The line between a hate crime and protected speech is not definitively established in the Russian Federation. Federal law subjects to prosecution perpetrators of violent and nonviolent forms of extremism as these acts are defined by the Criminal Code, Code of Administrative Violations, and framework Law on Countering Extremist Activity. The presence of a prejudicial motive appears to be a key factor in determining the extremist nature of an act, and if such a motivation is proven it is considered an aggravating circumstance. Both individuals and organizations can be found responsible for extremism. Prosecution of extremist crimes is usually based on conclusions of experts who decide on the presence of an extremist component in the actions charged. Information on materials deemed to be extremist is collected and published by the Ministry of Justice. These materials are prohibited from being made publicly accessible. Involvement in extremist activities is a reason for the state to impose restrictions on one’s political or professional activities, or to liquidate an organization whose leaders have been accused of extremism. Reportedly, these provisions are often used by the government to silence the opposition, and the authorities have been criticized for focusing on minor crimes. In the summer of 2011, the Russian government identified the prevention of extremism as its major task, and an interagency commission on the subject has been established.
This report analyzes Russian anti-extremist legislation and reviews the procedural aspects of its application.
I. Constitutional Principles of Anti-Extremist Legislation
The Russian Constitution guarantees basic human rights, including freedom of speech, expression, and association. At the same time, it prohibits public associations that are aimed at forcibly changing the fundamental principles of the constitutional system and violating the integrity of the Russian Federation; undermining its security; setting up armed units; and instigating social, racial, national, and religious strife. Also, propaganda promoting social, racial, national, or religious enmity or the instigation of such enmity, as well as propaganda promoting social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy, are prohibited. The term “extremism” is not used in the Constitution, however.
These restrictions appear to be in accordance with a constitutional provision (art. 55, para. 3) that allows the restriction of individuals’ rights and freedoms by federal legislation to the extent necessary for the protection of fundamental principles of the constitutional system, morality, health, the rights and lawful interests of other people, and ensuring the defense of the country and the security of the state. These restrictions appear to follow international standards elaborated by the European Court of Human Rights and other international and national authorities, which generally uphold restrictions on free expression on the grounds of national security where it can be shown that they are absolutely necessary in a democratic society, i.e., where the expression is intended to incite violence and there is a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence.
Although the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction in regulating the rights and freedoms of individuals and citizens, several constituent components of the Russian Federation have enacted legislation aimed at regulating freedom of conscience and religion. While criminal law is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, these legal acts impose administrative responsibility for activities deemed to be in violation of the public order. For example, anti-extremist legislation was enacted in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic of the Northern Caucasus. This provincial law restricts proselytism and prohibits, among others things, religious organizations if the doctrine threatens public security and the lawful interests of citizens, or advocates the superiority of one religious doctrine over another.
During the last two years, members of the Russian legislature several times proposed to amend the country’s Constitution. Presently, the Constitution states that Russia is a secular state. In order to stress the exceptional role of the Orthodox faith, State Duma members Sergey Baburin and Elena Mizulina suggested the addition of a new article to the Constitution providing that “Orthodoxy shall be the basis of the national and cultural identity of Russia.”
II. Overview of Russian Anti-Extremist Legislation
The anti-extremist legislation of Russia consists of the Federal Law on Countering Extremist Activity (Extremism Law), specific provisions of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, the Code of Administrative Violations of the Russian Federation (Administrative Code), and relevant norms included in more than twenty other laws regulating public associations, religious activities, public gatherings, mass media publications, the investigative work of law enforcement authorities, and other matters.
The determining factor in qualifying an activity as extremist is the suspect’s motivation. Crimes motivated by prejudice or, as stated in Russian law, “ideological, political, racial, national or religious enmity, as well as hatred or enmity towards a social group,” are classified as extremist crimes under the Criminal Code. An additional list of activities deemed to be extremist is stipulated by the Extremism Law. This list does not coincide with the list of extremist crimes defined by the Criminal Code. Extremist activities as they are listed in the Extremism Law are subject to prosecution regardless of their consequences and the level of public danger. This allows for the application of restrictive measures to relatively insignificant offenses.
“Terrorism” is distinguished from “extremism” in that the former generally involves violent acts and pursues specific goals of exercising influence on governmental decision making by violating public security or frightening the population. Russian scholars believe that the distinctive feature of terrorism is the purpose of the crime, whereas extremist crimes are distinguished by the offender’s motivation. The continuing and diverse nature of extremist activities is also contrasted with the transitory nature of terrorist acts. However, it appears that the Extremism Law treats terrorism as one of several extremist activities regardless of whether it was motivated by ideological, political, racial, national, or religious hatred.
According to official statements, the necessity to fight terrorism was the main reason for developing anti-extremist legislation. However, Russian legal observers state that it cannot meet this purpose and that the expansion of acts that can be considered extremist crimes, and the doubling of the number of materials recognized as extremist and included in the list of banned publications in 2011, led to a situation where “anything from a criminal fiction to a postmodernist painting can be viewed as extremist.” Because of the nature of the legislation and problems with its enforcement, “public trust in anti-extremist legislation and the government’s ability to fight extremism through the existing legal arsenal was lost completely.”
In its report on the illegal application of anti-extremist legislation in Russia in 2012, the SOVA Center stated that while religious organizations constituted the majority of those previously accused of committing crimes under the Extremism Law, social activists and opposition politicians have become a recent target of law enforcement authorities who use the Extremism Law to punish these people. Among the examples of recently initiated investigations and accusations of committing extremist crimes are cases where local journalists were prosecuted for publishing articles discussing neutral subjects such as the status of languages of varied Russian ethnic minorities and the dominant role of the Russian language in ethnic autonomous republics constituting the Russian Federation. Most of the time, these cases were used by local authorities to silence social activists and members of the opposition. Some Russian legal experts also believe that these cases are initiated by provincial law enforcement authorities to demonstrate their vigilance in fighting extremism because no other forms of extremism can be found.
