A recent piece in Rossiiskaia Gazeta, the Russian government’s official newspaper and one of Russia’s largest, portrays Norway as a country that, while nice in many ways, is unfortunately about to be capsized by a wave of multicultural tolerance set in motion by Breivik, the right-wing terrorist. This rather ludicrous charge is not new, but echoes previous and similarly bizarre commentary about the Breivik attacks in the mainstream Russian press.
Since Russia annexed Crimea and sent troops to bolster the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republics” (the DNR and LNR) in Eastern Ukraine, thousands of Russian volunteers have traveled to the Donbass to take part in the fighting. While a few of them have teamed up with the Ukrainian side, the vast majority joined the irregular DNR/LNR forces. A recent Russian study asks what made these volunteers tick. The core motivation, the study claims, was a desire to defend one’s own people. As one would expect given the current domestic climate, the findings certainly suit the official story about the conflict. But that doesn’t mean they are wrong.
If you want to be a serious activist in contemporary Russia’s neo-Nazi movement, you do not drink, you do not smoke, and you do not do drugs. You exercise to build physical strength, and, not least, you read in order to train the mind and develop your intellect.
It will surprise no one that attacks on Jews occur in Russia. After all, this is the country that gave us the word pogrom. Yet it might surprise you to hear that the level of antisemitic violence in Russia, by all accounts, is quite low compared to Western Europe. Given the political climate in later years, shouldn’t we expect otherwise? Patriotic rallying, attacks against “foreign agents” and internal “fifth columnists”, rampant and officially sanctioned homophobia, a fortress mentality in which one in four say the country is “surrounded by enemies on all sides” — isn’t this fertile soil for a reinvigorated antisemitism?