Smash the Kikes and Save Russia (2015)
Hard on the heels of migrants and gays, another minority has begun to fear for its safety: Jews. Svetlana Reiter spoke with two women who feel directly threatened
March 2, 2015
Program Coordinator, St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center
I set up a volunteer program to help the children of migrants three years ago, in May. Basically, we teach Russian to children of migrants from Central Asia, primarily from Uzbekistan, but there are children from Kyrgyzstan and a few from Georgia. Twice a week, they have Russian lessons, and every Sunday in the summer we go to a museum, take a trip to Pavlovsk or Peterhof, or just walk around the city. The younger group, preschoolers and first graders, we teach conversational language through games. We teach the older children, who already know how to read and write, Russian as foreign language. There are fourteen children in the younger group, and eight in the older group. I cannot say that they attend constantly. Some get ill, while others leave the country.
I myself am a philologist by training. Previously, I taught Russian language and literature in schools. I am Jewish.
When we opened, practically no one was working with migrant children. There were no classes: it had occurred to no one that something needed to be done with them. Naturally, when we opened, various media visited us to shoot segments and write articles. When I read the comments to these articles, I often felt uneasy: people wrote very harshly about migrants and their children. But I could scarcely have foreseen what has happened now.
I posted an ad for volunteers in Facebook and VKontakte. We cannot take just anyone: we need professional philologists, people able to work with children. We cannot take the average person who just feels sorry for migrants, and real teachers are few and far between. So I am constantly posting ads in social networks: look at what wonderful children we have, come and help us.
Not long ago I posted two more ads. A group on VKontakte calling itself Morality reposted one. I had a look. Morality’s moderator, Mikhail Kuzmin, put together an album containing 161 photos of me and published a post in which he wrote that the kike-liberal public goes to protest rallies and teaches Russian to “black” (chernye) children. This group is absolutely fascistic and anti-Semitic. They are constantly writing that migrants commit the majority of crimes in Russia. That “black” children attend our schools and spoil our children, the migrant children are wild animals who are uneducable. And those are the mildest things they write.
When this community was informed that a Jewish woman was teaching migrants, they were faced with what they understood as pure evil. Three and a half thousand people gladly lashed out at me. Kuzmin posted information about my son and my husband, and published an additional post about my family. He was outraged: how could it happen that kikes were teaching savages?! There is no place for either group in our society. Down with the kike-liberal opposition! Moreover, judging by his photographs, Kuzmin himself goes to LGBT rallies and beats up gay activists. He has an athletic physique: he practices boxing and fisticuffs at Sosnovka Park. In one photo, he is wearing a police uniform and sporting a badge. I don’t know whether he is really a policeman, but the photograph exists, just like snapshots where he is giving the Hitler salute or standing next to Deputy [Vitaly] Milonov [author of Petersburg’s infamous homophobic law].
The worst thing, of course, is that he not only haunts the social networks but that he walks the streets. I complained to the administration of VKontakte. They replied that if I didn’t like this group, I shouldn’t look at their postings, and that they close only those groups that directly threaten someone’s life.
I have said nothing to the migrant children. I am a good teacher; I know how to work with children. Ultimately, my job is to help those who have it worse than I do, not to make their lives even more unbearable. You see, in the schools these children accumulate hatred: teachers don’t like them and classmates fear them. These things give rise to reciprocal aggression.
It is hard to say whether the folks from Morality are threatening my life. If they practice fisticuffs at Sosnovka Park, what prevents them from visiting our Jewish center? Maybe one of their three and a half thousand subscribers will decide to harm me directly. And you know, I am less afraid to read things like “the black-assed bastards are uneducable, ask any teacher” and “the kike lady is out of her mind for black-assed goys” than to read what Kuzmin wrote about my son and my husband. I’m really afraid for my family.
The level of aggression is now completely crazy. Some moron could show up when I am teaching the children. We have no security guard armed with a machine gun at our center. The only thing I can do to protect myself somehow is talk about it publicly.
I always remember that the migrants have it worse off than I do. Their children have no beds. They sleep on the floor, and they are lucky if they have a mattress. And yet they go to school and study as much they can until they leave for home.
I have noticed that if I really come to like a pupil, he or she leaves immediately. Rarely do they study with us longer than two years. There were two lovely girls, half Kyrgyz, half Uzbek. They drew beautifully and sang beautifully. They were here for three years, now they have gone back home. I still correspond with one girl from Uzbekistan, Sitora, who is now seventeen years old. I remember she once told me she had never been to the theater in her life. Not once, can you imagine? But we take the children to the theater when we get free or discounted tickets.
During the winter break, we went to the Kunstkamera. Some Uzbek girls later asked why the Chinese have such strange, narrow eyes. And I told them, “Well, I have a big nose. What’s strange about that? All people are different.”
