19, 2011, Moscow
January 19, 2011 will mark the second anniversary of the murders of two antifascists, lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. They were murdered in Moscow in broad daylight, shot in the head by a gunman.
The murders were brazen and demonstrative. Although from the outset various explanations were given for the murders (as a lawyer, Markelov had handled cases in Chechnya, both against the federal forces who tortured and murdered Chechen civilians, and the Chechen leadership, who are suspected of kidnapping and murdering people; he had also represented journalist Mikhail Beketov, who was nearly beaten to death in autumn 2008, in his court battle with Khimki mayor Vladimir Strelchenko), Stas and Nastya’s comrades in the antifascist movement assumed that neo-Nazis had been involved. For it had been Stanislav Markelov who had pressured law enforcement authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the murder, in the spring of 2006, of the young antifascist Alexander Riukhin. It was thanks to Markelov’s efforts that the authorities were unable to sweep this case under the rug or drop it altogether. It was thanks to his persistence that police investigators not only came up with a list of suspects, but also brought the case to court. Half of the people involved in Alexander’s murder were arrested and convicted for the crime, while the rest were placed on the federal wanted list.
Today, we have almost no doubts that law enforcement authorities have Stas and Nastya’s real murderer in custody, along with his female accomplice. Their court trial should begin soon. These two people are neo-Nazis, and one of them is in fact one of the people who was involved in the fatal attack on Alexander Riukhin but was not found by the authorities after being placed on the wanted list.
The murderers have been apprehended, their trial will soon begin. Does that mean society can breathe a sigh of relief?
No, it does not.
Dozens of less publicized racist murders take place in our country every year. The victims of these murders are Russian citizens of non-Slavic appearance as well as immigrants from former Soviet republics and former Soviet allies. S0viet-era international solidarity (whether fictitious or real) has been replaced by ethnic intolerance, by hatred towards people who are different, who speak a different language, whose eyes are differently shaped, whose hair and skin are a different color.
As a rule, we don’t remember the names of these victims of neo-Nazi terror. Often we don’t even learn their names: the press merely informs us that someone has murdered a citizen of Uzbekistan, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, an Azerbaijani, an Armenian, an immigrant from Vietnam, a refugee from Afghanistan. We do not see their faces or the faces of their grieving relatives. It as if they pass anonymous into nonexistence, inhabiting our consciousness for the several seconds it takes us to read this terrifying news on our computer screens or in the pages of a newspaper.
But in fact none of the people who have died at the hands of neo-Nazis murderers is nameless. None of these people was born in a test tube, bereft of pain, reason, love, attachments, and hope. All of these people were brought into this world by mothers. Each of them had families and friends, people whom they cared about and who cared about them.
This problem, which was long ignored both by Russian society and the Russian authorities, was raised only by the local ethnic communities of the murder victims and by young antifascists, the same people whom lawyer Stanislav Markelov had befriended and defended, the same people in whose ranks journalist Anastasia Baburova (who herself had immigrated from Simferopol, in the Crimea, to Moscow) had stood.
A year ago, on the eve of the first anniversary of Stas and Nastya’s murders, people who had known them united together in the January 19 Committee to commemorate their lives and deaths in a worthy manner, and say a decisive “no!” to neo-Nazi terror. The members of the committee belong to different parts of the Russian social movement, and they have different views of our country’s present and future. And yet on January 19, 2010, they joined around 1,500 other people in an antifascist demonstration in downtown Moscow, braving minus twenty degree weather and active interference on the part of the Moscow police. The demonstrators included both people who frequently protest against the authorities and people who might not have taken part in public protests since the perestroika era. These people were joined by folks who had never participated in a demonstration before: society had begun to recognize the problem of neo-Nazi terror, and caring people were moved to act whatever their age, social status, profession, sex, and so on. The march was joined by students and pensioners, confident middle-aged professionals and poor people who had lost hope of making it, members of the intelligentsia and young workers, all kinds of different people. What united them was a troubled conscience, an intolerance of neo-Nazi murders, and shame for their country and city, a city in which such medieval monstrosities have nearly become a norm of daily life.
As we see now, a year later, this protest was more than timely. It is possible that it happened too late. In any case, the events of December 11–15 in Moscow and other Russian cities have proven that neo-Nazism has not been cowed. Extreme right-wing ideas have struck a chord with large numbers of young people, and these masses of young people, who were badly educated and poorly brought up during the years of the Yeltsin-Putin stagnation, are willing to engage in violence. The half-forgotten, moth-balled Russian word pogrom was heard again: the crowd on Manezh Square was on the point of starting a genuine pogrom, and the crowd that gathered outside Kiev Station four days later was prepared to engage in fighting, stabbing, beating, and shooting.
During those same days, people also asked where the antifascists had been. Why hadn’t they tried to confront the raging neo-Nazis? There are several possible answers to this question. First, why don’t you try to stand in the way of a crowd like that yourself? Second, try organizing resistance to an aggressive crowd of neo-Nazis, people who think nothing about murdering and beating other people, when you have become the target of a harassment campaign (if not a witch hunt) on the part of the authorities. These were the conditions faced by Russia’s youth antifascist movement during the second half of 2010. Police searches, police dragnets at concerts, arrests, and violent interrogations by police who wanted to force testimony from them: this was what being antifa meant in 2010, not educational work amongst young people, cultural events, publishing literature, and even the martial arts and football tournaments that young antifascists had still been able to organize in 2009.
Sensing that the young antifascists were a rising force, the state has thrown the entire weight of its police apparatus against them. Meanwhile, neo-Nazis have been holding their legally sanctioned Russian Marches, convening round tables and posing for journalists in expensive hotels, and continuing to murder the defenseless – janitors, petty laborers, teenagers. While the state was unleashing its dragnet against the antifa, the neo-Nazis were trying to go respectable, to show the authorities and the business world that they could be a source of “order” during a complicated economic and political situation, that they were capable both of doing the dirty work and putting on a fashion show in well-ironed shirts and ties.
This fashion show crystallized on Manezh Square in early December. Judging by the absence of real measures to find and punish the people who organized that riot, certain high-ranking Kremlin officials found it to their liking.
Given this situation, the January 19 Committee declares the need for all people opposed to Russia’s slide into the abyss of nationalism to unite and organize solidarity actions. We live in a huge country, and we are all different. Our country is divided by contradictions, arguments, and discrepancies, and at the end of the day we aren’t obliged to like each other. But we are united on one point: Nazism, which in the twentieth century brought incalculable suffering to our country and other countries of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, is once again blazing a bloody trail. It is too late to say that it must not rise again. It is already rising again, and now we have to talk about how to stop it.
We call on all honest people, people who value the ideals of freedom and justice and just plain normal life in our country, people of different nationalities, religious confessions, convictions, and guiding principles, to join us in an antifascist demonstration in Moscow and other Russian cities.
This will not simply be a memorial action to remember the dead – Stas Markelov, Nastya Baburova, and many, many others. January 19, 2011 must become a day of determination, a day of protest, a day of struggle against the fascist threat in Russia.
Demonstrators in Moscow will gather at 7:00 p.m. on January 19, 2011, at the Timiryazev Monument (near the Nikitsky Gates at the beginning of Tverskaya Boulevard). We will have more information about the route of the demonstration and slogans in the coming days. Check for updates at the January 19 Committee web site:
Stop neo-Nazi terror! Save Russia from the ultra right-wing threat!
As long as we’re united we can never be defeated!
—The January 19 Committee