«V Kontakte», Russia's homegrown (and unashamedly plagiarizing) answer to Facebook, blocked the page created by supporters of Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged murderer of several dozen people in Norway's worst terrorist atrocity ever last Friday.
Site administrators claimed the page contained calls to repeat Breivik's killing spree on Russian soil.
I am not surprised that Breivik, with his anti-immigrant attitude, cunning and taste for “in your face” heroics became an instant cult figure in Russia. Russian Nazis are mostly teenage, ill-educated, beer-swilling, knife-toting working class thugs. Breivik is grown up, educated and well-travelled, handsome and refined in his own way. There was and is no figure on Russia's nationalist fringe that could even remotely compare to him in scale and style - if such characteristics apply here at all. And this is the problem.
For lack of their own cult figures Russian ultras might well adopt Breivik as their own – for all the reasons described above. Plus another important one. The Norwegian did not attack the Muslim immigrants he hates so much. He struck at those he thought responsible for the “multicultural catastrophe” he described in his long-winded online manifesto – i.e. civil servants and left-wing activists. Breivik's chillingly inhuman deliberations on whether his teacher stepmother whom he liked, deserved death as a ‘traitor”, for promoting a multicultural agenda, prove this well. Until recently Russian Nazis concentrated on mobbing and killing helpless Kyrgyz street cleaners and Tajik construction workers on dark streets and late night suburban trains. There were several murders that follow Breivik's pattern – those of ethnologist Nikolai Girenko, judge, lawyer Stansilav Markelov, but despite a lot of “Bring Down the System!” rhetoric on radical websites, these were rather exceptions, rather the rule. The Oslo atrocity will now give the Russian extremists an example to copy, a perverse inspiration to “outdo” Breivik.
Human rights activists and NGO workers in Russia have been living under threat of attack for years. I know those that have to rent a flat despite having their own – because they were regularly threatened by the Nazis at home. Their addresses, phones and even ID numbers are easily available through the copied government data bases that are easy to acquire on the black market. While in Norway threat materialized through transparency that bordered on non-chalance, in Russia it is corruption that can serve the neo-Nazis well.
Breivik's act will serve as additional proof to his Russian admirers that their main adversary is not so much the Azeris, Dagestanis or Central Asians, but the Russian state itself, which in their view promotes “discrimination against ethnic Russians»” and civic society activists who defend the minorities.
The Russian authorities have spent most of the last decade denying the existence of inter-ethnic problems in Russia and at the same time adopting a rather ambivalent attitude towards the neo-Nazis. They should take notice of the Norwegian developments and brace for more problems with the ultras.
I never believed that Russia could develop a mass political movement reflecting ultra-nationalist sentiments. Russian society today is too cynical and too atomized to provide a reliable base for any kind of new “brownshirts” movement. But a few determined individuals could still take many lives if they wish to, as Anders Breivik proved to the world. There is no doubt such people in Russia exist. Now they have a dangerous example to follow.
What is Russia's place in this world? Unashamed and unreconstructed Atlanticist, Konstantin von Eggert believes his country to be part and parcel of the "global West." And while this is a minority view in Russia, the author is prepared to fight from his corner.
Konstantin Eggert is an independent Russian journalist and political analyst. In the 1990s he was Diplomatic Correspondent for “Izvestia” and later the BBC Russian Service Moscow Bureau Editor. Konstantin has also spent some time working as ExxonMobil Vice-President in Russia. He was made Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.