Former lecturer at the Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies
I moved to Germany this fall. I am trained as an Orientalist and religious scholar, and I taught at the Institute of Jewish Studies in Saint Petersburg. I encountered the Morality group quite by accident. A year ago, on March 14, I went to a demonstration at Kazan Cathedral. I had two small placards with me: “Crimea is Ukraine” and “Make love, not war.” Despite the warnings, I took the placards out periodically, not realizing that they turned my actions into a solo picket, especially because there were other people with placards.
Tamriko Apakidze. Photo by Nikolai Simonovsky
The police nabbed me fairly quickly, at first along with my husband, but he was soon kicked out of the paddy wagon, and I spent four hours in the company of seven rather rude, in my opinion, police officers. It was they who took me to the station.
I had never been to a police station before, so at first I thought it was fun. But when they confiscated my internal passport and did not let me make a phone call, I was not amused. Aside from the rude cops, there was a nondescript young man who was quite polite. He listened courteously and attentively to the questions the police were asking me. He got quite excited when he heard I worked at the Institute of Jewish Studies. He asked what I taught there and whether I had worked there long. Then this guy was released, and I was given an arrest report and told to wait for a summons to court.
I left the police station late at night, believing I had got off very lightly. The next day, acquaintances sent me a link to the group Morality. It turned out that my companion at the cop shop had been Mikhail Kuzmin, the group’s moderator. He had posted his report, where he wrote something to the effect that he had being going to God’s temple to pray, but the police took him for a liberast and arrested him. The report was entitled correspondingly: “Who attends liberast rallies.” My entire biography was there. What surprised me most was that there were details there that he could not have found out from our conversation. He quite obviously had access to other sources.
Naturally, it said there that I worked at the Institute of Jewish Studies but that I pass myself off as a Georgian, although it is not clear who I am. There was this phrase: “The young woman herself is not involved in homopiggery, but she supports homos.” And the best part was an album of photos of me, twenty-five of them: one from the protest rally, and the rest pilfered from Facebook. This was so that the comrades would know their enemy by sight. The album’s crowning touch was a screenshot from the Institute of Jewish Studies website containing my schedule. I felt sick.
I looked at the pictures of Kuzmin himself: he was giving the Nazi salute and wearing a Nazi uniform. My husband wrote, “You shitty Nazi, remove the photographs of my wife immediately.” “I’m not a Nazi, because all Nazis are kikes,” Kuzmin eagerly replied. There was no more discussion with him, but his comrades in the struggle wrote comments under the photographs of me: how many Banderites had fucked me, and stuff like that. I never thought that I would encounter something like this in life. We sent a complaint to the management of VKontakte, but the group was not shut down.
For a while, I was very afraid. Of course, this was not the reason we left for Germany, but when I saw that screenshot of my schedule at the institute, I was quite scared to go to work. I became paranoid that I would be assaulted on the street or that our dog would be poisoned. I suspect that Kuzmin works in tandem with the police. First, I think he was with me at the police station as a provocateur. Second, when I was in the paddy wagon, the cops uttered his surname several times.
We moved to Germany at the end of August. We had been planning to do this for a long time, but had kept delaying and putting it off. After last March, my husband immediately found a job and we left Russia. I haven’t heard anything more about Kuzmin.
The community Morality has been active on the VKontakte social network for a year and a half. At present, the group numbers around four thousand subscribers. The group’s founder and moderator, Mikhail Kuzmin, was born April 12, 1986. He is married, a graduate of the Northwest Branch of the Russian Academy of Justice, and a member of the Petersburg branch of the Great Russia party.
VKontakte group close for inciting hatred
Ethnic strife flares up on the social network. Petersburg woman with Jewish surname fears for her life
March 4, 2015
Petersburger Leokadia Frenkel, who teaches Russian to migrant children, has been victimized by the social network group Morality and its administrator Mikhail Kuzmin.
Mikhail Kuzmin. Screenshot courtesy of Metro newspaper
“He reposted 161 photographs of me and wrote a text to accompany them entitled ‘The Kike-Liberal Opposition,” Frenkel told Metro. “That Jews were teaching migrants was the ultimate source of indignation for him.”
According to Frenkel, openly threatening comments appeared under photographs of her, and she seriously feared for her life.
“But when my friends complained to VKontakte management, they got evasive replies to the effect that if you don’t like this group, don’t look at it.”
Mikhail Kuzmin himself likes to do the Nazi salute and have his picture taken in Nazi uniform. He invariably refers to Jews as “kikes,” and conducts surveys on topics such as “Should migrants be sterilized?” The group consists of about 3,500 active participants. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach Mikhail Kuzmin for comment.
“Morality” group page on the VKontakte social network. The highlighted passage reads, “Reminder: only the total deportation of ALL the Central Asians and Сaucasians who have overrun the country in recent years can solve the problem. For us there is no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants. For us there are only occupiers.” Screenshot courtesy of Metro newspaper
Metro asked the Saint Petersburg office of the Investigative Committee’s Investigative Department to comment on the situation. Sergei Kapitonov, head of their press service, was terse.
“Anything is possible anywhere. I don’t understand what the matter is. I suggest you send an official inquiry addressed to our general and explain what you want to him.”