III. Analysis of Federal Law on Countering Extremist Activity
A. Definition of “Extremism”
The Extremism Law is a framework document that gives a definition of extremism, sets forth the fundamentals of the national policy in that area, and emphasizes the importance of preventive measures.
Sanctions for extremist activity can be applied against organizations, mass media outlets, and individuals. It appears that organizations and mass media are the main targets of the Extremism Law. Organizations or media institutions may be punished under the Extremism Law for extremism per se. Individuals are punishable only in cases where their actions fall within the definition of an offense of extremism provided by the Criminal Code or the Code of Administrative Violations.
The Extremism Law contains no clear definition of extremism. Instead there is an “extremely heterogeneous” list of violent and nonviolent activities considered to be extremist, which includes
forcible change of the foundations of the constitutional system and violation of integrity of the Russian Federation;
public justification of terrorism and other terrorist activity;
incitement of social, racial, ethnic or religious hatred;
propaganda of exclusiveness, superiority or inferiority of an individual based on his/her social, racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic identity, or his/her attitude to religion;
violation of rights, liberties and legitimate interests of an individual because of his/her social, racial, ethnic, religious or linguistic identity or attitude to religion;
preventing citizens from exercising their electoral rights and the right to participate in a referendum, or violating the secrecy of the vote, combined with violence or threats to use violence;
preventing legitimate activities of government authorities, local self-government, election commissions, public and religious associations or other organizations, combined with violence or threats to use violence;
committing crimes involving the aggravating factors listed in article 63(1) of the Criminal Code (e.g., repeated crimes, crimes committed by an organized group, or crimes with severe consequences);
propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi attributes or symbols, or attributes and symbols similar to them or public demonstration of attributes or symbols of extremist organizations;
mass distribution of materials known to be extremist, their production and possession for the purposes of distribution;
dissemination of knowingly false accusations against federal or regional officials in their official capacity, alleging that they have committed illegal or criminal acts; [and]
organization and preparation of extremist acts, and calls to commit them; and financing the above-mentioned acts or providing any other material support to an extremist organization, including assistance in printing their materials, offering educational or technical facilities, or providing communications or information services.
This list has been criticized for duplicating provisions of the Criminal Code and for failing to indicate objectives distinguishing extremist activities from other offenses. The definition of extremism became even broader after 2006 amendments, which extended the definition of extremism and allowed for the prosecution of those who criticize federal and local governments and officials, official policies, laws, ideas, religious and political organizations, etc. In June 2011, the Supreme Court, ruling on the application of the Extremism Law in courts, added to this ambiguity by stating that criticizing the professional activities of politicians and government officials must not always be considered as an incitement of hatred and enmity, and must be reviewed by courts on a case-by-case basis, because limits for criticizing such persons are broader than for private individuals. (For a discussion of the constitutionality of these amendments see Part VI of this report.) The lack of certainty was noted by the Russian Ombudsman, who stated in his 2008 report that no one publicly criticizing the state, its policy, and public officials, even with a good understanding of the current legislation, can predict whether his words contain signs of extremism. Even Russia’s Foreign Ministry allegedly admitted that the definition of extremism in Russia is “too broad.” Human rights organizations have reportedly suggested that some clarifications preventing such a broad application of the Extremism Law should be added because explanatory guidelines issued by the Russian Federation Supreme Court in 2011 do not prevent abuses in the application of this Law. As an example of such clarifications, scholars cite article 16 of the Russian Federal Law on Public Associations, which states that the inclusion of provisions on the protection of ideals of social justice in the constituent and policy documents of public associations may not be regarded as inciting social enmity.
Some Russian experts believe that the definition of extremism was interpreted too broadly by the Supreme Court in 2012, when the Court upheld the decision of a lower court finding elements of a crime under article 280 of the Russian Criminal Code (public calls for performance of an extremist activity) for an individual’s participation in a political organization that had the declared goal of “chang[ing] the Putin-Medvedev regime, eliminat[ing] monopoly in politics and information, democratization of the country, and the refusal to cooperate with current power authorities.”
B. Enforcement of the Extremism Law
The main sanction provided by the Extremism Law is the liquidation of a public association, organization, or mass media outlet, which may be preceded by one or more warnings issued by the Federal Registration Service against a nongovernment organization or the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications (Roskomnadzor) against media institutions. Local prosecutor’s offices can issue warnings to both public and media organizations. In 2010, the Federal Security Service was granted the power to issue warnings to individuals regarding the unacceptability of actions that may be seen as leading to the commission of crimes prosecuted under article 280 of the Criminal Code. The procedural status of such warnings is not clear because they are not mentioned in the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation.
If the acts cited in the warning are not corrected or if something similar to what prompted the initial warning happens again, a prosecutor or registering authority may file a liquidation suit with the court in the place where the organization is registered. Liquidation charges can be brought against an organization even without warning if the organization’s activities resulted or could have resulted in some unspecified damage. In the latter case, the prosecutor or a local department of the Ministry of Justice may decide to suspend the operations of the organization while the liquidation suit is pending. A decision to suspend the operation of a media outlet can be made by the court only upon request from a prosecutor or registering authorities. A nonregistered organization may simply be banned for extremist activities. Participation in an extremist organization that has been liquidated or banned constitutes a separate crime.
On July 15, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that media outlets cannot be held responsible for xenophobic statements if they publish satirical, humorous, and unrealistic materials on “extremist” topics, and for audience comments during live broadcasts or on Internet forums. The Supreme Court also instructed the lower courts to consider the entire content and context of the publication. However, after the Supreme Court’s decision a lower court upheld a warning issued against a newspaper for a cartoon depicting a swastika. This decision was based on a previously issued Supreme Court ruling that the publication of propaganda depicting swastikas and Nazi symbols constitutes a sufficient ground for banning the organization using such symbols.
