Russians march against fascism and homophobia

imagePictures by Ben Neal

Ben Neal reports on a loud and angry protest

Last Sunday a thousand people gathered in Moscow for the annual march against fascism and political repression. Contingents of socialists, anarchists, LGBT activists, and liberals from the Yabloko party marched in temperatures of nearly -20.

The 19 January march is a regular one in memory of two anti-fascist activists who were murdered by neo-nazis on this day in 2009, Anastasia Baburova, a journalist, and Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer. Stanislav had represented anti-fascist activists and civilian victims of Russian military abuses in Chechnya. Anastasia investigated neo-nazi activities.

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Although smaller than in previous years, the march was loud and angry. The anti-fascist movement in Russia is small. Openly xenophobic and racist sentiments are very common in politics, the media and among ordinary people. Consequently the far right is relatively strong, organised and open, although most ordinary people are strongly opposed to them. They regularly commit extreme violence and murder against immigrants, political opponents, and ethnic minorities.

The LGBT contingent was a prominent part of the protest. There are very high levels of homophobia in Russia. The media, politicians and the Orthodox Church actively promote hostility to gays, and that sometimes turns violent. In 2013 the government passed a vaguely worded law outlawing “homosexual propaganda” to children.

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Political prisoners were also a key issue. 27 people are currently in custody or under investigation for “organising mass riots” after a police provocation caused a peaceful and legally allowed opposition march to turn violent on the day before President Putin’s inauguration on 6 May 2012. One person has so far been sentenced. Several have fled the country including one who has committed suicide. The case is widely considered to be politically motivated and nothing more than a fabricated show trial.

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