Are there no Fascists or neo-Nazis in Russia?

The Russian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) recently submitted to PACE a resolution “On ways of opposing the manifestations of neo-Nazism and right-wing radicalism”  This document names six countries in which the problem of neo-Nazism is purportedly acute.  Five out of those six countries (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Austria) are members of the Council of Europe, while the sixth, Canada, has observer status. This is presumably part of a larger Russian sponsored initiative that resulted in the formation in 2010 of a “World Without Nazism” (WWN) organization. As far as can be established this is directed from the Kremlin by the FSB (Federal Security Service) as part of a broader strategy to retain Russian control over former Soviet Republics   Although this organization has a website, as far as I have been able to determine it is dead. The founder and head of this organization, Boris Shpiegal, has been accused of working directly for the FSB.

Two things are missing both from the above noted submission by the Russian PACE delegation and the “World Without Nazism” agenda, which PACE officials should hopefully note. They should then return this document asking for clarification and ask Mr. Spiegal what are his definitions of Nazi and fascist.   First, neither the submission nor the WWN agenda  contain any mention of the Russian Kremlin-sponsored groups, NASHI and RODINA, which by any text-book definition are “fascist” if not “neo-Nazi”, nor of the problem of Fascism in neo-imperialism in general in Russia . Details about these groups, their activities and governmental links are given in the Russian Nationalism Bulletin. Second, neither the submissions nor the WWN agenda  mention pro-Russian fascist and neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine that are either branches of or sponsored by the Russian parent body, or of local right-wing Kremlin-sponsored neo-colonialist groups like the “Orthodox Brotherhood,”  “Russkie na Ukraine,” “Russkyi blok,”  “Slavic Unity Party”  or “Progressive Socialist Party.” Like the pre-war German Nazis in the Sudetenland and Austria, these groups seek to revise territorial frontiers. They cannot accept that the country they reside in is independent, call for continued Russian domination of Ukraine and qualify as imperialist and “fascist” if not “neo-Nazi”. As of 2010 they represented the political fringe in Ukraine, alongside extremist Ukrainian nationalists. However, the Russian neo-imperialist groups together polled almost twice as many votes as did  extremist Ukrainian nationalists. This would indicate that Russian fascist-type neo-imperialism poses a greater threat to peace and democracy in Ukraine than does Ukrainian extremist nationalism. Why do these Russian initiatives overlook this problem?

The Russian delegation has correctly raised an important issue, as has the
“World Without Nazism” organization. But why do both these groups exclude from their purview Russian neo-Nazis and fascists? And why, despite this omission, has PACE allowed the WWN group to sponsor a meeting at their autumn session this October? Before supporting either these or any other  initiatives of this sort, all those opposed to fascism and Nazism, must first recognize that these are two distinct phenomena, and second, that all fascist and neo-Nazis must be opposed – and that this includes Russian ones.

Stephen Velychenko is a Research Fellow at the University of Toronto.