C. Lists of Banned Materials and Organizations
The Extremism Law imposes on the Ministry of Justice an obligation to complete, update, and publish a list of extremist materials. Maintaining such a list allows enforcement agencies to take administrative measures to restrict the distribution of extremist materials included in the list under article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Violations, which prohibits the production and distribution of extremist materials. This provision is reportedly used against producers and distributors of materials included in the list in cases where instituting criminal proceedings under articles 280 and 282 of the Criminal Code would be inappropriate or complicated due to the fact that prosecutors are required to prove intent to incite hatred and enmity in order to institute criminal charges.
Currently, the Federal List of Extremist Materials includes 2,280 items. It is not clear whether inclusion of a title in the list means that only the material with certain output data—for example, a particular edition of a book—is banned or whether the ban applies to all forms of the publication, including its textual and audiovisual variations. Also, the list includes several dozen files that cannot be identified because they are locally distributed leaflets dedicated to current events, websites that no longer exist, or private posts on Internet forums. If a forum statement is considered extremist by Roskomnadzor, a formal letter is emailed and faxed to the editor, and an official warning is issued unless the commentary is removed within twenty-four hours.
Materials added to the list are usually categorized as the following: racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic materials; materials of Jehovah’s Witnesses; materials of North Caucasus separatists and other radical Islamists; materials of the Church of Scientology; and materials of different Muslim groups, generally not related to officially recognized Islamic organizations. In addition, thirty-four organizations appear on the list as banned or liquidated for extremist activities. Most of the banned organizations are Russian patriotic and religious organizations propagating racist and xenophobic ideas, seven Muslim groups, and one religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
According to the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, while at least three earlier bans were removed in 2009, there is no established mechanism for delisting materials. Reportedly, information placed on the list does not meet bibliographical standards and researchers have no access to banned materials. Also, it is not clear if the ban officially begins when the decision of the court enters into force or when the material is listed. On March 4, 2014, two brochures published by Jehovah’s Witnesses and recognized by a Russian regional court as nonextremist in February of 2012 were removed from the list of banned materials.
D. Non-Criminal Liability of Individuals Prosecuted for Extremism
In addition to criminal or administrative punishment for extremist activities, which may take the form of a limitation of freedom, imprisonment, correctional labor, or a fine, the rights of people prosecuted for extremist activities may also be restricted in other ways. An individual convicted for extremist activity might be limited in his access to public service or contractual military service, may not be employed by law enforcement agencies and educational institutions, and may not engage in private detective and security activities.
Organizations can be held responsible for the extremist activities of their leaders. If leaders of an organization are found to be engaged in extremist activities, the organization must officially disassociate itself from their actions. Otherwise, the organization is subject to the repressive measures specified in the Extremism Law, whereas the leaders are prosecuted under the Criminal Code. Organizations and individuals involved in extremist activities are included in the blacklist published by the federal agency for financial monitoring and are subject to having their accounts and transactions frozen. Following the amendments to the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations passed in July 2013, a ban on establishing religious organizations or becoming a member of such an organization was extended to individuals in whose actions Russian courts found signs of extremist activity.
If a political candidate conducts extremist activities during an election campaign, he may be banned by a court decision from participating in elections. Such a ban may result from prior statements made during a period equal to his potential term in office if such statements included calls for extremist activity, justification of such activity, or incitement of hatred.
Foreign citizens responsible for extremist conduct can be denied entry into Russia, as was the case for a German couple leading a local branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
IV. Prosecution of Extremist Crimes and Misdemeanors Under the Criminal and Administrative Codes
A. Criminal Code Provisions
Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code defines extremist crimes as those motivated by ideological, political, racial, national, or religious enmity, as well as hatred or enmity towards a social group. Extremist motivation can be a required or alternative element of a crime, and may warrant a more severe punishment, similar to crimes committed with aggravating circumstances.
Extremist motivation is a required element of the following crimes: inciting hatred or enmity, or demeaning human dignity (art. 282); organizing an extremist community (art. 282.1-bis); organizing the activity of an extremist community (art. 282.2-bis); and genocide (art. 357). Extremism-related crimes are punishable with varied fines, corrective labor, different forms of deprivation of freedom, and imprisonment for up to six years for the most serious extremist acts, which involve forming and participating in an organized extremist community.
An “extremist community” within the meaning of article 282.1-bis is a settled group of people associated in advance to prepare and commit one or more crimes of an extremist nature, characterized by the presence of a leader, stability of composition, and coherence of the actions of its members aimed at achieving a common criminal purpose.
Article 282.2-bis treats as a criminal offense the leadership of or participation in an extremist organization, i.e., one that has been liquidated or banned by a court. This article was used to impose sentences on members of the National Bolshevik Party and Hizb ut-Tahrir solely for attending events organized by these organizations.
In February 2014, the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation was amended to add provisions aimed at increasing punishments for extremism-related crimes. The new provisions doubled the duration of mandatory correctional labor and nearly tripled the amount of fines for extremist crimes, making the maximum fine equal to approximately US$17,000. As stated in explanatory documents to this Law submitted to the legislature by the President’s Administration, these amendments were needed to “neutralize threats to national security caused by destructive activities of religious organizations on the Russian territory.”
Additionally, the law changed the venue where extremism-related cases are tried. Because crimes containing the elements of extremism were reclassified as crimes of medium gravity, these cases were removed from the jurisdiction of justices of the peace and were included in the jurisdiction of federal district courts.
