Pogroms in Udomlya (Tver Region, Russia) in May 1998

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Subject: Pogroms in Udomlya (Tver Region, Russia) in May 1998

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Pogroms in Udomlya (Tver Region, Russia) in May 1998

O.I.Cherepova (Human Rights Defence Center "Memorial", Moscow)
Abstract: During the disturbances and pogroms in the night on May 10,
1998 in Udomlya of the Tver Region, national minorities of Caucasian
origin suffered. The disturbances began from a fight at a disco.
Agressive crowd walked over the town, beat the "Caucasians", and
destroyed and looted their booths. Militia weakly interfered the
events. The administration blamed the disturber, but many deputies of
the District Council approved them and called for "clearing" the town
from ethnic minorities.

Mass disturbances which resulted suffers for national minorities took
place in the night of May 9-10, 1998, in the Udomlya town of the Tver
Region. In June 1998, a mission of the Human Rights Defence Center
"Memorial" worked at Tver and Udomlya collecting the information about
these events.  The information was collected by questioning of
representatives of the regional and local administrations and of the
internal affairs bodies, members of public organizations, inhabitants
of Udomlya. Some of inhabitants of Udomlya only gave the information
anonymously, because they were fearing possible persecutions.

Udomlya is a town at the north of the Tver Region. It was known since
the end of the XV century. New Udomlya which pressed off Old Udomlya
was built in the same time with the Kalinin Nuclear Power Station
about twenty years ago. It was built by young people which came from
every corner of the country to the shock komsomol construction. At
that time they were 20 years old, and now they are about 40. They are
living and working their till now. Young builders formed families, now
they have children. Now the population of Udomlya is about 35000 and
the third of this amount is young people under 20. Recently, the
problems of youth became very sharp. While most of adults are working
at the power station, many of young people are unemployed, hard
drinking and drug addiction are widespread among youth. There is
nothing for young people to occupy the spare time with. Building
Culture House has not finished. The sports complex is not in use,
because its proprietors are unable to divide it among them. The only
entertainment is the disco. There are 40 AIDS patients in the town.
The Udomlya District is the first among the districts of the Tver
Region in the level of youth criminality. Numerous posters of the
Russian National Unity, nationalistic symbols at the walls of
buildings witness about the influence of extreme nationalistic

While the problems of youth criminality are only known to the militia
officials, the myth of "Caucasian" organized criminality, "Chechen
mafia" that nearly controls the municipal budget is widespread in the
public opinion. The militia officials flatly deny existence of the
ethnic criminality at Udomlya. Nevertheless, the "Chechen" card plays
actively in the struggle for power between the Head of Administration
and deputies of the District Council from the opposition, which try to
recall of the Head of Administration because of economic and other

There are about 360 people that originate from the Caucasian region,
including children: Azerbaijanians, Armenians, Georgians, Chechens,
Dagestans, etc. As their Slavic neighbors, they came to the komsomol
construction with the only difference that young men only came from
the Caucasus. This is the reason of a large number of mixed marriages.
Here their children were born, and they consider Udomlya as their own
town.  Since 1979 there are restrictions in registration of people
from outside, so there very few newly arrived in the town.
The tension around the Udomlya "Caucasians" became stronger at the
beginning of the Chechen war. In August 1995, during the Budennovsk
crisis, special units of militia SOBR and OMON came to Udomlya from
Tver.  They conducted searches at the apartments of Chechens and beat
the hosts.  On June 20, 1997, the OMON men in camouflage and masks
beat 10 men of Caucasian origin and abused their wives. D.L.Podushkov,
a deputy, student of local lore and former "Afghan" (participant of
the Afghan war) said about Chechens, that live in Udomlya: "These
Chechens are guerrillas, and their mission in Russia is clear".

Local authorities pretended that there is no displays of hate against
"Caucasians". A.A.Aliev, the leader of the Azerbaijan community: "We
have suggested to the authorities long ago to give discussions with
representatives of all nationalities to solve all issues. But it is
impossible to achieve their reception. The dialogue fails."

