Two nationalist groups made their presence known during demonstrations in Moscow. To mark National Unity Day, the far right railed against immigrants, while pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi called for an end to crime.
Protestors made Nazi salutes during an anti-immigrant rally
Thousands of Russian nationalists rallied against immigration Thursday in Moscow, in one of the capital's largest far-right demonstrations in years. Far-right organizers, including members of the Slavic Force movement, boasted at least 5,000 for an anti-immigrant rally in a suburb in the city's south.
Right-wing extremists shouted "Russia for the Russians," and carried banners calling for "White Power" and "Orthodox Faith or Death."
"We will show that we are here, that there are not only Azerbaijan and Armenian organizations," said Slavic Union leader Dmitry Dyomushkin. "We call all ordinary Russians to come out and show you are here, that you exist and that you are the real masters of this land."
Teenaged skinheads, many wearing masks, made Nazi salutes and shouted "Glory to Russia," "Long Live Russia," and "Forwards, Russians."
Among the speakers was Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, who has been accused of masterminding a murder attempt against former Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais.
The meeting dispersed after an open air concert. Police said there were no reports of violence.
Extremists appropriate national holiday
The demonstration was focused against immigrants, but anti-Semitic chants were also heard
Around 50 percent of Russians voiced sympathy for the slogan "Russia for the Russians" in a poll by state-run Levada Center last year. Although the far-right remains on the fringes and is unlikely to gain seats in parliament next year, civil rights activists warn that the group could soon become a major force in national politics.
The number of participants at the annual "Russian March" was up by one-third over last year, mainly because of a performance by a popular far-right rock group, according to activist Galina Kozhevnikova, whose anti-racist SOVA Center monitored the march.
The march has been held every year to mark the November 4 holiday National Unity Day, declared a holiday by Russia's then-president Vladimir Putin in 2005 to replace the November 7 commemoration of the 1917 October Revolution.
The holiday is intended to cement Russia's post-Soviet national identity by commemorating the 1612 repulsion of a Polish invasion from the Kremlin. However, polls show that only 10 percent of the public knows what the holiday is about.
The demonstrators in Moscow got support from Preston Wiginton, an American advocate of white supremacy, who has earlier been refused entrance into the United Kingdom. He fulminated against what he called "the cult of multiculturalism."
Pro-Kremlin youth protest boasts 15,000
Pro-Kremlin youth used the day to rally for a crackdown on crime
Meanwhile on Thursday, Pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi ("Ours") meanwhile claimed it had attracted over 15,000 people to its rival demonstration on the banks of the Moscow River -also dubbed the "Russian March." There, Nashi youth yelled primarily pro-Kremlin slogans and protested against crime.
Participants in the rally were encouraged to take videos of law violations that they witnessed, and Nashi members said they would then present thousands of such images to the authorities.
"We are going to fight against the violations of the law that we see every day," said Nashi official Maria Kislitsyna. "This is our country. We live here."
Author: David Levitz, Geert Groot Koerkamp (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Sean Sinico