Extremism is an alternative motivation and an aggravating circumstance for the following crimes: violation of the equality of human and civil rights and freedoms (art. 136), hooliganism (art. 213), and public appeals for the performance of an extremist activity (art. 280). Other scholars add to this list terrorism (art. 205), hostage-taking (art. 206), destruction or damage to historic or cultural monuments (art. 243), outrages upon the bodies of the deceased and their burial places (art. 244), threatening the life of a statesman or a public figure (art. 247), forcible seizure of power or forcible retention of power (art. 248), armed rebellion (art. 249), and mercenary activities (art. 359). Because extremist motivation is specifically listed among aggravating circumstances for a number of crimes, it must be taken into account for purposes of sentencing (art. 63). The advocacy organization Human Rights First has reported, however, that enhanced penalties under article 63 are not regularly sought or applied. In addition to the general rule stated in article 63, a number of the Code’s provisions specifically provide for more severe punishment when prejudice is shown in particular crimes, e.g., murder (art. 105), deliberate infliction of injuries or bodily harm (arts. 111, 112), torture (art. 117), and desecration of cemeteries (art. 244).
According to the SOVA Center, virtually all relevant provision of the Criminal Code are used in prosecuting perpetrators of violent crimes, although there has been a general perception that charges of hooliganism are routinely pressed by prosecution authorities even when more serious crimes are committed. According to the reports of Russian human rights defenders, this is often due to the inability of law enforcement authorities to properly examine and evaluate the motivation behind a crime. Reportedly, in order to hide their obvious reasons for committing a hate crime, ultra-right Russian organizations distribute “instructions” to their members, in which they recommend committing robberies as a means of disguising the real hate motivation of a crime.
In June 2013, a few month after three members of the Russian feminist group known as Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after performing inside a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow, the State Duma adopted amendments to the Criminal Code on “protecting . . . religious feelings of believers.”  The provisions amended article 148 of the Criminal Code by establishing penalties, such as fines, corrective works, and deprivation of freedom for up to two years, for the public insult of religious convictions and feelings of citizens and of religious ceremonies.
The SOVA Center has noted that the authorities rarely impose sentences involving prison time for nonviolent racist propaganda. Other sanctions, in addition to suspended sentences, are typically imposed for minor acts, such as painting graffiti, distribution of flyers, or writing posts on Web forums and blogs. Suspended sentences are also used in situations where cases are initiated against government opponents or followers of public or religious organizations not supported by the authorities. On November 3, 2011, a provincial court sentenced a local Jehovah’s Witness activist to one hundred hours of community service after the local administration insisted on punishing him even though the court had initially acquitted him. It appears that the number of suspended sentences without additional sanctions has constantly increased and constituted 43% of all sentences pronounced in 2010. According to available statistics, in 2010 there was only one hate crimes case in which a perpetrator received prison time; the case involved one of the most infamous anti-Semitic journalists, who was sentenced to a three-year term served at a colony-settlement with a ban on editorial and journalistic activities.
Russian law enforcement agencies have been targeting religious groups outside the Orthodox community for “extremism.” For example, multiple cases have been opened and several court decisions issued with respect to the publication and distribution of religious texts by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims, including Muslim texts with quotations from the Koran.
Such literature was considered extremist and was subject to a ban on distribution throughout Russia. It was included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, and individuals involved in its publication and distribution were found guilty of committing extremism-related criminal and administrative offenses, usually under article 282 of the Criminal Code and article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Violations.
Authorities have been criticized for focusing too much on minor crimes and acts (e.g., prosecuting Internet trolls and graffiti artists), and for prosecuting libraries and schools that were unable to follow updates to the Federal List of Extremist Materials and were found to be holding the banned books.
B. Administrative Code Provisions
The following administrative offenses are or can be motivated by extremism: intentional public desecration of religious or theological literature, objects of religious veneration, signs or emblems, ideological symbols, and paraphernalia (art. 5.26, part 2); abusing freedom of mass information (art. 13.15); displaying fascist attributes and symbols (art. 20.3); organizing the activity of a social or religious organization against which a decision on suspension of activities was entered (art. 20.28); and producing and distributing extremist materials (art. 20.29).
A new administrative liability provision was introduced in 2012 for the public display of extremist organizations’ symbols. This type of activity is now considered a form of extremism and is punishable by a fine of up to approximately US$500 or detention for up to fifteen days. Fines for the display of Nazi symbols were similarly increased. Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code is usually applied to impose penalties for selling Nazi paraphernalia and objects marked with swastikas, and for Nazi tattoos. In one such case, the court, in addition to imposing a fine on the defendant who had a Nazi tattoo, ordered him to have the tattoo removed.
Article 20.29 is often interpreted broadly and is used to punish the distribution of works by the leaders of Nazi Germany as well as quoting those materials. In 2010, a criminal prosecution was initiated in the city of Perm for placing stickers with Adolf Hitler’s quote, “[w]e will defeat Russia when Ukrainians and Belarusians believe that they are not Russian,” in city buses.
V. Procedural Aspects of Investigation
Experts play a central role in the investigation of hate crimes in Russia because the conclusion as to whether specific material or a statement made by a suspect appears to be extremist is based on an expert’s opinion. The expert’s participation is considered by all parties as an integral part of any extremist case, except for cases involving items already included in the list of extremist materials. The types of expert opinions sought by law enforcement bodies are sociopsychological and psycholinguistic (51%), relevant to political science (19%), philosophical (14%), linguistic (7%), sociological (4.5%), and ethnolinguistic (4.5%). The law does not establish qualification requirements for experts, and they are usually chosen from among specialists of local scientific and educational institutions. This practice will likely be restricted by a recent ruling of the Supreme Court, which prohibits experts from issuing opinions on legal issues, such as whether a text contains appeals to extremist activities and whether it aims to incite hatred or enmity.
Presently, a person accused of committing a hate crime may choose to be tried by a jury or have his case heard by a professional judge or a panel of judges. Although the Ministry of Justice has recommended the removal of extremist crimes from the purview of jury trials to avoid nationalistic bias among jurors, it appears that guilty verdicts are issued evenly in bench and jury trials. It appears that after a guilty verdict is delivered by the jury, judges issue minimal or suspended sentences.