Roskomnadzor told Metro that they could do nothing themselves.
“The law on extremism in the Internet is administered by the Prosecutor General’s Office,” press secretary Vadim Ampelonsky said. “Only they can send us a request to block the group.”
Ultimately, Metro had no choice but to personally ask VKontakte’s press secretary Georgy Lobushkin to pay close attention to the controversial group Morality. And soon the newspaper received the following reply: “Good day. Our moderators are now checking this group for violations of website rules and Russian federal laws.”
On the evening of March 3, the group was temporarily blocked “for incitement to acts of violence.”
Vera Alperovich, expert on nationalism and xenophobia, SOVA Center for Information and Analysis:
“Any incitement to ethnic violence is covered by Article 282 of the Criminal Code. The activities of this group and its administrator should definitely be investigated. That the Investigative Committee is paying no attention to this group means they are waiting until someone is killed. In addition to a criminal complaint, one could start with a warning, which can facilitate getting the offending content deleted. Aside from the Criminal Code, there are also ethical norms. Such groups should cause a wave of public outrage.”
The Fall of “Morality”
A neo-Nazi group on VKontakte that has bullied a Jewish woman was closed only after public pressure
March 5, 2015
Yesterday, after repeated requests by users, administrators at the social network VKontakte blocked the group Morality. The community had positioned itself as a platform for instilling “Slavic values,” but in fact it contained a lot of material prohibited by law, including neo-Nazi material. The group’s closure had long been sought by a female Saint Petersburg resident against whom group members had organized a genuine hate campaign. For a long while, administrators at the social network had turned a blind eye to her complaints, and she succeeded in having the group blocked only after broad publicity and intervention by the media.
The group Morality, which allegedly promotes “moral education based on historical Slavic values,” has been closed for a month for calls to unlawful actions, VKontakte spokesman Georgy Lobushkin informed Novye Izvestia. If the community’s creators do not remove the illegal content within thirty days, the group will be blocked in perpetuity.
The cause of the group’s closure was the campaign of persecution its members organized two week ago against Leokadia Frenkel, program coordinator at the Saint Petersburg Jewish Community Center, whose activities include teaching migrant children and helping socially adapt.
It all started when Frenkel placed an ad on the social network recruiting volunteers to work with the children at the center. The call was copied to the Morality group, where it was commented in an abusive and illegal manner. As Frenkel told Novye Izvestia, a genuine campaign of persecution was unleashed in comments to the post: group members insulted her ethnicity, and some threatened her with violence. Later, the group’s moderators made a selection of photographs featuring not only Frankel but also her husband and her son, placing it in open public access.
Frenkel decided to send a written request to VKontakte to close the group. Many of her friends followed suit. They soon received a rejection letter. The social network’s administrators explained there was nothing illegal in the information contained in the community. “If you do not like the group, do not look at their materials. We close only those groups which directly threaten someone’s life.” This was the response from VKontakte management.
This explanation did not hold water, says Frenkel. She notes that VKontakte’s published rules contain a list of actions prohibited by company management. Paragraph “e” disallows the “incitement of racial, religious, and ethnic hatred, as well as the promotion of fascism or racial supremacist ideology.” In the group Morality, which was completely open to the public, one could see many images of swastikas and direct calls for violence. Examining group moderator Mikhail Kuzmin’s personal page, Novye Izvestia also found many images of Nazi symbols. In some photos, he was posed in a Wehrmacht uniform; in others, in front of a Russian imperial tricolor.
Initially, VKontakte administrators really did see nothing illegal about the group, the social network’s press secretary Georgy Lobushkin explained to Novye Izvestia.
“There are many discussion communities where users discuss various issues. We do not block them, even if some comments are outside the scope of the Constitution,” he said in conversation with Novye Izvestia. However, “after a more thorough study of this group, experts nevertheless concluded that it contains incitements to violence.”
Two weeks passed between the time of Frenkel’s complaint and the group’s closure. She believes the reason for a more thorough review of her complaint was several reports in the media and the broad publicity they generated.
Although the group Morality has been closed, Novye Izvestia has found a number of similar communities where Frenkel’s identity and ethnicity continue to be discussed to the hilt.
As Novye Izvestia reported yesterday, early in the week, a court ordered Smolensk journalist Polina Petruseva to pay a fine of 1,000 rubles for “promoting Nazi symbols.” The court case was occasioned by Petruseva’s publishing a photograph of her own building’s backyard during World War Two on her social network page. The photograph shows German soldiers standing in formation next to the flag of the Third Reich. On Tuesday, the Russian Constitutional Court confirmed the ban on displaying any Nazi paraphernalia or symbols.
But law enforcement agencies have not yet responded to the controversy involving Leokadia Frenkel. The police are reluctant to accept such complaints, because there is almost no mechanism for working with such cases, Mikhail Pashkin, chair of the Moscow Police Union’s coordinating council, told Novye Izvestia. According to him, criminal charges are filed in such instances only to make an example of someone, “which is probably what happened in the case of the journalist from Smolensk.”