Thursday, February 21, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Skinhead Tells Baku Paper OMON Backs His Group

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 21 – A 16-year-old skinhead in Moscow told a Baku investigative journalist that his group, which is committed to the restoration of “Great Russia,” is supported by the OMON while other skinhead organizations in the Russian capital enjoy the backing of the FSB or officers of the regular militia.
Aydin Bagirov, a journalist for Baku’s 525 newspaper, identified a Russian skinhead through the chatroom. After several earlier failures, she and one of the Russian skinheads, with the screen name of “Storm Trooper Skinhead,” conducted a two hour online conversation.
In the course of that conversation, a partial transcript of which is published in the paper today (in both Azerbaijani and Russian), the Moscow skinhead, who said he was an information officer for his group, described his attitudes toward “people from the Caucasus” (
In response to his query, Bagirov identified himself as an Azerbaijani, but he did not tell his interlocutor that he was a journalist and that the skinhead's words would be published in his paper. Instead, he suggested that he was simply interested in having a conversation with a skinhead.
The Moscow skinhead told the Baku that he and his group, the “Storm Brigade,” “only rarely” kills people from the Caucasus and then only when the latter, either because of their attitudes toward Russian women or involvement in illicit drug or alcohol sales represented a threat to Russians.
“Storm Trooper” added that he saw “little sense” in simply “beating” someone from the Caucasus because if the skinheads do that, then “the next day, ten people show up” to attack those who attacked their co-ethnics. And he rejected as “fanatics” those Russian skinheads who engage in violence as an end in itself.
He said his group is involved in charitable work of various kinds, including supporting children’s homes. Asked how he squared that commitment with beating and killing people, the skinhead responded, “You either do not understand or you do not want to understand.”
What his group of skinheads is about, the 16-year-old street fighter said, is assistance to “white people – we help children” who are victimized by pedophiles or who are forced into the use or trafficking of narcotics. Only when people from the Caucasus get in the way do his associates do anything about them.
In response to Bagirov’s query as to who had killed more – “the skinheads the Caucasians or the Caucasians the skinheads” – the Moscow youth said that as far as that question was concerned, the two were just about equal.
He said he did not fear arrest or death himself. His group has enough power to respond to any attacks by people from the Caucasus, and, he said, it has enough pull with the authorities that even if he were to be arrested, the militia would quickly release him rather than bring him to trial.
His own group of skinheads has 150 members, he said, making it one of the largest trailing only OB88 [“88” is a reference to the eighth letter of the Latin script and thus to HH or “Heil Hitler] the White Wolves, the Steel Web, Russian National Unity (RNE) and the Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI).
These groups have even more pull with the authorities, and the FSB which has sometimes treated his immediate associates with hostility does not dare to touch the members of these groups unless the powers that be need a case for some particular pr reason.
Hi own group, being smaller and less influential, is backed by the OMON and the staff of the Moscow city militia. The officers of these institutions, he said, “don’t touch us at meetings.” They even help us by setting up “anti-fascists” whom his group of skinheads can then attack.
Occasionally, the Moscow skinhead said, the militia “arrests” his fellows but only for show: after a few hours, all of them are released without charges. And the OMON and militia even provide his group with funds, but he denied it was paid to victimize anyone. “We do this voluntarily,” he added.
According to this skinhead, the various groups of skinheads in Moscow constitute a movement, whose members keep in touch with one another via SMS and thus are able to rapidly and efficiently deploy their forces when necessary.
This skinhead insisted that “for us there is no such thing as a bad nation. We divide people into those who are with God and those who are with Satan.” And he added that as for himself he had many “good Armenian friends,” although he said he did not have any Azerbaijani ones.
“You Azerbaijanis,” he told the Baku journalist, “behave strangely. When I say hello, they don’t respond and pass by.” Asked whether he thought the Azerbaijanis hated him, the skinhead said that was certainly “possible.” And he suggested he could find a common language with Azerbaijani nationalists as long as they were not in Russia.
Obviously, someone enjoying the anonymity of an online chat is not necessarily telling the truth and may be exaggerating to make himself seem more important than he in fact is. But this skinhead’s comments are not only entirely plausible but they are consistent with other reports and thus should probably be viewed as credible.

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