Alerta Network calls for solidarity with the antifascist football supporters in eastern Europe26 February 2009


About the political and social situation in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus

The action day of the antifascist football fan-network ALERTA! takes place in March 2009 on the subject of the situation of anti-racist football fans in Eastern Europe. Only two hours of flight away from us, there is a conflict in a climate of social radicalization and brutalization, which is unequalled in violence. Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Poland or Southeast Europe: The daily press only covers the tip of the iceberg, Russia being surely the most blatant example. The recent double murder of the dissident lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist Anastasia Baburova, who especially reported about extreme right-wing organizations and their connections to right-wing fan-groups in the newspaper „Nowaya Gaseta“, is symptomatic of the circumstances in Putin’s Russia. Being an Antifascist, you’re exposed to terror and threats almost every day. In October 2008, the antifascist skinhead and football supporter „Fedyaj“ Feodor Filatov from Moscow was lethally stabbed directly in front of his home on the way to work. The concerned persons knows that Putin’s authorities don’t have the least interest in fighting and clearing up these crimes effectively or in protecting potential victims. At the same time, society is radicalized, forced by an official patriotic-nationalistic Russian state propaganda. Racism, anti-semitism and social-darwinistic thinking are socially acceptable again and are already integrated in society.

In the context of the victory over the National Socialists in 1945, Russia presents itself officially antifascist. The anniversary of the victory over fascism is celebrated every year on 9th of May in a very pompous way. Nevertheless it is deliberately ignored that an ideology of fascism and the presence of numerous nationalist-fascist organizations and parties are a daily occurrence. The political situation in the former Soviet republics Belarus and Ukraine are certainly different, however in these countries right-wing extremists are increasing, too.
In Belarus, ultra-nationalist parties and organizations are not as present as in the Ukraine, but this is due to the authoritarian form of government. The formation of social structures are usually silenced early – especially alternative groups do not have any chance to work unaffected. Racism, anti-Semitism and nationalism are hardly discussed by Ukrainian media so far, although numbers of extreme right-wing brutality are increasing continuously. Often, such events are ignored or trivialized as “Hooliganism” and the political background of such inhuman violence is negated in most cases. In Belarus, extreme right-wing incidents are ignored completely. Government critics and opposition members are labeled as fascists and national socialists by the governmental-controlled media, but the de facto existence of real right-wing structures are denied. There is no room for the problem of right-wing extremism in the public discourse and alternative efforts to call public attention to the topic are deliberately oppressed.

Dominance of a right-wing fan culture

The football fan scene in Ukraine and Belarus, which predominantly follows the ideals of its neighbours Russia and Poland, is dominated by extreme right-wing fans. The introduction into such a scene often begins with extreme right-wing music, which frequently deals with football topics. International neo-Nazi networks like Blood & Honour were able to successfully establish themselves and constitute the subcultural background in Ukraine, Belarus and particularly in Russia. The Internet is also dominated by rightist websites from various networked fan groups. At the same time, extremist convictions incited by nationalism, racism and traditional anti-Semitism increased, so that extreme right-wing ideas could establish successfully in society as well as in youth culture. By now, beside right-wing skinheads, also parts of the fan scene act as eager instruments of the militant extreme right against migrants, people with Jewish roots, dissidents, homosexuals and against everything that seems “non-Slavic”. Because of the nearly absence of an alternative fan culture, a dominance of extreme right-wing fan culture was able to develop in the countries of the former Soviet Union. The official football associations, although having integrated the UEFA anti-racism-paragraphs in their respective national policy, do not show any serious interest in effectively fighting racism in the stadiums. Another difficulty in the fight against fascism, racism and other forms of discrimination in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus is the absence of a functioning civil society.

Support of antifascist football fans in Eastern Europe

Because of the superiority of the extreme right in the stadiums, many antifascist football fans in Russia are not able to support or identify with their local football club. That is why quite a lot of them support clubs such as MTZ-Ripo Minsk from Belarus, which is known in the Eastern European region for its antifascist fan scene. An absolutely exceptional example in Russia is the Siberian football club Zvezda Irkutsk, whose fan scene, like MTZ-Ripo’s, stands for antifascist ideals. In the Ukraine, in fact there are a few antifascist oriented fan scenes, but because of the right-wing dominance it is too dangerous for them to confess openly.
In Russia as well as the Ukraine and Belarus, anti-racist fan groups who try to become active against right-wing extremism and racism in football are left alone and exposed to governmental repression and threatened by the right wing dominance in the stadiums. Additionally they are to a great extend isolated from Western European fan scenes, and so far it was difficult to establish stable contacts because of visa and linguistic problems. This isolation has to be broken in order to support anti-racist football fans in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Compared to our fight, but also the success of it, in Western European football, the fight against racism and fascism in Eastern Europe seems hopeless. That’s why it is important to show our respect to the few groups, friends and activists in Eastern Europe for their effort through our activities in this month and further (actions in the stadiums and stands, info presentations, and benefit-parties). We want to encourage them to consistently continue their way and we will try to send them our support and solidarity. We will attempt to pass on our experience and to advance international networking of antifascist football fans. The struggle against discrimination and fascism is international. It doesn’t know any borders.

Alerta!-Network March 2009