I have noted that one of the reasons that one of many reasons Putin can’t be considered to be a nationalist is that… well, he locks up so many of them under Article 282.
See my article Country 282: Avoiding Russia’s Hate Speech Laws
Since conviction rates are virtually 100%, getting charged with Article 282, even for the most absurd reasons, will result in an almost certain conviction and a probable jail term of two to five years.
Kommersant recently published a chart with stats on this (the yellow bar represents numbers convicted under Article 282):
This confirms my anecdotal observations that the runaway craziness with Article 282 is a product of the past five years, and especially the last couple.
One interesting observation I can make is that whereas hate speech laws are justified in Western Europe in highly moralistic language that is often implicitly anti-white, in Russia these apologia are more functional and revolve around (1) keeping the “multi-national” country together and (2) not offending the feelings of WW2 veterans.
(1) 95%+ of the people now getting convicted for hate speech would have been let go with a slap on the wrist or not even bothered with in the 2000s, when as I recall Russia didn’t break up, let alone in the 1990s… when there were, of course, big problems with separatism.
(2) There were also a lot more WW2 veterans a decade ago, when outright Neo-Nazis with swastika flags were free to (and did) march until the early 2010s or so. There were 2.3 million 80+ year old men to be potentially offended in 2005; there were just 350,000 90+ year old men by 2015. So explaining this as a measure to protect the feelings of WW2 veterans – as apologists for Article 282 often do – is quite cynical.
(3) Not to equate speech with violence, but even the number of deaths from “racist attacks” (as defined by the liberal NGO the Sova Center) has collapsed by an order of magnitude in the past decade, from a peak of 109 deaths in 2008 to just 9 deaths by 2015.
In other words, Article 282 has metastasized out of control just as the issues it was ostensibly aimed to deal with have vastly diminished in importance.
PS. Polish Perspective asks the question of why this is happening: “There are two options as I see it. Either there has been a nationalist development of the last few years that was missing before in the eyes of the authorities, or there had been an ideological shift compared to the 2000s. I’m leaning towards the former explanation.”
I think the real explanation is far more banal: Institutional rot.
The ЦПЭ (Center Against Extremism – “Center E”) doesn’t attract the most intelligent and conscientious people, to put it mildly. It has also been saddled with ever rising quotas, which are used to quantify its “effectiveness”, which in turn translate into bonuses, etc. Result is perfectly expectable – a rise in absurd convictions [e.g. latest examples – student gets 2.5 years for extremism in an academic paper about extremism; 1,000 ruble fine for reposting a Soviet propaganda poster that had a swastika on it, thus “propagandizing” Nazism; etc] as investigators take the path of least resistance, namely trawling the VK social network. Furthermore, since Russia doesn’t have an independent judiciary, there are no stops to the metastasizing madness.
Here is a very telling account from a Center E employee who left the organization in disgust after it refocused from tackling Wahhabism to ruining lives over questionable VK avatars:
Lightly edited Google Translate of a few relevant paragraphs:
When I was transferred to Center E, I thought that I would fight terrorists, engage in mega-serious business – well, of course, I was a little disappointed that I had to look for pictures on the Internet. Personally, I always [it] resented – well, these administrators themselves, when a person for a picture of “VKontakte” is given 5-10 days of arrest. I would have found something to do besides drawing administratively for pictures.
Basically, it was all on the Internet, when people write “VKontakte” all sorts of stupid things. It is very simple. Just write in the search for “VKontakte”, say, the name “Adolf Hitler” or “Beat gingers”, roughly speaking. You are given a list of these communities, you open the most massive, where the most participants are; [then they need to] sort through the city, and you go to the users pages, you look. Choose, which avatars have the most unacceptable pictures – with Adolf Hitler, with a swastika – here you are, found a picture. …
According to the lists of cases, a variety of people [get punished] – from right-wing ones, who placed the symbols of the RNU who posted swastikas, and up to random citizens who copied the funny picture with the swastika, but I did not do it on such lines. I tried to tackle just the most odious ones. …
We have such a thing as APPG – the same period last year. That is, if so many crimes were detected last year, then in the next year you should reveal more. Well, the difference is … If you [did not uncover more crimes], then you’re like a rascal, a loafer and a slacker.
I was told by one of the investigators I know that he had been verbally told by the boss: if there are no crimes, they are not committed – then go steal a jar of coffee and open a caste against yourself. Well, I don’t know if that’s true or not.