Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 120

In a radio address marking the anniversary of the 1941 Nazi invasion of the USSR, President Boris Yeltsin warned yesterday of the danger of an increase in fascism and racism among young people in Russia. “Not everyone,” Yeltsin said, “is aware how real the threat of extremism is in Russia today.” He said young people were particularly susceptible to ideas of national supremacy and anti-Semitism. “Fascinated by military insignia,” Yeltsin said, “adolescents are trying on the black uniform. Once again, one can hear calls for a firm hand and iron discipline.” (Radio Russia, June 22)

Yeltsin’s warning echoed that issued by veteran politician Aleksandr Yakovlev in a recent interview with Izvestia. (Izvestia, June 17). Izvestia also devoted a long article in its June 9 issue to a report on Russia’s two main fascist organizations: Russian National Unity (RNE), led by Aleksandr Barkashov, and the Russian National Union (RNS), led by twenty-four-year-old Konstantin Kasimovsky. Izvestia said claims by Barkashov’s RNE to a membership of 70,000 are exaggerated: The real number, it asserts, does not exceed 12,000. The newspaper listed a string of the violent attacks carried out by Barkashov’s supporters in provincial cities against people of non-Russian nationality. It said also that Barkashov is now trying to clean up the image of his organization–because he wants to run as a candidate in next year’s parliamentary elections. Izvestia said that Russia’s other major fascist organization, Kasimovsky’s RNS, has no such ambitions to electoral success. The RNS, the paper said, focuses its recruitment effort entirely toward young people in factories and schools. It also recruits through the Internet. (Izvestia, June 9)

As Izvestia has demonstrated in its recent articles, racism is an ugly and dangerous phenomenon in post-Soviet Russian society. There is not, however, much evidence at present to suggest that extremist organizations have established a strong hold among the general population.