The investigation of extremist crimes is often delayed, and there are reports that prosecutors illegally refuse to initiate proceedings. The law enforcement officials explain this fact by pointing to the difficulty and length of investigations; the small number of independent experts knowledgeable in the fields of social psychology and psycholinguistics; the length of expert examinations, especially when materials are voluminous; and the lack of established investigative and judicial practices for this category of cases. The majority of hate crime cases reported to the authorities by individuals or nongovernmental organizations, particularly those involving drawings of swastika images and extremist slogans, are suspended due to a failure to identify the responsible individuals.
VI. Constitutional Issues Regarding the Prosecution of Extremism
Given the broad definition of “extremism,” actions that do not fall within any category of crime or even an administrative offense can be qualified as extremist under the law and be subject to repressive measures. The application of article 280 of the Criminal Code is especially vague. This provision is often used for prosecuting varied offenses when the government is demonstrating its interest in fighting extremism. For example, criminal proceedings under article 280 were initiated against a seventy-one-year-old retiree who had expressed a willingness to carry out a death sentence against the governor of the region at a local protest against price increases.
The term “social group” is subject to an especially broad interpretation for the purpose of applying article 282, which outlaws the incitement of hatred towards a social group, because all groups, according to observers, are “social.” The introduction of this broad term can be explained by the legislator’s concern that traditional groups based on race, nationality, and religion are too narrow and inadequate to protect other socially significant, numerous, and organized groups.
Criticism of the distinctive features of a social group, if such criticism contributes to a negative image of that group as opposed to criticism of a particular individual or an idea, is viewed by linguistic experts as extremism. In practice, anti-extremist legislation was applied to defend those who were not particularly vulnerable. Special protection was given to such social groups as “law enforcement personnel,” “the military,” “investigation service officials,” “police officers,” “state employees,” “owners of Russian-made motor vehicles,” “representatives of the government of the Tatarstan Republic,” and “informal groups of young people.” For example, a Russian blogger was sentenced for making critical comments about police in his blog. At the same time, a Russian court did not recognize homosexuals as a separate and definite social group within the meaning of article 282. Responding to concerns that treating government officials as a social group could lead to a complete ban on all criticism of the government in contradiction to the Constitution, the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling of June 28, 2011, held that public officials and professional politicians are not a social group as their interests should not be different from those of the state, and the level of acceptable criticism should be higher as compared to private persons. However, the Supreme Court did not clarify which social groups are covered by anti-extremist legislation.
According to the same Supreme Court ruling, article 282 on incitement of hatred is applicable to statements justifying genocide, mass repression, deportations, and other illegal acts, including violence, against representatives of any ethnic, racial, religious, or other group. Extremist rhetoric can be prosecuted only if used publicly, whereas statements made at private gatherings are not covered by article 282. Criticism of political, ideological, and religious organizations and beliefs, and ethnic or religious customs, cannot by itself be treated as incitement of hatred or enmity.
Despite the fact that freedom of speech, religion, and expression are declared by the Constitution, Russian jurisprudence does not have a developed concept of protected speech. It is a common practice to use article 282 of the Criminal Code against authors who criticize the Russian Orthodox Church or Russian national and religious policy, or those who argue against the suggestion that modern Tatarstan and other territories “peacefully joined the Russian state.” There have been instances of anti-extremist criminal prosecution of individuals who proposed referendums on separating several regions and annexing them to Finland, or who suggested constitutional amendments aimed at bringing public officials to justice.
Articles 282 (inciting hate) and 282.1-bis (establishing an extremist community), together with administrative penalties for distributing extremist materials, are often applied against Jehovah’s Witnesses, the main religious group prosecuted on anti-extremist grounds. Materials of the Church of Scientology have been banned because, according to experts, they contain appeals to extremist activity, as well as “humiliating characteristics, negative evaluation, and attitudes against persons on the basis of their social status.” Many undesirable religious groups have been prosecuted for propagating superiority based on religious identity, even though such propaganda appears to be common to many religious preachers.
VII. Government Activities Aimed at Preventing Extremism
The Extremism Law notes the importance of preventive measures in articles 2 and 5 but does not describe such measures.
The Interdepartmental Commission on Countering Extremism in the Russian Federation, an interagency governmental commission on counteracting extremist activities comprising the heads of sixteen government agencies, was created by order of the President on July 29, 2011. The Commission is charged with proposing anti-extremist policies, developing relevant concepts and strategies, evaluating current activities, reviewing measures undertaken and legislation adopted, and preparing annual reports for the President. The Commission held thirteen meetings through March 2013 (latest information available). The agendas of these meetings included discussions on improving legal regulations on countering extremist activities in Russia, such as toughening responsibility for unauthorized mass public actions and violations in the field of migration, prevention of terrorism and extremism, formation of Russian civic identity, and promotion of patriotism among Russia’s youth. The Commission also encouraged the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (police) to create an interdepartmental working group on combating extremist ideology in the media and on the Internet. A scientific advisory council for the study of religious materials aimed at detecting signs of extremism has been operating under the Ministry of Justice since September 2009. The council issues advisory opinions on materials submitted by judicial and law enforcement bodies and private parties.
VIII. International Cooperation in Fighting Extremism
Russia has signed a number of international documents providing for cooperation in fighting extremism and terrorism, particularly within the framework of regional organizations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Economic Community, and Collective Security Treaty Organization. An example is the Concept of Cooperation Between SCO Member States in Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism, which provides for concerted preventive activities, operational search and investigative actions, the exchange of search and forensic information, the creation of specialized databases and communication systems, joint academic research, and cooperation in other areas.
