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Feature Story November 15, 2001
Get With The Pogrom
By Matt Taibbi Browse author
Page 2 of 6

"These groups have their roots in cells which were formed way back in the days of Perestroika," he said. "Over all that time, to date, not one of them has ever been the focus of a serious campaign by the police. That should tell you something."

Something else that ought to tell us all something is the sudden surge of activity in the past few weeks. The October 30 incident was only the loudest in an ominous series of skinhead disturbances of late.

On October 31, a Dagestani man was shot outside the McDonald's on Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya street, across from the Radisson Slaviyanskaya hotel; witnesses said the shooters were young men with shaved heads.

On November 1, on Bolsaya Naberezhnaya street in the northwest region of the city, about 100 skinheads rioted, causing minor injuries to bystanders both Slavic and Caucasian.

Two days later, on the evening of November 3, about 150 teenagers, mostly soccer fans/skinheads, were arrested in five or six different violent incidents all across the city. According to Moscow chief of police Vladimir Pronin, minor riots broke out outside four Metro stations- Timyaryzevskaya, Petrovsko-Razumovskaya, Altufyevo, and Domodedovskaya, as well as in the southern region of Orekhovo-Borisovo Yuzhnoye. The riots broke out in three separate geographical areas-north, south-west, and south. "There were no serious 'excesses'," Pronin told the Ekho Moskvy radio station, adding that he believed the incidents were organized and "definitely" connected to the October 30 pogrom.

Last but not least, there was a curious incident on October 29, the day before the Tsaritsino pogrom: skinheads raided a taping of Sergei Dorenko's show on TV-Center. According to Russia's notorious "motorcyclist", eight teenage skinheads raided his office and attacked his staff while he was taping his show during the afternoon. Dorenko told Ekho Moskvi that one of his female co-workers suffered a concussion during the attacks, which inspired the amazing spectacle of an entire production crew barricading itself inside the studio while they frantically dialed for help on their cell phones. All eight attackers managed to escape the studio without being detained, the station later reported.

And here's something else that ought to tell us something. A week after the TV-Center studio was raided, the station conducted a call-in poll on the show "Catastrophes of the Week." Viewers were asked to call in and say if they approved of the behavior of the "pogromists" on October 30 incident, in which three human beings were murdered.

Eighty-seven percent said they approved.

Skinheads have indeed been around in Russia since Perestroika, but it wasn't until the middle of the last decade that they graduated to the level of a Serious National Problem. The first incident to really capture public attention took place in St. Petersburg, on April 20, 1995 (Hitler's birthday; mass skinhead attacks on this date would subsequently become a notorious tradition). On that day a group of skinheads, lead by the unofficial leader of the Petersburg skins, Artem Talakin, surrounded an Azeri man on the Metro, beat him, and cut off his ear. Beginning another unpleasant tradition, police arrested and charged only Talakin, and gave him a light sentence -- he served just over a year.

But the skins' real coming-out party wouldn't come until three years later. The spring of 1998 in Russia was a particularly ugly time in this country, marked by a worsening financial crisis, mass strikes by miners and other workers in the so-called "Railway War" -- and by a series of sensational crimes committed by skinheads, crimes which put the Russian neo-Nazi movement on the front pages of newspapers all around the world.

On April 20 of that year, again on Hitler's birthday, a number of Moscow newspapers received anonymous phone calls from members of various skinhead groups, who announced that, beginning the next day, they were going to murder "one black a day."

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