Unauthorised anti-fascist march fills the streets of St Petersburg

(Photo credit: Francesca Visser)

Unauthorised anti-fascist protest takes place in St Petersburg to commemorate the killings of Markelov and Baburova

By Shima Vezvaei & Francesca Visser 

Today, 19 January, an estimated of 250 people walked down Nevsky Prospekt to the Field of Mars in St Petersburg to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the killings of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

The march took place for the second year in a row without approval by the St Petersburg city authorities. According to organiser Ivan Ovsyanikov, though a proper request was filed ten days in advance (six days longer than the minimum time required), the city authorities refused to approve the march, claiming that the request was not submitted in time.

“Everyone is welcome at the march, but fascists,” says Ovsyanikov. Even though the march was organised by activists close to the Russian Socialist Movement (Российское социалистическое движение), the march was intended to be a citizens’ gathering with no political agenda other than remembering the departure of Markelov and Baburova in a symbolic way.

“To remember is to fight”

“To remember is to fight and to fight is to remember,” proclaims Ovsyanikov, referring to the distribution of red Chrysanthemums, red ribbons and red candles among participants.

“It’s important to remember the victims of neo-Nazi terror and the killing of our civilians in military adventures of our state in Ukraine or Syria. The situation and what these people were fighting nine years ago has changed, but what hasn’t changed is the threat of fascistic tendencies and the importance of resisting against them. And that’s why you see people from different communities gathering here, from feminists to members of LGBT communities,” says one of the participants, who identified himself as a ‘new-leftist’.

The march started at 6.30pm at Malaya Sadovaya, in the city centre, under strong surveillance by the police and security forces who followed the crowd until the ending point, the eternal fire of the Fields of Mars. Among the participants only one was taken away by the police, because of displaying a banner. “We are not authorised to bring banners so we brought a frame,” says Aleksey, one of the participants whom, together with two other men, decided to impersonate the antithesis of the three wise monkeys. On their chest they attached a sticker with the message “I speak, I see, I hear” to show their willingness to oppose and condemn violence.

Markelov and Baburova: symbols of the fight against ultranationalist violence

Human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and trainee reporter Anastasia Baburova were shot dead in Moscow shortly after leaving a press conference called by Markelov to protest against the early release of Yuri Budanov, a Russian officer convicted of atrocities in the Chechen war.

Both Markelov and Baburova were known for their efforts against ultranationalist violence and had previously been threatened for their work. In 2011, two members of the neo-Nazi group Russky Obraz, Nikita Tikhonov and his girlfriend Yevgenia Khasis, were convicted of the killings.

The double murder has become a symbol of ultranationalist violence in Russia. Since the killing in 2009, a march in their memory has been held in Moscow every year followed by St Petersburg and numerous other cities in Europe.

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