Marchers send ultranationalist message on Russia’s Unity Day

Times Staff Writer

Russian ultranationalists chanting slogans against foreign immigrants and Jews marched through a deserted area of the capital Sunday in a carefully controlled display that managed to avoid the violence and arrests of last year’s National Unity Day observance.

An estimated 2,000 marchers, waving flags, shouting “Glory to the Russian nation” and calling for the death of Jews, marched for about a mile along the Moscow River before gathering for a rally near the Ukraine Hotel, a grand Stalin-era edifice.

Other demonstrations around the city that were state-sponsored attracted bigger numbers. But the rally organized by the far-right Slavic Union and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration drew more notice. Calls for a return to the era of Russian power and Slavic unity hold substantial popular appeal.

“We will free Europe! Russia will be white!” the anti-immigration group’s leader, Alexander Belov, told the crowd. “We came here to say simple words: We are sick and tired of the power of occupants, of conquerors, and now it’s enough,” he said. “We are the real power, not those who are hiding in this Torah!”

Similar ultranationalist rallies were held in Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and St. Petersburg.


President Vladimir V. Putin, speaking at an event near Red Square, said efforts to divide Russia from outside would fail: “There are still those who would like to split Russia and get their hands on our resources. It’s something which we should keep in mind. But our main goal should be the development of our country.”

The day marked the third observance of National Unity Day, created as a replacement for the Soviet-era Revolution Day celebration of the October Bolshevik Revolution, typically held on Nov. 7 with military parades and patriotic observances.

The new holiday is supposed to commemorate the liberation of Moscow from Polish invaders in 1612, but tens of thousands of demonstrators used the holiday to celebrate, in various ways, Russia’s growing strength and cohesiveness since the 1990s.

The free-market, pro-democracy Yabloko party held a rally against fascism and xenophobia and the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group assembled a “peace quilt” from the contributions of thousands of young people from across the country.

Last year’s ultranationalist march resulted in a number of arrests; this year, police issued a permit for the event but limited it to a stretch of the Moscow River embankment, where it would cross no public thoroughfares. Supporters were unruffled at their virtual quarantine. “We are here because we don’t agree with their authorities, especially their immigration policies,” said Artur Kuvalenko, 18, who joined the rally.

Preston Wiginton, a U.S. anti-immigration activist based in Texas, congratulated the crowd for its “strong identity.”

“Your identity of nation, your identity of ethnicity, your identity of race,” said Wiginton, speaking in English. “I am here in Moscow to bring unity to Slavic and European peoples. We must unite to fight this invasion from the Third World.”