Racism in Russia (II)


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Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 11:47:39 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: Racism in Russia (II)

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Original sender: Alexander Ossipov <aossipov@glasnet.ru>

Racism in Russia (II)


Racism in Russia: a few comments.
 
Alexander Ossipov
The Memorial Human Rights Centre,
programme officer
Maly Karetny per. 12, Moscow, 103051, Russia
tel 7 095 282 08 16
fax 7 095 209 57 79
e-mail: <aossipov@glasnet.ru>

(Continued)


3.  'Registration by a place of sojourn'.
 
The Luzhniki incident reflects the two main facets of the problem:
police reluctance to protect people irrespective of their ethnic
origin from criminals and official connivance towards extremist racist
groups.

The mostly painful issue - racist violence and racial harassment by
the police itself - was not raised anyhow by this case. This practice
is provoked by the institution of 'registration by the place of
sojourn', which was noted in the Statute on the Passport System in the
USSR of 1974, was confirmed by the 1993 federal Law on the Right of
the Citizen to Freedom of Movement and Choice of Residence. Any
citizen of RF as well as a citizen of a CIS country when traveling
within Russia must register his/her temporary stay in the police.
According to the federal regulations, a person coming to a place where
he/she does not permanently reside for a term exceeding 10 days much
be registered by police within 3 days and receive a certificate of
registration. Formally official permit for registration is not
envisaged, registration must be made automatically, but regional
authorities establish their own rules of registration which usually
give grounds for refusal in registration. Anyway, for many people the
seeking registration is an inconvenient and tiresome procedure, in
many cases it technically cannot be finished within 1 day, envisaged
by the local regulations, in some regions it is also rather expensive
because specific local taxes are imposed  on the travellers. Anyway, a
person staying somewhere without registration is subjected to
penalties.

As a result, any person who does not violate any official regulation
walking in a street without his/her internal passport or staying 
somewhere within a term less than 10 days without getting registration
certificate becomes a potential suspect of a administrative offence
and a subject for police check. How he/she can prove to a police that
he/she lives in the some town or has come to a certain place for less
than 10 days, or come less than 3 days ago? A policeman has a lot of
pretexts for detention. Moreover, many people for various reasons do
not get a temporary registration: some do not know the local
regulations, some do not want to pay money for the procedure or to
waste time.

Penalties imposed for 'violation of passport regime' usually go to the
special regional funds, which sponsor the police, thus policemen have
a legal stimulus for checks. The illegal stimulus - extortion of money
- is much stronger, since the both sides usually try to settle the
situation 'informally'. The Moscow papers published some figures,
which demonstrate a scale of the problem. Within the first 5 months of
1997 around 1,5 million people were checked in Moscow, half of them
turned our to be 'violators of the passport regime'. The total number
of persons checked in Moscow in 1996 is estimated  as 4,5 -5 millions.
I quote the data based on official records, anyway the actual number
of persons stopped and checked by the police must be much more
significant.
 
It is obvious, that an individual of a physical type differing from a
majority is more likely than anybody else to be a  traveller,
consequently, a person who is subjected to registration and, probably,
who violates the rules. Hence, dark skin people become the first
target for stopping, checks and detains. Most of those stopped and
checked belong to 'visible minorities', a 'Caucasian' cannot move
within Moscow without being checked several times a day.  It looks
like a total hunt for 'Caucasians', most of the persons taken to the
police stations belong to a certain ethic type and are detained for
lack of documents or 'temporary registration'. Lack of a 'temporary
registration' is not the only reason for detain, sometimes policemen
tear to pieces the certificates, or confiscate them as 'not
authentic', or find another pretext. Meanwhile, the federal law
envisages that a person can be detained only when he/she violates
public order or is
> suspected of committing a crime. Police not only stops the people on the streets, but also check hotels, offices, cars, private flats, where 'Caucasians' live. One of the last absurd inventions: checks of registration certificates in airports, in departure zones. In this case a doubtful  priority belongs to  Samara province. Extortion of a bribe is not the only trouble for a detainee: he/she can be kept in a cell for many hours, can be beaten, tortured, humiliated, his/her money can be confiscated. There have been several cases of murders at the police stations.