In the night of May 9-10, 1998, the mass disturbances took place at
Udomlya. These events had repercussion in the whole Tver Region and
outside of it. At 0h45 at the youth disco in the "Zvezdnyi" cinema,
two guys, one of them was Russian, the other was Armenian, had a
quarrel because of a girl, and decided to solve their problems
outdoors. They moved behind the cinema to avoid witnesses. Their
friends followed them. The first who hit was the Russian. Their
friends came to the aid, and the face-to-face fight transformed to a
massive one. At the disco, where there were about 400 people, a girl
cried "One beats Russians!", and most of youth, excited by alcohol and
music, poured out. Some of people joined the fight, others attacked a
car with Azerbaijanian, which drove up to the disco, and nearly turned
it over before the eyes of a detail of militia which came on call of
the chief of the militia group of 23 men that supported order at the
disco. The Caucasian retired fast, the car was broken by stones and
sticks, but that was not enough for a crowd of agressive youth. About
250-300 people (according to estimations of the Municipal Internal
Affairs Department) of age from 12 to 20 directed their steps toward
the night cafe "Ogonek", where they tried to deal with Caucasian, that
were sitting their. One Azerbaijanian was defended by the militia, but
another was beaten. "They leaped over him," said the assistant chief
of the Internal Affairs Department N.N.Kalinov. M.S.Bairakov, a
Chechen and a businessman, which appeared near the cafe at the same
time as the chief of the militia A.V.Vorobyev, tried to bring the
crowd to reason, but his appeal had no effect. With the cries "Beat
the Blacks!" ("Blacks" is a widespread in Russia abusive alias for
Caucasians) the crowd of youth moved towards the town marketplace to
destroy the booths that belong to Caucasians. The flower booth of
A.A.Aliev windows were broken, flowers were scattered about and
Udomlya is a small town, and in an hour the youth made the round of
nearly half a town, destroying and looting booths in the Energetikov,
Entuziastov, Avtodorozhnaya streets. On their way they turned over
refuse bins, took alcohol and food from broken show-cases, tried to
fire some of booths. V.V.Puntus, an inhabitant of Udomlya: "In the
night from the 9th to the 10th I was woken up by murmur in the street.
I came to the window. A river of youth goes past my house. They saw me
in the window and cried: `Go to beat Blacks with us!'" In the
Avtodorozhnaya street the teenagers destroyed the booths that belongs
to M.M.Mochaev before the eyes of the chief of the militia. From the
account of the victim: "I say to the chief of the militia: `Anatolii
Vassilievich, why do you not stop it?' He turns off, took the
megaphone and says: `Calm, break up!' They began to destroy the second
booth, bent a metal sheet on it, began to take the goods. Then I lost
patience, rushed to them. I took a knife and began to beat them by its
At that time the whole the staff of the Municipal Internal Affairs
Department (122 men), a battalion of internal troops (95 men), and the
staff of the State Fire Service Department were alerted and gathered
to the scene of action. All these forces accompanied the crowd of the
youth, undertaking nothing except persuasions to go home. The Head of
Administration of the district Kushnarev and the deputy governor of
the Tver Region Pleshakov, who was at Udomlya that days,  appealed to
the crowd, but this had no effect. The youth directed their steps to
the shopping center "Rus", where some departments belonged to
Caucasians. Nevertheless, the destroying of "Rus" was prevented by a
cordon of militia, and about half past four in the morning the youth
began to go home.

Seven active pogromshiks were arrested. As said N.N.Kalinov, "the
arrested were not imprisoned to avoid agitation, they were registered
and released." On May 10, a proceeding on the fact of hooliganism
(article 213, part 2 of the Penal Code of Russian Federation) was
instituted. Tver term of the investigation was prolonged on June 10.
Additional forces of militia from Tver, Vyshnii Volochek and Bologoye
were drawn up. The passport control and the control at roads were
intensified. According to order of the Head of the District
Administration A.L.Kushnarev, carrying out of discos is forbidden for
1 month, the time of selling alcohol is limited. (These restrictions
were abolished in 3 weeks after a protest of the Office of Public
Prosecutor.) Besides, by mass media it was declared that people may
phone by "confidence numbers" to inform the administration about
breakings of the law and about persons who lived in the town without
registration. But the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the district said
that "no serious information was received".
The Head of Administration said us that there are 2 main factors,
which affected the development of events on May 9-10: 1) May 9 is a
holiday, and people are resting and drinking on it; 2) provocative
behavior of the "persons of Caucasian nationality". The last point he
specifies as follows: "imposing step, spitting sunflower seeds". On
the other hand, he does not deny existence of ethnic tensions in the
town. He calls competent the activity of militia during the
disturbances. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Udomlya, whose
propriety suffered during the conflict, made a complaint to the Public
Prosecutor. They accuse the administration (in particular, the Head of
the Municipal Internal Affairs Department A.Vorobyev) of improper
discharge of their official duties in ensuring order, defending
citizens and their propriety.

On May 14 an extended session of the Udomlya Municipal Council was
carried out.  Inhabitants of the town were invited to attend the
session. The session was dedicated to the recent events. Some of
speeches were pointed at Caucasian, who were claimed to be guilty of
the conflict. The deputy V.Yamskoy, the head physician of the
hospital, said: "There is no way out from the so called ethnic
relations. There is only way: fear! If you live on Russian earth, you
must live in fear. If you have broken something, you must know, that
one founds you everywhere! Remember Budennovsk. That time guys with
large fists (special unities of militia) came to us, and as I
remember, there were no Chechens or Azerbaijanian calmly walking in
the streets. Now I go in the street, and pairs of them are walking. No
fear now!" Then the deputy recalled Barkashov's men and said that a
hundred of them in a black uniforms with swastikas would be enough to
set order in a week. The speech of Yamskoy was encountered with
applause. The deputy D.Podushkov: "We are Russians, and the morality
at our territory is Russian, too... It is wrong to call the conflict
ethnic: the youth comes out against dominance of criminality on the
ethnic basis... I suggest to Kushnarev and Vorobyev to resign, and if
they do not do it themselves, the people must demand it."