Russia is also a party to the Shanghai Convention on the Fight Against Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism of June 15, 2001, which emphasizes the violent nature of extremism in the definition provided in article 1(3). The Shanghai Convention’s definition thus appears to be narrower than the Russian definition set forth in the Extremism Law, which covers both violent and nonviolent activities.
Prepared by Peter Roudik*
Director of Global Legal Research Directorate
*Foreign law consultants Nerses Isajanyan and Svitlana Vodyanyk contributed to the report.
 Konstitutsiia Rossiiskoi Federatsii [Konst. RF] [Constitution of the Russian Federation], adopted Dec. 12, 1991, art. 13, para. 5.
 Id. art. 29, para. 2.
 Aleksandr Sigarev, Konstitutsionno-Pravovye Aspekty Protivodeistviia Ekstremizmu [Constitutional Aspects of Counteraction to Extremism], Rossiiskaia Iustitsiia No. 3, 2011, at 62 (in Russian).
 Article 19’s Statement on Proposed Amendments to the Russian Extremism Law at 1 (July 2006), http://www. article19.org/data/files/pdfs/press/russia-extremism-law.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/252S-8PUM.
 Anatolii Pchelintsev, Zakonodatel’naia Praktika I Problemy Razgranicheniia Predmetov Vedeniia Rossiiskoi Federatsii I ee Sub’ektov v Sfere Svobody Sovesti I Veroispovedaniia [Legislative Practice and Problems of Delimitation of Jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and its Subjects in the Area of Freedom of Conscience and Religion], Rossiiskaia Iustitsiia No. 1, 2011, at 63 (in Russian).
 Vladimir Kashepov, Osobennosti Kvalifikatsii Prestuplenii Ekstremistskoi Napravlennosti [Particulars of Qualification of Extremist Crimes], Kommentarii Sudebnoi Praktiki No. 13, 2007, at 94 (in Russian).
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 Federal’nyi Zakon RF o Protivodeistvii Ekstremistskoi Deiatel’nosti [Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Countering Extremist Activity (Extremism Law)], Rossiiskaia Gazeta [Ros. Gaz.], July 25, 2002.
 Ugolovnyi Kodeks Rossiiskoi Federatsii [UK RF] [Criminal Code], Ros. Gaz., June 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 1996.
 Kodeks Rossiiskoi Federatsii ob Administrativnykh Pravonarusheniakh [KOAP RF] [Code of Administrative Violations], Ros. Gaz., Dec. 31, 2001.
 Sigarev, supra note 3, at 62.
 Rashid Sabitov et al., Pravovye Mery Protivodeistviia Ekstremistksoi Prestupnosti: Monografiia [Legal Measures Counteracting Extremist Crime: Monograph] 8 (Chelyabinsk, 2009) (in Russian).
 UK RF art. 282.1.
 Olga Korshunova, Prestupleniia Ekstremistskogo Kharaktera, Teoriia i Praktika Protivodeistviia [Crimes of Extremist Nature, Theory and Practice of Counteraction] 153 (Saint Petersburg, 2006) (in Russian).
 SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (SOVA Center), The Structure of Russian Anti-Extremist Legislation 1 (Nov. 2010), available at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/ documents/ droi/dv/201/201011/ 20101129_3_10sova_en.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/242Q-68EY.
 Sabitov et al., supra note 12, at 43.
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 Sabitov et al., supra note 12, at 10.
 282-e Preduprezhdenie [Warning No. 282], Gazeta.ru (Oct. 27, 2011), www.gazeta.ru/comments/2011/10/27_ e_3814530.shtml (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/55JM-8759.
 Id. (translation by the authors).
 Maria Kravchenko, Illegal Application of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2012, SOVA Center (Apr. 24, 2013), http://www.sova-center.ru/misuse/publications/2013/04/d26952 (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/ ESK4-A7TR.
 Zhanna Ulianova, In “Vziatka” Extremism Was Not Found Immediately, Gazeta.ru (Aug. 22, 2012), http://www.gazeta.ru/social/2012/08/22/4733817.shtml (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/G36Y-S8BU.
 Prosecution Found Extremism in a Three-Year-Old Article on Mordva Language, Newsru.com (Aug. 21, 2012), http://www.newsru.com/russia/21aug2012/inza_print.html (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/A24G-KZYQ.
 Kashepov, supra note 6, at 61.
 SOVA Center, supra note 15, at 1.
 Id. at 1.
 Extremism Law art. 1(1) (translation by authors).
 Olga Mukhina, Politiko-Pravovye Tekhnologii Bor’by s Ekstremizmom v Rossii (Opyt Primeneniia Federal’nogo Zakona RF ot 25 iiulia 2002 goda “O Protivodeistvii Eekstremistskoi Deiatel’nosti”) [Political and Legal Technologies to Combat Extremism in Russia (Experience of Applying Federal Law of the Russian Federation of 25 July 2002 on Counteracting Extremist Activity)], 2(7) Rossiiskiaia Akademiia Iuridicheskikh Nauk, Nauchnye Trudy 484 (2007) (in Russian).
 Igor Petin, Sistemnyi Podkhod k Obespecheniiu Effektivnosti Preduprejdeniia Ekstremizma [Systematic Approach to Ensuring Effectiveness of Extremism Prevention], Rossiiskii Sledovatel’ No. 18, 2009, at 23 (in Russian).
 Sigarev, supra note 3, at 62.
 Ruling of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation No. 11 of June 28, 2011, on Resolving Extremism-Related Criminal Cases by Courts § 7, Ros. Gaz. No. 5518, July 4, 2011.
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 Maria Rozalskaya, Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-extremist Legislation in Russia in 2010, SOVA Center (Apr. 11, 2011), http://www.sova-center.ru/en/misuse/reports-analyses/2011/04/d21360/, archived at http://perma. cc/3AR6-PDYC.
 Moscow Helsinki Group, supra note 25, at 127.