For example, Mavzud Aliyev, a Tadjik, born 1967, was detained on 6
January 1998 and brought to the police station No. 60 in Moscow by an
inspector I.V.Vasilenko. On 9 January was accused of forging his
certificate of an asylum-seeker and passed to the jail No.2. On 17
January Aliyev's parents in Tadjikistan were officially offered to
take the corpse of their son. The official version of the police was a
'suicide'.
 
In general, it is a part of a broader problem: police behavior. The
people of Russia know quite well, that the police is much more
dangerous for an ordinary person, than criminals.

It is obvious, that the system of 'registration by a place of sojourn'
is the basic provocative factor of a racially-oriented police
violence. The registration itself is usually justified and
rationalised in a following way: it enables the authorities to trace
anyhow the move of population, in particular, newcomers from the CIS
countries and helps to find criminals. The arguments seem doubtful:
the information got by the officials responsible for the registration
actually can hardly be used in a centralised mood. Virtually the
system has become a direct opposite of the initial idea, since it
produces and encourages corruption. As far as I know, within the CIS
countries, save Russia, a similar system is used only in some regions
of Ukraine.
 
4. Violent crimes, committed by the extremist groups
 
It is a very specific subject, and I should comment it only in a brief
way. Dozens of extremist nationalist organisations exist in Russia.
Violent crimes aimed at  persons belonging to 'visible minorities',
gradually become more and more often, many of them are committed by
organised groups. The victims of such crimes are usually students from
the countries of Asia and Africa, refugees, retailers from the CIS
countries etc. According to the Russian Association of Foreign
Students, in winter 10-15 persons complain to the Association of being
beaten by extremists, in summer their number increase 2-3 times (The
'Itogi' magazine, 12.05.1998, p.67). 

Since June 1997 there have been several, at least 4 murders ascribed
to the extremist groups. Since 1997 there were a number of cruel and
well-organised  assaults against non-Slavs in Moscow and some other
cities by some new gangs, which avoid publicity. Some newspapers
called them 'skinheads'.

Actually there are dozens of 'skinhead' groups with a few thousand
members in Moscow, Yaroslavl, Vladivostok, Petersburg and other
cities. Their ideology is a vague and eclectic mixture of extreme
rightist and racist views imported from the West. Meanwhile, the
majority of the Russian 'skinheads' keep aside from politics. Several
groups cooperate with extreme rightist Russian nationalist parties,
first of all with Russian National Union of Konstantin Kasimovski,
also with Nationalist-Bolshevik Party of Eduard Limonov, National
Republican Party of Russia of Yuri Belyaev. Moscow has two large
groups of skinheads: 'The Moscow Skinlegion' (its leader - Guskov) and
'The Russain Branch of the International Union "Blood and Honour"'.
The first one has stable ties with extreme nationalist parties, Guskov
regularly takes part in their meetings (V.Likhachev, V. Pribylovski,
Racist terror on the Moscow streets.// 'Russkaya Mysl', 14-20.05.1998)
 
On 20 April there were anonymous calls to several editorial offices in
Moscow,  and somebody on behalf of 'skinheads' promised to kill every
day 'one Black'.  Really, every day until 7 May groups of young men
dressed in black assaulted  persons of African and Asian origin.
During almost all of these incidents the police kept neutrality and
did not interfere. The police officials of Moscow do not acknowledge
any tie between organised racism and the latest violent actions.
Anyway, we do not have any evidence that the 'traditional' and
well-known skinhead groups are involved in these incidents. In the 20s
of April a corpse of a Black  man was found near Danilovski market. On
2 May a US Embassy security officer of Afro-American origin was
heavily beaten in the midday in Fili, near the center of the city and
hospitalised. The US Embassy officially warned the US citizens
residing in Moscow of a risk of racist assaults against person of
African or Asian origin. It was the second warning of this kind within
this year, the first one was issued on 22 April. Embassies of South
Africa, Benin and Sudan sent official protests to the Russian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs.
 
The last crime ascribed to nationalist extremist is the explosion of
the synagogue in Maryina Rosha (Moscow) on 13 May, around 11 p.m. The
building was damaged, fortunately, though the explosion was powerful
and the sinagogue was full with people, only two persons were lightly
wounded. Nobody admitted responsibility for the explosion.

(To be continued)

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