Petersburg Police: Music Fans Are Extremists

Chernov’s Choice
The St. Petersburg Times
July 17, 2009

The St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office has admitted that local music fans are under police surveillance—officially as a measure to counteract “extremist activities.”

The city’s Primorsky District police “have organized the exposure of members of informal entities, whose activities may have an extremist nature, on a permanent basis,” the web site of the Prosecutor’s Office reported on July 2.

According to the report, the district’s criminal police have identified and included on a register “88 people who attribute themselves to informal entities such as ‘Skinheads,’ ‘Aggressive Football Fans,’ ‘Punks,’ ‘Emos,’ ‘Black Metallers,’ ‘Fans of [the band] Kino,’ ‘Alternative Rock Fans,’ ‘Anarchists’ and others.”

 

Viktor Tsoi, Leader of a Russian Extremist Group

Viktor Tsoi, Leader of a Russian Extremist Group

Kino was a local 1980s pop-rock band influenced by The Cure and Duran Duran, and is still popular with young people in Russia, though it split up when its frontman and sole songwriter Viktor Tsoi died in a car crash in 1991. Plans to erect an official monument to Tsoi are underway in the city.

The report said that apart from the criminal police, “this work” is also conducted by neighborhood police inspectors and juvenile police departments.

Once exposed and registered, the music fans and members of the other “informal entities” are the subject of “preventive work” conducted by the district’s police officers, the district’s administration officials and educational institution staff to “prevent crimes, including those of an extremist nature.”

Since then-president Vladimir Putin signed the Law on Extremism in 2006, the law has reportedly been used indiscriminately by the police to persecute oppositionists, human rights activists and artists such as Novosibirsk-based artist Artyom Loskutov.

On what grounds have the police and prosecutors decided that fans of music groups and people united on common philosophical grounds such as anarchists could be involved in extremist activities, Maxim Ivantsov, coordinator of the Youth Human Rights Group asked in a letter to the district’s prosecutor and police chief.

He also wondered what “informal entities” are meant by the word “others.” Finally, Ivantsov inquired whether such activities by the Primorsky District’s criminal police are lawful.

Earlier this year, an unidentified police detachment stopped a concert at the local club Arctica and detained some 400 fans for hours, fingerprinting and taking photos of them, which can only be done with a person’s consent under Russian law.

Indeed, when so many departments and police officers are busy dealing with artists and music fans, criminals can walk free.

The city’s big international shows this weekend are Nick Cave (Stereoleto, Lenexpo, Friday), Britney Spears (Ice Palace, Sunday) and Buena Vista Social Club (Oktyabrsky, Sunday).

Don’t get caught.

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Filed under political repression, Russian society

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