12.02.2009, 18:43
February 9, 2009
Out With the Aliens

"Russia Profile"

The Movement Against Illegal Immigration Hopes to Someday Turn into a Legitimate Political Party

One day, 21-year-old programmer from Moscow Roman Fedosov thought his country had had enough of illegal immigrants and decided to take action. He said that picking a group of like-minded people to join wasnt too problematic. The Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) has always stood out thanks to its unity and determination to defend the interests of Russias native population, said Fedosov, who has been with the organization for a year.
Today, he doesnt differentiate his personal goals from those of the movement. The latter, however, are roughly limited to what the groups name suggests. Much like in the United States and Europe, illegal immigration exists in Russia and is subject of continuous debate. The side DPNI has taken is clear, but some of the groups actions and statements betray a broader and a far more sinister agenda hiding behind the veneer of the anti-illegal immigration struggle.
Losing their country
DPNI has been active since 2002. It is the countrys prominent nationalist group, not exactly in the mainstream of the political spectrum, but stronger than most minor nationalist parties and less marginal than organizations such as the Peoples National Party and the National Bolsheviks.
The 10,000-strong movement includes members from all walks of life, from students and businessmen to pensioners. DPNI claims that it doesnt have any major sponsorship and relies only on minor donations from members and those sympathetic to movements goals. It also claims to have legal immigrants from Ukraine and Belarus, Russias native peoples and Russians with French and American backgrounds among its members. On one occasion, DPNI received a donation from an Indian citizen living in India. He said Russia was the whitest country of all, and the worlds only hope of preserving the declining white race and reviving the ancient Aryan spirit, said the Head of DPNIs Moscow branch Vladimir Basmanov.
Continued resistance against illegal immigration is the cornerstone of the movements official ideological platform. Migrants top the list of Russias plagues. They are blamed for abusing Russias lukewarm immigration laws, stealing jobs away from Russians, committing crimes all over the country (particularly about 70 percent of all rapes in Moscow), and ultimately replacing the native population. The latter refers to the sharp increase of children born to non-Russian parents flowing into schools, and the ever-growing share of non-ethnic Russians in major Russian cities. Kosovo is cited as an example of what could be awaiting Russia if nothing is done. People are detecting the threat, they realize theyre losing their country, said Basmanov.
The remedies that DPNI is willing to offer and implement should it someday be placed in charge appear to go beyond simply enforcing existing regulations. Primarily, the movement is championing a Russian Law of Return, enabling ethnic Russians to come back to the country at any time. Secondly, immigration is to be limited only to legal immigrantshighly skilled specialists strictly controlled by the government and evicted if they get into the slightest legal trouble. And those will only be temporary workers, set free once Russia trains its own personnel capable of replacing the aliens.
In one of his speeches Alexander Belov, the head of DPNI, stated that Russia should simply copy Israels legislation, as this country itself is revered in the movement as a true nationalist state. But DPNI claims that even emulating any European country would be a huge progress over what Russia has today. Were open to everybody and anybody. A Tajikistani citizen can come over with just his passport, live and work here and sell drugs. This is either pure madness or a well calculated move, as it may seem easier for the state to govern wild illiterate savages rather than a European people that Russians are, said Basmanov. DPNI cites what it sees as troubling statistics, placing Russians as an ethnic minority in 30 of Russias regions, almost half of the country. The 80 percent majority that Russians still hold nationwide is an encouraging sign, but shall the trends continue, DPNI argues that Russia will cease to exist by the middle of this century. Illegal immigration is an infection that will be lethal to us if not treated, said Basmanov.
Not everyone agrees with the ways in which DPNI aims to treat this infection. The ample criticism that comes, as DPNI states, from Russophobe journalists and corrupt authorities, doesnt exactly deal with the derogatory adjectives used to expose the offensive character of the malevolent illegal immigrants. Critics argue that the objective of this organization is to eradicate all that they grade as alien elements, not necessarily illegal and not necessarily immigrants.
Two years ago, in February of 2007, a DPNI activist Olga Kasyanenko was detained after participating in rallies against renaming a Moscow street after the late first Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov. She turned out to be a Ukrainian citizen and was suspected of violating Russian immigration laws, facing the possibility of deportation. The movement stuck up for her and she was subsequently freed. What they do isnt a fight against illegal immigration. Theyre against the presence of anything non-Russian on what they perceive as Russian ethnic territory, said Semyon Charny, an expert at the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights.