Some of speakers mentioned abandonment of young people, appealed to
parents to look after their children so that they at least spent
nights at home. Others insisted upon introducing limitations for
Caucasians and evicting their leaders from the town. The director of
the nuclear station I.V.Grebeshev said, that "one may not divide
people into Whites and Blacks, thick and thin", and expressed
bewilderment of some speeches of the deputies. M.M.Mochaev paid
attention to low level of culture in the town: dirty doorways, filthy
words at the walls. He said that he wishes to live in peace with
everybody and to work calmly. M.S.Bairakov said that the criminality
has no ethnic affiliation, that the main problem is hard drinking and
drug addiction rather than ethnic incompatibility, and that it is
impossible and senselessly to keep people in fear. Unexpectedly for
many and to delight of present youth the director of a local museum
Yu.Mikhailov said: "Our children showed us, adult, what to do, at

The day before the session the poster were sticked with an appeal to
evict the "Blacks" from the town and to carry out a meeting in the
central street at 18h00. At the appointed time in the center of the
town near the shopping center "Rus", about 2500 inhabitants of Udomlya
of every age gathered. The theme of the meeting was declared by the
first speaker: "Our children said us in an accessible way, that the
problem that worries them and, of course, us is the problem of
dominance of Caucasians and criminality." Then for two hours through
cries, whistles and squeals of the crowd, there sounded violent and
agressive appeals: "Clean our town from `Blacks'", "Give me weapon and
I clean the town from `Blacks' in an our!", "They are only afraid of
us, people! Let us keep them in fear!" "A week for eviction of
churki!" "No, 24 ours!" "discharge the Mayor and the head of militia!"
Kushnarev and Vorobyev tried to come out, but they were not allowed to
speak. There were drank people among the speakers who spoke in foul
language. After the meeting a rather large and agressive crowd moved
to the marketplace, but the special units of militia evacuated
Caucasians from it to avoid the conflict. Then the youth moved to the
Municipality where the meeting was renewed. Opposition deputies
demanded discharge of the Mayor again, the Mayor promised to open the
disco, the deputy Tsimmerman thanked the "children" for the "support".
When Mokhad Mochaev, a Chechen, returned home from the session, he
found their a search, which was conducted by 8 men in masks (Tver
SOBR) and 2 local investigators. The sanction was given by the
regional Public Prosecutor. The aim of the search were drugs and arms.
A packet with cartridges to his father's old shotgun was found. The
SOBR men put on his hand handcuffs that pressed the hands at each
movement. They brought him in a car into a forest. There they abused
him, tried to make him kneel as a "Dudaev's eagle". They beat him "for
Chechnya". He was moved to a militia office being unconscious. He was
released in an hour after that. Mochaev lives in Udomlya since 1983.
His wife is Russian, he has two children. His nephew of 9 years old
was brought from Chechnya in the state of strong stress and now lives
with Mochaev. Mochaev, who has rendered large services for the town
and its inhabitants, says now: "It will be better, if I leave this
Another active participant of the events, also a Chechen, Maksim
Bairakov, deputy director of a ltd company "Kompania S" was not
forgotten, too. On May 28 at 9h30 armed people in masks broken the
door of his office, made employees to fall onto the flour, beat them
and search. Bairakov was led in another room. When he was returned he
had, according to the account of the employees, a scratch at the
forehead and immovably hanging hand, his eyes were closed, a pocket of
the coat was teared. During the search he had a heart bout.

He was forced to turn out the pockets. He hardly did it by one hand
and got a white crumpled paper packet. He said with difficulty:
"That's not mine." There was written in the resolution for the search:
"There were disturbances in Udomlya on May 9-10. Mr Bairakov
threatened the crowd near the cafe `Ogonek'." From the reanimation
Bairakov was discharged "in a satisfactory state" (according to the
words of the head physician Yamskoy) to the Municipal Internal Affairs
Department for interrogations. From there he was brought by an
ambulance to the hospital, where he was guarded by three militiamen.
Then he was moved to the prison hospital at Torzhok. The diagnosis is
infarction. Proceedings were instituted against him on the fact of
hiding drugs. But it was impossible to prove that the drugs belonged
to Bairakov, because the "search" was conducted with large procedural
violations. The employees of the company made a complaint about it to
the Public
(Translated from Russian by M.Yu.Lashkevich)

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