Dancing for the white race in St. Petersburg

As jihadism scholar Thomas Hegghammer and a selection of other fine scholars show in the book Jihadi Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2016), jihadis don’t just fight, kill, and die for their cause. In their spare time they also read poetry, interpret dreams, listen to music, pray, weep, and embroider. Such activities are ways to generate meaning, which, of course, is a very human endeavor, and jihadis are human too. So are right-wing militants. Just look at these dancing Nazis in St Petersburg.

The clip shown here was recently uploaded to VKontakte (the Russian equivalent of Facebook) by a formerly convicted right-wing activist who just got out of jail (back in 2007, his group Linkoln-88 carried out numerous attacks, killing two people). The scene, taking place in central St. Petersburg (or Nevograd, as the neo-Nazis call it), features a bunch of guys, some in masks, dancing to the tune of the Luftwaffe hymn, greeting their “comrades in Ukraine” (most likely fighting in the Azov volunteer battalion), performing Hitler salutes, and shouting “White Power!”

In the same way as jihadism wouldn’t be the same without its culture, or “soft side”, so right-wing extremist movements would hardly be able to attract much of a following without the music and concerts, the myths and stories, the symbols and rituals.

Peeking into the extreme-right underground of post-Soviet Russia through various sources, I’ve begun to realize the importance of its subcultural repertoire: this stuff shapes activists’ worldview, gives them a shared sense of meaning and belonging, and often guides action. As Hegghammer writes, “exploring culture and aesthetics as a category of rebellious activity” should be worthwhile for researchers of all sorts of militant movements.

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