On July 22, anarchists set fire to the office of Russia United, the ruling party, in Moscow. Over the past year, they have set alight to police cars and stations, as well as luxury cars, business centers, military recruitment offices, and a luxury goods stand. There were no fatalities or injuries in any of the attacks, as all of the targets were empty when set on fire.
It all started back in 2009. During Internationals Workers’ Day celebrations on May 1, several hundred anarchists met up in Saint Petersburg, with the city’s permission. Before they even started their march, special forces from Russia’s interior ministry arrested 137 of them because, officials said, the anarchists planned to attack a group of Russian nationalists, who were also holding a march. The anarchists denied the accusation. Three days after these arrests, several police cars were set ablaze near the Svetlanovsky police station in Saint Petersburg. The day after, an entire police station went up in flames in the city of Nizni Novgorod. The fires have been raging ever since.
A police station near Moscow in late June.
Various anarchist groups, who say they are informally connected through a so-called “Black Bloc” network, claimed responsibility. Black Blocs are a transitory and leaderless networks of anonymous members who carry out violent acts, notably on symbols of capitalism. Their members collaborate to select targets and carry out attacks. Black Blocs have been active elsewhere in Europe as well, notably during protests against austerity measures in London and in Greece last spring. So far, police have been unable to track down any of the Black Bloc arsonists.
Caption: Russia United’s office in Saint Petersburg on December 31, 2010.
"We can cause some real damage"
Blacblocg writes the blog "Black Bloc, News of an Anarchy Guerila."
‘Peaceful’ forms of struggle (meetings, public awareness campaigns, etc.) have little or no effect in our country, because too few people are ready to protest in the streets. Radical and ‘dangerous’ actions attract much more attention from the public and the media.
A good example is the struggle to protect the Khimki forest. [In July 2010, a group of Russian environmentalists fought against the construction of a new highway linking Moscow and Saint Petersburg, running right through a birch tree forest just outside of Moscow]. This campaign, at first peaceful, received much more public attention after ‘anti-fascists’ attacked the Khimki administration. It was only after the attack that the movement gained support from people like Yuri Shevchuk [a rock singer and activist] or Artemy Troitsky [one of Russia’s most famous music critics]. After that, real progress was made. [However, the environmentalists failed to stop construction from getting underway. Anarchists continued their protest by setting fire to the highway’s construction materials.]
Burned bulldozers in Khimki forest. This video was filmed in late June 2011.
When two years ago we decided to start using more radical methods, it was an attempt to achieve bigger goals with smaller means. So far it's proved effective. Due to our actions during these past two years, more people have learned about anarchists and their ideas than during the entire previous period of peaceful anarchism in Russia.
“We will view the state as an enemy as long as it exists”
There’s also a personal, even ‘existential’ aspect to our actions. As anarchists, we will view the state as an enemy as long as it exists. Imagine seeing your enemy day after day and year after year, but you do nothing except tell other people how bad your enemy is – and most people just don’t care. That's how Russian anarchists have spent these past 25 years. Fortunately, that’s now over. The state may not have disappeared yet, but we can cause some real damage. The state may not be falling apart yet, but we can cause it real, though not very big, damage.
Our attacks haven't hurt anyone so far. Nobody has suffered, not even law enforcement officers or other representatives of the state. To avoid harming people is our main principle, and we always carefully plan our actions with this in mind.
We do not believe that our actions will lead to any serious crackdown on the part of the government. The Russian state has no means, no effective instruments and most importantly no political will to repress us.”
“They will exasperate the state, cause crackdowns by the police regime and discredit the opposition”
Oleg Kozyrev lives in Moscow. He’s a writer and activist who advocates for greater democracy in Russia.
I'm for non-violent struggle. My heroes are Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I don't approve of the violent actions of these anarchists, even though, fortunately, nobody has been hurt so far. Their future actions could injure people, or worse.
For example, they set fire to military recruitment offices, and these are often situated in apartment buildings. They are lucky that these buildings have not entirely burned down so far. When they throw a bomb, they could very well hurt an innocent passerby. And even if they hurt someone who represents the authorities, it's still violence and nothing good will result from it.
Arson, explosions and other violent methods lead to deplorable consequences. They will just exasperate the state, cause crackdowns by the police regime and discredit the opposition. The younger generation could learn a thing or two by studying our country’s history. Russia has suffered a lot from the actions of extremist revolutionaries.
It’s obvious that anarchists are becoming a political force to be reckoned with. They carry out a lot of different campaigns, fighting against fascists or abuses of power by policemen. I support their actions when they're peaceful, just and suitable. But I can't support arson. I hope they'll be wise enough to give up such methods.”