Staunton, January 5 – The numbers of charges of extremism brought in any federal subject of Russia are difficult to use as an indication of how much “extremism” there is in one as compared to another not only because there are so many “crimes of extremist character” but also because officials in some places are more inclined to bring such charges than those in others.
Among the various acts which can lead to such charges are commentaries on the Internet, statements and actions producing or exacerbating hatred of one kind or another, and participation in a banned or terrorist organization (doshdu.com/dagestan-stal-liderom-po-chislu-jekstremistskih-prestuplenij/).
And there is enormous variation in the use charges of extremism and in the size of the populations, with some federal subject governments far more prepared to use such charges than others. But it is commonly assumed that such “crimes” are more common in non-Russian republics than in predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays.
The numbers for 2020 do not bear that out. While the federal subject with the most extremist charges last year was Daghestan with 65, three of the four others in the top five were predominantly ethnic Russian – Kemerovo with 40, Sverdlovsk with 30, and Krasnodar Kray with 21.
There was only one other non-Russian republic in this group – Tatarstan with 23.
A not unreasonable inference from this is that prosecutors in predominantly ethnic Russian areas face more challenges that they believe they can counter with extremism charges while those in non-Russian republics face fewer or fear that bringing such charges may exacerbate the situation by criminalizing what many in them view as ethnic views.
That suggests that extremist charges in addition to being wielded less against genuine extremists than against those the authorities simply don’t like aren’t working as Moscow intends and that this pattern is likely to continue unless and until Moscow imposes even tighter controls or becomes even more invasive operations in non-Russian republics.