Skinheads made their appearance in Russia some time in the early 1990s, and they have grown quite numerous. By 1997, according to various estmates, there were over 10,000 of them in Russia as a whole (Rstaki 1998a). In 1998 it was estimated that there were 3,000 to 4,000 skinheads in Moscow alone; by the spring of 2000 the figure had probably reached 5,000 to 6,000. Besides Moscow, skinheads have been reported in St. Petersburg, Lipetsk, Belgorod, and Voronezh (Fishkin 1999), in Ivanovo (Sirotin 1998), in Volgograd (Barkov 2000a, 2000b), and in Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, Irkutsk, and Vladivostok (Rstaki 1998a). If we assume that the number of skinheads in the whole of Russia has grown at the same rate as the number in Moscow, we get a rough estimate of 15,000 for the total number of skinheads in Russia at the present time.

Ideology of Russian skinheads

The ideology of the Russian skinheads is a nonspecific white or “Aryan” Nazi racism, copied straight from the Western skinhead movement, and mixed specifically Russian nationalism. Nor does there seem to be anything specifically Russian about the dress, music, or behavior of Russian skinheads. Armed with knives, chains, and brass knuckles, gangs of skinheads—sometimes as few as five, sometimes as many as seventy—attack African and Asian students studying in Russia, as well as Armenians, Azeris, Uzbeks, and other people from the Caucasus and Central Asia, usually inflicting serious injuries and sometimes killing their victims. In May 1998, an Afro-American marine, a guard at the American Embassy, was badly beaten by five skinheads in Filevsky Park, a customary meeting place for skinheads. This was one of the relatively few cases in which the police, presumably under pressure from Embassy officials, took some action against skinhead assailants.

Russian skinheads style

The typical skinhead is, of course, a male, but there are also girls in themovement. Female skinheads fall into two distinct categories: “skingirls,” who take full part in the violence, and “girls of skins,” who share the views of their skinhead boyfriends but do not take part in the violence themselves. Male skinheads do not consider fighting obligatory for girls; many prefer their girls not to fight, feeling that it does not accord with the proper female role.

Russian skinhead groups

Many Russian skinheads, perhaps a majority, do not belong to any formal organization. A certain proportion belong to fascist organizations under nonskinhead leadership. Some fascist organizations, such as Konstantin Kasimovsky’s Russian National Union, have made a special effort to recruit skinheads.23 In between the two extremes of unorganized and fully politicized skinheads, there are many who prefer to form their own purely skinhead organizations. Examples are the Moscow Skin Legion [Moskovskii Skinlegion], with several hundred members, Russian Goal [Russkaia tsel’], another Moscow group called The White Hunters [Belye okhotniki], and the Volga National Front in Volgograd. Finally, the international skinhead organization Blood and Honor has a branch in Moscow with several hundred members.

Russian skinhead attacks