Countered with that argument, DPNI doesnt seem to protest, and reveals that its struggle against illegal migrants is only a part (though an integral one) of a broader notion of nationalism, which it embraces as its true identity as, it argues, anybody who protests against illegal immigration is essentially a nationalist.
One of the points the organization tries to get across is that the right to live in Russia should be limited to its native peoples, a list of which, it says, should be compiled by the Academy of Sciences. Again, we see vagueness. What are these native peoples? For one, DPNI doesnt include Caucasians in that list, said Charny.
Many of the movements action have been quite ambiguous, sometimes having little to do with illegal immigration. Back in 2005, DPNI got involved in its first major controversial event when its members handed out a 50,000 ruble award for bravery to Alexandra Ivannikova, a Moscow woman who killed a man who allegedly attempted to rape her. The man was a legal second generation Armenian immigrant. The movement added more notoriety to its image last August, after revealing that they planned raids on apartments occupied by Georgian nationals and where, they claimed, Georgian criminal clans held their meetings. DPNI is also the prime organizer of the so-called Russian March, held annually and marked by fierce battles with militia and openly racist slogans, complimenting calls to send the unwanted aliens home.
The latest march got DPNIs leader into trouble. Alexander Potkin, who assumed Belov as his pseudonym, was charged with incitement of ethnic hatred for his statements at this years Russian March, when he referred to the protesters as the soldiers of the future Reich and called for fighting the occupants from Central Asia and the Caucasus. He also likened the Russian house of Parliament to a Torah scroll in the same speech.
This is the second time Belov faces criminal prosecution after, he was slammed with an identical charge in 2006 for his participating in the Kondopoga events. Nationalists including the DPNI arrived soon after the inception of the racial unrest, and organized a rally championing the idea of removing the Caucasians from the town. The first indictment resulted in a one-year-long suspended sentence, and Belov will hardly get a harsher penalty this time.
It appears that bombarding the DPNI with minor charges is about all the government can do. DPNI isnt officially registered and operates as a network, thus is cannot be dissolved or banned and is basically immune to prosecution. The movements careful speeches and actions, and its very strategy devised to walk the thin line and stay out of trouble as much as possible, are there for a reason, as DPNI understands that prosecution could be imminent.
While its not seen as much of a big deal for now and the authorities respond to human rights groups calls for prosecution rather reluctantly, DPNI could develop into more of a bother in the future. The threat doesnt lie in the movements incitement of hatred and provoking social unrest, but rather in its potential to rival the governments own political parties and organizations that cover the same electorate.
United Russias youth arm, the Young Guard, also poses as moderately nationalist organization and holds anti-immigration protests. During a recent immigration rally DPNI sent its envoys to support the Young Guard, only to get harassed and sent off. They lay claims to the same turf and they arent controlled by the government, so that makes them a problem, said Charny.
Things are further complicated by the far-reaching ambitions of the movements leadership. DPNI cites public opinion polls that seem to favor nationalism ever more, with those approving the notion that Russia is solely for Russians amounting to 65 percent. This, DPNI hopes, could constitute its supporting base once it turns into a party.
DPNI likens Russia to countries like Honduras and Salvador when they were under a dictatorship, arguing that there is no way for a political party to be registered without the Kremlins direct support, a notion matching the public perception of the current political system in the country. For now, the movement supports candidates in local elections that have agendas similar to its own, and claims that they score as much as 35 percent of the votes, losing only to the officially supported candidates. Most of the efforts are directed at propaganda and what the movement calls helping Russians to develop a national conscience.
The current regime is strong. Belov is an educated man and he understands it. Theyre maneuvering their way through without jeopardizing their organization. But once they sense the moment is right, they will strike, said Charny.
There may be public sympathy, but the strongly right leaning electorate is limited to 15 to 20 percent, according to most public opinion polls. Still, DPNI could succeed in harnessing the wave of the economic crisis and using it to its benefit. Nationalism will be on the rise because of the economic troubles, organizations like DPNI want to take advantage of it as now they can to explain people why they got fired and why theyre worse off than they were, and the blame will be put on the aliens; in short, they want to repeat Hitlers success, said Charny.
And what are the chances? If the government doesnt take resolute action, I think they might eventually succeed, said Charny.