Staunton, July 19 – Violent actions by Russian nationalist groups rose between the mid-1990s given the high level of violence in society as a whole and the popularity of neo-Nazi ideology, and then this number declined “mainly due to successful repressive policies” by the Russian government, Aleksandr Verkhovsky says.
No other factor played a significant role either in the rise of fall of ideologically motivated violence by Russian nationalist groups, the head of the SOVA Center which monitors extremist groups and government policies in response to them says (sociodigger.ru/3d-flip-book/2022vol3-19/ and sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2022/08/d46777/).
A major reason that this shift could happen so quickly and so dramatically, Verkhovsky says, is that most Russian nationalists given to violence are younger than 25 and constantly being renewed. “As a result, the young and radical part of the movement more rapidly reacts to various factors than does the more moderate and older one.”
Thus, “the use of force in Russian nationalism was transformed quite quickly,” with it being a central driving force before 2007 and an ever more marginal one after that time. Before that date, Russian nationalists often engaged in violence; after that, they rarely did, with court cases about violent crimes in the first period and extremism in the second.
And this decline in the level of violence as a result of the government’s repressive approach also helps to explain why the flow of ultra-right Russian nationalists to fight against Ukraine in 2022 has been an order of magnitude smaller than was the case only eight years ago when many Russian nationalists went to fight in the Donbass.
At present, the Russian government has put violent Russian nationalists back in the bottle by adopting a harsh line to any such action; but as Verkhovsky acknowledges, its success could change rapidly to failure precisely because of the replacement of one group of young nationalists by another who are less impressed by the widespread use of police power.