 Federal’nyi Zakon RF o Sredstvakh Massovoi Informatsii [Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Mass Media], Ros. Gaz., Feb. 8, 1992.
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 SOVA Center, Xenophobia, Freedom of Conscience and Anti-Extremism in Russia in 2009: A Collection of Annual Reports by the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis 82 (Moscow, Apr. 2010), http://www.sova-center.ru/files/books/pe10-text.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/CS5M-VBVQ.
 Ruling of the Supreme Court, supra note 33.
 Federal’nyi Spisok Ekstremistskikh Materialov[Federal List of Extremist Materials], Ministry of Justice, available at http://minjust. ru/extremist-materials (in Russian; last visited Apr. 7, 2014), archived at http://perma.cc/6DLT-W4KR.
 Vera Alperovich & Galina Kozhevnikova, Autumn 2010: The Ultra-right in Search of a New Strategy, SOVA Center(Jan. 14, 2011), http://www.sova-center.ru/en/misuse/reports-analyses/2011/01/d20707, archived at http://perma.cc/YU3S-E2V7.
 Aleksandr Verkhovskii & Galina Kozhevnikova, Prizrak Manejnoi Plosh’adi: Radikal’nyi Natsionalizm v Rossii i Protivodeistvie Emu v 2010 godu [Phantom of Manege Square: Radical Nationalism and the Counteraction to It in 2010], SOVA Center (Mar. 11, 2011), http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2011/03/d21140/ (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/TR8W-N4U6.
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 Maria Rozalskaya, supra note 42.
 Aleksandr Verkhovskii & Galina Kozhevnikova, supra note 54.
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 Id. at 43.
 Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Brochures Removed from the Federal List of Extremist Materials, SOVA Center (Mar. 4, 2014), http://www.sova-center.ru/misuse/news/counteraction/2014/03/d29084/ (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/6V57-CZ9W.
 Extremism Law art. 15, para. 2, as amended by Federal Law No. 185-FZ of July 2, 2013, Ros. Gaz. No. 148, July 10, 2013.
 SOVA Center, supra note 15, at 3.
 Ros. Gaz., supra note 8, art. 15.
 Sergei Smirnov & Anna Cherkasova, DPNI i NBP v Spiske s Terrosistami [MAII and NBP on the Terrorist List], Gazeta.ru (July 6, 2011), http://www.gazeta.ru/politics/2011/07/06_a_3687413.shtml, archived at http://perma.cc/ F7KM-CC9P.
 Federal Law of July 2, 2013 No. 180-FZ On Amendments to Article 9 of the Federal Law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, Ros. Gaz. No. 145, Jul. 5, 2013.
 SOVA Center, supra note 15, at 5.
 Vladimir Kashepov et al., Pravovoe protivodeistvie ekstremizmu [Legal Counteraction to Extremism] 41 (Moscow, 2008) (in Russian).
 Sabitov et al., supra note 12, at 101; Viacheslav Lebedev, Commentaries to the Criminal Code 710 (Moscow: Iurait, 2010).
 SOVA Center, supra note 50 at 87.
 Moscow Helsinki Group, supra note 25, at 128.
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 89.
 Federal Law No. 5-FZ, on Amendments to the Criminal Code and Article 31 of the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation, Ros. Gaz. No. 6296, Feb. 5, 2014.
 Putin Created Military Police and Harshened Punishments for Extremism, Newsru.com (Feb. 4, 2014), http://www.newsru.com/russia/04feb2014/voenpolic.html (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/FX8A-8XYH.
 Federal Law No. 5-FZ.
 Sabitov et al., supra note 12, at 101.
 Kashepov et al., supra note 68, at 30.
 Paul LeGendre, Human Rights First, Minorities Under Siege: Hate Crimes and Intolerance in the Russian Federation 4 (June 26, 2006), http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/ pdf/06623-discrim-Minorities-Under-Siege-Russia-web.pdf, archived at http://perma.cc/4ZWH-HFTN.
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 Federal Law of the Russian Federation No. 136-FZ On Amendments to Article 148 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation to Counter Insult of Religious Beliefs and Feelings of the Citizens, Ros. Gaz., No. 6117, Jul. 2, 2013.
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 6, 36.
 Id. at 37.
 Sophia Kishkovsky, Russian Terror Law Has Unlikely Targets, The New York Times (Nov. 4, 2011), http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/04/world/europe/russian-terror-law-has-unlikely-targets.html?_r=2&page wanted=print, archived at http://perma.cc/67JY-AJCT.
 Verkhovskii & Kozhevnikova, supra note 54.
 Geraldine Fagan, Russia: Muslims Rush to Challenge Koran “Extremism” Ruling, Forum 18 (Sept. 27, 2013), http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1879, archived at http://perma.cc/5SAW-B25A.
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 6.
 Alperovich & Kozhevnikova, supra note 53.
 Russian Federation Code of Administrative Violations, Federal Law No. 195-FZ, Ros. Gaz. No. 256, Dec. 31, 2001.
 Federal Law No. 255-FZ on Amendments to Selected Legal Acts art. 2, Ros. Gaz. No. 301, Dec. 28, 2012.
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 38.
 Alperovich & Kozhevnikova, supra note 53.
 Ilia Izotov, V Permi Vozbuzhdeno Delo po Faktu Raskleiki Tsitat Gitlera v Tramvaiakh [Criminal Proceedings Have Been Initiated in Perm for Posting Hitler Quotations in the Tram], Ros. Gaz., Oct. 8, 2010, http://www.rg.ru/ 2010/10/08/reg-permkray/stikeri-anons.html, archived at http://perma.cc/MMU7-M3DY (click “Uploaded page).
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 79.
 Olga Dmitrenko, Sud Samary Priznal Sait Dvizheniia “9 Maia” Ekstremistksim [Samara Court Declares the Website of “May 9” Movement Extremist], Ros. Gaz., Oct. 13, 2010, at http://www.rg.ru/2010/10/13/reg-svolga/ site-anons.html (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/VT92-KQSC (click “Uploaded page).
