From Football to Fascism in Russia

MOSCOW – In Russia, 2010 ended with an unprecedented upsurge of ultra-nationalist violence. Images of rioting, fascist-minded thugs have dominated TV broadcasts.

The violence began following an ordinary conflict between two small groups of young people over a taxi. One group consisted of young people from the Northern Caucasus, the other of fans of a Moscow football (soccer) club. One of the leaders of the Moscow fans, Yegor Sviridov, was murdered.

Rumors raced around the city the next day that the police had released all those accused of Sviridov’s murder (as it happens, the rumors were true). Spontaneous protests erupted in front of police headquarters, but the police did not intervene.

On December 11, another rally was held at site of the murder, and moved into the very center of Moscow, Manezhnaya Square, just outside the Kremlin’s walls. The crowd began to chant nationalist slogans, and then proceeded to beat up passersby who did not look Slavic.