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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Racism on the rise in Russia
Members of far-right party saluting
Racist attacks have increased in the past few years

A drum beats in a Russian forest in the dead of night. Shadowy figures march around a fire. Each wears a white shirt with a black armband bearing a black Russian cross.

Far-right initiation ceremony
The National People's Party has 10,000 members
The symbolism is redolent of the Third Reich in this bizarre initiation ceremony.

The young skinheads joining Russia's far-right National People's Party even give a Nazi salute to their leader, 50-year-old Alexander Ivanov-Sukharevsky.

He calls on them to keep the fire of racial purity burning in their hearts.

Extreme views

Later, in his office, Mr Sukhaerevsky tells me he won't give up his fight to save Russia's whites from what he calls the pollution of outsiders.

"We have to save the white nation because the white nation is now a minority - 8.5% of the world population. Our party considers that the white race has exclusive rights in the world community because it's a race that is disappearing, a minority."

Russians rioting
In June, football fans rioted after Russia lost a World Cup match
Luckily, Mr Sukharevsky's extreme views don't have a broad following yet.

His young skinheads number just 10,000 in a population of 144 million. Yet according to Russia's immigrants, the kind of racism he espouses is a far wider problem.

In June, Moscow football fans rioted over their defeat against Japan. They attacked not just foreign cars, but also foreign passers-by. Two were badly injured.

Among those beaten up were friends of Kevin Ochieng, a young Kenyan who has studied in Moscow for seven years. His Russian is fluent, but it makes no difference to the way he is treated.

Racial abuse

He said, "It's almost a daily basis thing, being insulted, they call you nigger. Me personally, I think even the police are racist.

"The other day I was reporting to a police station and I had a police calling to me, 'You nigger, monkey, get out of this place'. Some of them are very racist."

It is not just black students who suffer such abuse. The traders at Moscow's markets have similar stories. Most of them are from Central Asia or the Caucasus - from Georgia or Azerbaijan, and almost all have been assaulted, either verbally or physically.

Researchers are looking into why racist attacks in Russia have gone up over the past few years. It is not easy. There are no official figures because Russia only records crimes committed BY foreigners.

If you don't run for your life, then they start beating you up

Dann Ochieng
Vladimir Shubin, is in charge of the research at the Africa Institute in Moscow, he said, "There is a lot of people who are either unemployed or half employed or underpaid.

"People do compare their income, their way of life to the way of life of the upper 5% or 10% and that creates a feeling of dissatisfaction, maybe even anger, and the easiest way out of it is to look for the people around with the different features from yours."

Leaving Russia

That explanation is no comfort to Kevin Ochieng and his brother Dann.

Dann has been badly beaten up twice now, and his scars are as much mental as physical.

"You know, they look at you as if you are an alien," he said, "If you don't run for your life, then they start beating you up. That's how it happens."

I asked him, "If you were telling people in Kenya about Russia would you recommend they came here?"

"Hell no, hell no. If somebody now asked me my experience about Russia, I can't advise none of my relatives to come, because you might die here anytime."

See also:

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