Thursday, January 19, 2017

Politicized Biker Wars Breaking Out in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – As a result of the prominence Vladimir Putin has given to his biker buddy “Sawbones,” it should come as no surprise that his rise is triggering conflicts between those like him who are totally loyal to the Kremlin leader and other bikers who are members of what some describe as “unpatriotic bike clubs in the regions.”

            What makes this important is that the Kremlin in this way has acquired yet another group of plausibly deniable allies to do its dirty work, including in this case people who are far more inclined to the use of force than even the Orthodox activists who have attacked various opponents of the Kremlin.

            Not only does that further undermine what is left of the rule of law in Russia but opens the way to the kind of politicized street violence that recalls the kind which helped bring Hitler and the Nazis to power in Germany in the 1930s and which, even after the Rohm purge, informed much of how Hitler’s regime continued to behave.

            Anna Revonenko of the Open Russia portal describes this Russian development.  Last week, she reports, members of Sawbones’ Night Wolves biker group attacked the president of the Tver Normandos MC biker organization (; cf.

            On the evening of January 14, a group of men Andrey Filchenko, president of the Tver organization, recognized as being members of the Night Wolves group showed up at the Normandos MC club house and said that “they didn’t like [that] club and that they intend to close it down.”

            When he challenged them by asking on whose authority they were acting, five of them simply seized him and beat him up, Filchenko says. He has asked the local militia to investigate and there are indications, he adds, that they are doing so. At least they have called him in to give testimony.

            Conflicts between the pro-Kremlin Night Wolves and other motorcycle clubs have been taking place for some time. Several months ago, the Night Wolves demanded that all cyclists operate under its banner. The Normandos MC and several other clubs were against doing so, and the Night Wolves got angry.

            We’ve always been a politically “neutral” family club, Filchenko says, “one that doesn’t support anyone either other clubs or the Night Wolves.” Until recently, the Night Wolves didn’t like this; but they rarely engaged in violence against those who disagreed. Now that appears to be changing.

            “This must not remain unpunished,” Filchenko says.  And Revonenko adds that that is especially true given that such ideologically motivated attacks by the Night Wolves have occurred elsewhere with participants declaring that their opponents are American “hirelings” or worse. (See

            Russian journalist Aleksandr Litoy says that Sawbones and the Night Wolves want to “completely control all the biker subculture” and to that end, they are prepared to put all kinds of pressure, including the use of violence, against “independent motor clubs.” 

            Such conflicts among biker groups are not unknown in other countries, of course. But what makes this one in Russia worrisome is that Sawbones and his group appear to have the backing of Putin and the upper reaches of the Russian powers that be.

            Not only has Putin routinely met with and praised Sawbones and have the Night Wolves sought to ban all groups with international ties as potential instigators of a Maidan in Russia, but at the end of last year, the Kremlin gave the Night Wolves a presidential grant of 3.1 million rubles (50,000 US dollars) to push “the unity of fraternal Slavic peoples via public diplomacy.”

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