 Viktoria Burkovskaya, Kriminal’nyi Religioznyi Ekstremizm v Sovremennoi Rossii [Criminal Religious Extremism in Modern Russia] 145 (Moscow, 2005) (in Russian), cited in Andrei Pavlinov, Kakie Nuzhny Ekspertizy dlia Protivodeistviia Sovremennomu Ekstremizmu v Rossii [What Expert Examinations Are Needed to Counteract Modern Extremism in Russia], Rossiiskii Sledovatel’ No. 2, 2008, at 6 (in Russian).
 Sigarev, supra note 3, at 62.
 Kommentarii “SOVY” na Postanovlenie Plenuma Verkhovnogo Suda ob Ekstremizme [Commentary of “SOVA” on the Ruling of the Supreme Court on Extremism], SOVA Center (July 2011), http://www.sova-center.ru/misuse/ publications/2011/07/d22010/ (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/YC24-9S57.
 Rozalskaya, supra note 42.
 Kashepov et al., supra note 68, at 162.
 Id. at 164.
 Moscow Helsinki Group, supra note 25, at 126.
 Id. at 128.
 Kashepov et al., supra note 68, at 73.
 UK RF art. 282.
 Mikhail Osadchii, Sotsial’nyi Ekstremizm kak Ob’ekt Sudebno-Lingvisticheskoi Eskpertizy [Social Extremism as a Subject of Forensic Linguistic Examination], Ugolovnyi Protsess No. 2, 2008, at 57 (in Russian).
 Id. at 57, 64.
 Id. at 60.
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 92.
 Id. at 91.
 Natalia Kuz’mina, Ustanovlenie Motivov Pri Kvalifikatsii Prestuplenii Esktremistskoi Napravlennost: Problemy Praktiki Pravoprimeneniia [Determination of Motives in Qualifying Crimes of Extremist Nature: Problems of Law Enforcement Practice], Rossiiskii Sledovatel’ No. 24, 2010, at 19 (in Russian).
 Blogger, Osuzhdennyi v RF za Prizyv “Szhigat’ Mentov”, Poluchil Politicheskoe Ubezhish’e v Estonii [The Blogger Convicted in the Russian Federation for Appeals to “Burn Cops” Was Granted Political Asylum in Estonia], NEWSru.com, July 13, 2011, http://www.newsru.com/world/13jul2011/savva_print.html (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/7YHH-56CG.
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 93.
 Id. at 92.
 Ruling of the Supreme Court, supra note 33; see also SOVA Center, supra note 50; Peter Roudik, Russian Federation: Government Takes Measures Against Extremism, Global Legal Monitor (Aug. 16, 2011), //www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205402777_text, archived at http://perma.cc/9EH7-K24J.
 Misuse of Anti-Extremism Legislation in June 2011, SOVA Center (July 4, 2011), http://www.sova-center.ru/en/ misuse/news-releases/2011/07/d22022, archived at http://perma.cc/FK3C-YDCJ.
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 85.
 Roudik, supra note 120.
 SOVA Center, supra note 50, at 85.
 Id. at 86.
 Id. at 87.
 Alperovich & Kozhevnikova, supra note 53.
 Miriam Elder, Russian Court Bans Scientology Books, Globalpost (June 30, 2011, 1:33 PM), http://www. globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/bric-yard/russian-court-bans-scientology-books, archived at http://perma.cc/HJP7-ENL2, cited in Galina Bryntseva, “Prorok” ekstremistskogo roda. Rossiiskii sud zapretil raboty osnovatelia saientologii Rona Khabbarda [“Prophet” of Extremist Nature. Russian Court Bans the Works of the Founder of Scientology Ron Hubbard], Ros. Gaz., July 4, 2011, http://www.rg.ru/2011/07/04/habbard.html (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/3UXW-8APA (click “Uploaded page”).
 Kashepov et al., supra note 68, at 39.
 Sigarev, supra note 3, at 62.
 Ukaz Prezidenta RF o Mezhvedomstvennoi Komissii po Protivodeistviu Ekstremizmu v Rossiiskoi Federatsii [Decree of the President of the Russian Federation on Interdepartmental Commission to Counteract Extremism], Sobranie Zakonodatel’stva RF [Collection of Legislation of the RF] 2011, No. 988 Item 4705.
 Activities of the Commission are conducted according to Statute on the Commission attached to the President’s Decree 988 of July 26, 2011, http://pravo.gov.ru/proxy/ips/?docbody=&firstDoc=1&lastDoc=1&nd=102149658 (official publication, in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/LJ5T-V4SJ.
 Pri Miniuste Sozdan Sovet po Izucheniiu Religioznykh Materialov na Predmet Vyiavleniia v nikh Priznakow Ekstremizma [A Council for Examination of Religious Materials for Purposes of Detecting Signs of Extremism Has Been Created Under the Ministry of Justice], SOVA Center (Sept. 23, 2009), http://www.sova-center.ru/religion/ news/authorities/legal-regulation/2009/09/d16916/ (in Russian), archived at http://perma.cc/MDX5-KSVT.
 Kashepov et al., supra note 68, at 224.
 Concept of Cooperation Between SCO Member States in Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism Adopted by Resolution No. 1 of 5 June 2005 of the Council of Heads of SCO Member States, available at https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/terrorism/Concept-of-Cooperation-Between-SCO, archived at https://perma.cc/ GB9E-YVYM.
 Sabitov et al., supra note 12, at 8 (citing Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separation and Extremism, June 15, 2001, available at http://www.refworld.org/docid/49f5d9f92.html, archived at http://perma.cc/L5H3-26D7 (click “Uploaded page)).
Last Updated: 12/30/2020